War Children

Posted: December 3, 2013 in The Hunger Games Op Eds

By Emily Hogg

While people enjoy the new Hunger Games film, released on November 22, which features children fighting each other to the death, they should be reminded that for children around the world, war is merely a factor in their everyday lives.

Military groups involving children, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, may seem incomprehensible, much the way that the murder of children seemed morally incomprehensible to Katniss Everdeen during the end of Mockingjay when she states that “something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences” when thinking about President Coin’s parachutes that killed her sister (MJ 377). But instead of condemning all direct violence with a broad brush, one can look at the structural violence that creates movements like those that use children and attempt to work to not only correct the present but protect the future.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is a militant movement that originated in Uganda in 1987 that has been accused of various human rights violations, such as murder, abduction, sex slavery, and the military use of children, and has been active as recently as March 2012. The LRA’s ideology is a unique mix of both African mysticism and Christian fundamentalism, wishing to create a state based on both the Ten Commandments and local mystic traditions. These actions have drawn condemnation from such worldwide figures as the African Union, the United Nations, and the United States and Canadian Governments. How does such an organization come into being?

It’s easy to simply look at those involved as being depraved, as Katniss is willing to label the human race, including the rebels who killed her sister, but this doesn’t help those actors wishing to improve the situation. If we chalk up the LRA’s actions to simply being evil, it becomes impossible to stop or prevent them and other organizations like them.

Instead, it’s more productive and easier to understand these actions in a context of long-term structural violence present in Uganda.

Structural violence occurs when some institution or social structure prevents certain individuals from achieving their basic needs. It can include institutional elitism, sexism, and racism and can often cause direct violence.

From the moment the British Empire established the Ugandan Protectorate in 1894, structural violence has dominated Ugandan politics. The British encouraged the various ethnic groups and tribes in Uganda to view each other as enemies and designated one group of people, the Baganda, as their “preferred” ethnic group. By focusing the Ugandans’ hostility on one another, the British were then able to run the country uncontested, much like the Capitol did to the districts during the Hunger Games.

Even after Uganda won its independence from Britain in 1962, structural violence was still present. Not only did the ethnic groups continue to war to against one another, but the economic disparity between the poor Eastern and Northern Uganda and the richer Western and Central Uganda created resentment, like the resentment present among the rebels toward the Capitol.

It is out of this resentment and conflict that groups like the LRA emerged with highly religious and violent rhetoric and promise to solve the problems that Ugandans have faced. In order to prevent the formation of more of these violent groups in the world, one must actively work to destruct institutional oppression.

Katniss believed there was something inherently wrong with the human race after looking at the people who were involved in her sister’s murder, saying that perhaps Peeta was right about letting humanity kill itself off and letting another species take over (MJ 377), but perhaps she should have looked at the structural violence leading up to this conflict. Just as the British government pit the tribes within Uganda against one another, the Capitol pit districts against one another. The Capitol also established a system that deprived the districts of what they needed to survive and drove the rebels to seek independence at whatever cost. While blame does and should rest on those who commit these unconscionable acts of murder, like the LRA’s use of child soldiers and the rebels sacrificing children, it should also rest on the structural violence that shaped and created these individuals, like the British oppression of Uganda and the Capitol’s establishment of the Hunger Games.


Sources: International Criminal Court, Warrant of Arrest unsealed against five LRA Commanders. 14 Oct. 2005.http://www.icc-cpi.int/menus/icc/situations%20and%20cases/situations/situation%20icc%200204/related%20cases/icc%200204%200105/press%20releases/warrant%20of%20arrest%20unsealed%20against%20five%20lra%20commanders. Martin, Gus. Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues. SAGE Publications, 2006. Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs on the War in Northern Uganda, 1997.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Very true. I definitely see that the Hunger Games is a representation of the larger scale epicenter of child soldiering. I like that you highlight the realism between the Hunger games and the real world. It would be interesting to hear more diverse examples of countries with child soldiers.

  2. Jim W says:

    Excellent sentence structure, also did a good job intertwining the two subjects consistently. I think the opening statement in the fist two lines is a bit hostile, setting sort of an irritable tone for the whole essay. The diction, however, was also good.

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