Spare a thought for LRA abductees
Posted Friday, August 17 2012 at 01:00
The activists argue— and rightly so—that it is only through accountability that affected families will forget the traumatic experiences they underwent during the war.
Six years after the guns went silent in northern Uganda, many families are still struggling to heal and rebuild their lives. This is mainly informed by the very nature of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion that, for two decades, turned parts of northern Uganda into one of the most dangerous places in the world, especially for children.
The LRA, under the dreaded Joseph Kony, thrived by abducting children in Acholi sub-region and beyond. These children were indoctrinated to commit atrocities against their will. Young girls were turned into sex slaves for vile rebel commanders. These are some of the worst crimes but little attention has been paid to this aspect of the war.
Peace activists in northern Uganda are now demanding that the government should account for thousands of missing children abducted by the LRA rebels during the war. The activists argue--and rightly so—that it is only through accountability that affected families will forget the traumatic experiences they underwent during the war.
Over the years, a number of children have been rescued and others have managed to escape. Many, however, remain unaccounted for—probably confined to the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the bushes of the Central African Republic or South Sudan’s vast Savannah. Many of the abductees, especially the girls given to rebels as ‘wives’, have had children who are growing up in the bush.
While Kony is no longer carrying out atrocities in northern Uganda, his group is still terrorising people in CAR, DR Congo, etc. According to researchers, LRA fighters—as of January 2011—stand at 400. Human Rights Watch estimates the figure at 150 to 300 armed fighters plus hundreds of captured children. Another research by the Gulu-based Children and Youth as Peace Builders, says 4,080 people were abducted from Gulu District alone at the epicentre of the rebellion, 3,510 of whom were less than 24 years of age. The research also says 2,347 of the abductees died.
As communities affected by the LRA war make efforts to rebuild their lives, it is crucial to recognise that the process of healing from trauma is vital in post-war recovery. The government, together with rights bodies and NGOs should make deliberate efforts to ensure that abducted children are released and accounted for.