A 22-year old survivor, abducted by the LRA while a child, tells the conservative radio host he is wrong about the group
Evelyn Apoko is 22 years old, but she was only a child when the Lord's Resistance Army came into her home late one night and dragged her out into the jungle. The LRA, a bizarre and violent cult that emerged out of Uganda's 1986 civil war, enslaved Evelyn as they had the 66,000 children that came before and after her.
Most children who are abducted by the LRA are forced to either fight, aid in fighting, or serve as concubines. Evelyn does not say what happened during her years of enslavement with the LRA, but, one day, a bomb went off near her during one of the battles that are a regular part of the group's life. She attempted to protect an infant that was with the group, in the process exposing her face to the blast, which disfigured her. Denied medical care and fearing that she would be killed for her unattractive appearance, Evelyn escaped, miraculously making it through the jungle on foot and alone.
Today she is a fellow with a Liberia-based non-profit called the Strongheart Fellowship Program, which rehabilitates young people from what it calls "extremely challenging circumstances." Last year, she was honored on the floor of the Canadian parliament for her work.
This morning, Evelyn recorded a video responding to comments by Rush Limbaugh, who criticized President Obama's decision to send 100 U.S. troops to aid governments fighting the LRA. In a segment titled "Obama Invades Uganda, Targets Christians," Limbaugh defended the group. "They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan. And Obama has sent troops, United States troops, to remove them from the battlefield, which means kill them. So that's a new war, a hundred troops to wipe out Christians in Sudan, Uganda," he said, going on to praise the group's stated objective "To remove dictatorship and stop the oppression of our people."
Limbaugh's comments attracted immediate controversy in the U.S. and, apparently, in Africa as well.
"My heart breaks when I hear your message about the LRA. I experienced first-hand the pain and hatred of humanity in the LRA," Evelyn says into the camera. "I have witnessed the spirit of Joseph Kony and it is not from God. Abducting young people from their home and forcing them to become something that is not meant to be."
"Brainwashing children and murdering innocent people," she says. "The LRA is not Christian."
Evelyn pleaded for the world to see the LRA as it is and to help Central Africa's struggle against the group that now operates out of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republican. She says of the child soldier and slaves still held by the group, "Who is going to help them if we don't raise our voices against the LRA? It had been long enough. The world needs to open their eyes."
"I don't want any more children to go through what I went through," she says through tears. "Please help to save their lives. I know that they cannot do without you."
Update: On Monday, Republican Senator James Inhofe challenged Limbaugh's characterization of the LRA during a speech on the Senate floor supporting Obama's decision. On Tuesday, Limbaugh laughed off Inhofe's comments on his show, apparently standing by his characterization of the LRA but suggesting he had been "misinformed" regarding the number of U.S. troops that would be sent.