Friday September 5 2014

Lest we forget, LRA victims still need support to rebuild their lives

By Fiona Lali

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebellion led by Joseph Kony has ended in northern Uganda, but the effect it left on communities is far from over.

I have come to appreciate this during my time working at Invisible Children in Kampala, an organisation working towards permanently ending the LRA conflict and restoring the quality of life for victims.

While the LRA have now left Uganda, they still remain active in DR Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan. Moreover, a huge problem remains concerning the recovery and rehabilitation of victims who have been scarred both physically and psychologically because of the LRA’s terrorising actions.

As a student who came to Uganda over the summer in order to gain some work experience, I have learnt a lot about the LRA and the different interventions to end this conflict and rehabilitate the war victims.

Going through reports and newspaper articles about the war brings to light the atrocities committed by the LRA, and the lasting effect this has had on the people in affected areas. The exposure to a work environment where people are committed to working with victims of war and former abductees teaches life-long lessons.

It is easy to imagine that once war ends, everything goes back to normal. After the LRA war ended in Uganda, the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) had to return to their villages and start rebuilding their lives. This isn’t easy because such communities face a lot of post- war challenges.

Without much help, it will take long for the victims of LRA to rebuild their lives. On August 19, 2014 a report in the Daily Monitor said “at least 200,000 former IDPs are facing hardships in Alebtong District due to inadequate community-based services. The majority of people [live] in deplorable conditions because the district lacks capacity to support them…”

In a related story posted by the Daily Monitor on December 12, 2012, a group of former LRA abductees in Lango sub-region asked the Uganda government and donors “not to neglect them.” There are many such stories of despair. That is why it is imperative that we push efforts into ensuring the lives of those affected by the war can now begin afresh.

As seen in the stories cited above, the districts cannot give the war victims enough help to rebuild their lives. Without support, they cannot send their children to school, yet children in these communities need to acquire the knowledge and skills that will help them improve lives of their families and transform the communities.

Education remains a core issue in re-building the lives. Recovery programmes by organisations like Invisible Children and its educational programmes which help victims find a path back into education should be supported and expanded to benefit more people.

Through the ‘Legacy Scholarship Program’ Invisible Children offers Scholarships to help children in communities most affected by the conflict. This is helpful because many of those affected cannot afford to send their children to school.

Additionally, projects such as ‘Mend’ helped women who had been forced to become child soldiers, or ‘wives’ to LRA leaders. As well as providing an outlet for their skills, the women received training in sustainable income generating activities. Such efforts should be sustained.

The importance of long-term support for victims of war and continuous advocacy aimed at sustaining attention to this conflict became apparent to me during my short intern. There is no magic cure or clever words to address the suffering some have experienced.

Two weeks ago 46 persons were released from the LRA and Invisible Children is supporting the rehabilitation and reintegration of the Ugandans who form part of the 46. More support is fundamental to helping them and others secure a sense of recovery and dignity.

Ms Lali attends St Dominic’s 6th Form College in London.