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Wounds of war linger in Northern Uganda

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Posted August 24, 2011 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Featured ~ 4,978 views

     

By Teviah Moro, THE PACKET & TIMES | AGAGO ~ The boys are too young to have been forced to fight for the insurgency that terrorized northern Uganda for two decades, but the war is very much on their mind.

They meet once a week with their teacher at Pacer Primary School to talk about their depression.

“Most of their problems are related to the war,” says Charles Obwaya, the teacher who leads the counselling program, which is funded by World Vision Canada’s 30-Hour Famine.

For more than 20 years, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, waged war against the Ugandan military in an effort to overthrow the government.

It wasn’t until 2006 that Kony and the LRA were driven out of the country into southern Sudan. Kony and what remains of his rebel militia are reportedly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kony and a few other higher-ranking LRA members are wanted by the International Criminal Court.

Some estimates peg the number of children abducted and forced to fight for the rebels at 30,000.

The boys who attend Obwaya’s counselling sessions are between 12 and 16 years old. The conflict left them with either one parent or none at home, he says.

The 25-year-old teacher’s own father was killed by the LRA, which is why he can relate to the boys. “This thing has affected all of us.”

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“Joseph Kony is not a human being.”

That’s what John, a former child soldier, says about the commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

“I know he’s a terrible man and I fear that he will come back. He did a lot of terrible things. He would cut people’s limbs, cut your arms, even your mouth parts, or pull out your eyes.”

John, a fake name to protect him from repercussions from the LRA and the stigma of being a former rebel, was abducted along with an older brother when they went to the market one day.

Now 28, John was forced to become a soldier when he was 13. He was forced to kill people and raid villages for the rebels. He also abducted other children so the rebels could force them into service.

The pattern of raiding and abducting saw John slip in and out of Uganda and southern Sudan for two years and eight months.

John and his brother managed to escape, but when they returned home, they weren’t welcomed with open arms. “They kept saying we had escaped and had left our brothers to suffer and die in the bush.”

The Lord’s Resistance Army also abducted girls.

Sara was 10 when a rebel yanked her away while she was fetching water.

“Very terrible things that I saw and even did, but whatever I did was not in my interest. It was not that I wanted to do, but I was forced to do.”

Sara, now 25, was forced to run with the rebels for two years.

After one unsuccessful escape plan failed, ending with the reb e l s killing her friend, Sara managed to escape and return home.

“When I came back, my life was not proper, my head was not straight.”

The wounds of the LRA war linger in northern Uganda.

Augustin Oryen, the chair of the local sub-district since 2002, says former soldiers have little education and many are turning to crime.

“The trauma has not gone away from them,” says Oryen. “So they end up going to stealing.”

It threatens to spiral into another crisis, he says, just on the heels of the two-decade conflict that hit his region the hardest.

During the conflict, tens of thousands fled from their homes and ended up in government camps. As the rebels dug in their heels against the Ugandan army, community infrastructure was left to crumble.

And even though the conflict is over, some are still reluctant to return home, says John Kyejjusa, who works for World Vision in Pader, which is also in northern Uganda.

“There is still this feeling,’Those places are not safe,'” Kyejjusa says.

In 2000, the Ugandan government, under President Yoweri Museveni, extended amnesty to rebels who agreed to lay down their arms.

But Uganda’s International Crimes Division of the High Court is currently trying a former LRA officer in Gulu. The officer, Thomas Kwoyelo has not been granted amnesty.

John went through a traditional cleansing ritual conducted by community elders to exorcise his demons, but he still thinks about the blood on his hands.

Charles Obwaya, the teacher, says the best way for his students to heal is through dialogue and shared solutions.

“To solve their problems, it will take a long time.”

Teviah Moro is an editor with The Packet & Times.


About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

One Comment


  1.  
    Benon

    Kony will one day face his Creator to answer for the henious crimes he committed. It is just a matter of time. I pray for all those who were affected by the infamous war especially the children. May God help them.





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