The following was written by Lukala Justine, who is currently completing his degree in civil engineering at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. He was awarded a full scholarship by the Ugandan Government.
I was born a happy boy on July 6, 1978. In 1987 my father was killed by the Lords’ Resistance Army and in 1989 they killed my mother so my two sisters, my brother and I went to live in the displaced persons camp and from there we went to Gulu town where a kind woman gave us her home which was 2 kilometers from town. We only stayed in the house during the day. At night we walked to Gulu town (hundreds of children are forced to seek the relative safety of the town and are known as “the night commuters”). This is when I began my studies. In 1991 my elder sister died of AIDS. I believe she might have been infected by a soldier because one day she was raped when she went to the village to look for food.
In 1992 I joined secondary school with a half scholarship because I was the best in the county in primary school. The school gave me a piece of land to grow vegetables which I supplied to the school in exchange for my school fees not covered by the scholarship. I managed to finish senior four.
Because I was left with so many responsibilities I couldn’t continue with my studies. I went to the displaced persons camp to dig and get food. I left my brother and sister in town. In 1996 the rebel activity intensified and I was shot twice but survived. My brother Paul came to take me back to town but we were so tired and Paul was sick so we could not make it back to town. We prayed and slept. At 1:00 a.m. the rebels came and abducted us. Paul was just ten years old and he was carried away. I looked at him and I cried. I didn’t know it was a crime to show such a love in the bush according to their law. We were given an option to sacrifice one of us to die buy one of the rebels rescued us and they separated me from my brother. The last time I say him was in 2001 when he lost his leg and was taken by UNICEF.
My life in Captivity
I first of all ask for forgiveness for whomever will read this and think I am to bad.
After separating us they started training me how to kill, use a gun and their dos and don’ts. One day we were forced to sit and look at they way they kill a man who failed to walk. They started by cutting him into pieces as we look. One day one of us tried to escape and was caught. Three of us were given a “pass-out” (to prove that you are well trained). I participated in killing her with a panga. That day all my skin was swollen because of blood. Please forgive me.
I remember one night we went for an operation to capture one government soldier who was at home according to intelligence. We were ordered “no gun, nobody left in that house.” We caught his sister, his wife and his brother whom we killed on the spot, and an old man whom we left burning in the house. All the houses were set ablaze. We presented two women to the commander and they tied those ladies and put fire on them. I looked at this and then said to myself “better I die than to look at all this”.
At this time I did not have a gun, I only had a panga and a torn army uniform and they had sprinkled me with oil as a cleansing rite. I was told to ambush a convoy. Us children without gun lined behind those with guns. We were told than once the fighting started we should do all we could to get a gun. Unfortunately the government soldiers had superior weapons and they fired at us. We were scattered and many people were killed, others were injured.
Because I had seen a road I told myself, “God help me escape”. I didn’t run far away from the road. I laid down while the soldiers continued shooting those who were running. By that time it was coming to night time. The soldiers left. I climbed a big tree where I spent the night without sleeping because I knew from experience that the rebels would come looking for those who were injured. Indeed, they came. But I survived because I was up in the tree.
In the morning I started looking for a nearby home. I found one with an old woman in it. She gave me some torn civilian clothes and took me to a local leader and he took me to the army barracks. There I explained everything and was transferred to the town after which I was reunited with my people.
Please, all what I did was to compare life and death. I did so many things which I can’t put all here. Two years in captivity is more than one second in a furnace. Please forgive me.
Life at home seemed more difficult than in the bush. I started looking after my sister. In 2001 UNICEF brought Paul back and gave him to GUSCO trauma center. I started struggling with life.
My Life After Captivity
In April of 2003 I got an invitation from Save The Children to attend a conference called Children in the Crossfire in Washington D.C. I talked to a “man with a heart created by God” (we attended this conference with our father, George Bersch, the “man with a heart”) who promised that I could go back to school with the support of UCCEF. I started studying afresh. I managed to pass very well and I was admitted to the University of Dar es Salaam to pursue a course in Civil and Transportation Engineering. God could not change his plan and He took this man of heart away to Him but I know his spirit still lives.
I never had a thought it would be like this and my story is shocking to many ears. Nine years of wandering and then a degree holder in engineering!
I assure you that whoever has assisted me in one way or the other I will never disappoint you. I have no payment for you but the best payment for now is the good news that I now have a future. I wish to express further that if possible I wish to have a masters degree in Highway Engineering. I know God will make a way where there seems to be no way.
I now feel so different from the way I used to be. Please, I know they wasted my time but that is not a reason for me not to work hard. I will struggle until the last.
I would like to thank Mary Westring and David Bersch who began UCCEF that is helping to support me and my extra needs at the University. They have accepted God’s call. I know that I am not special to have this blessing but it is a task which I have to embrace and extend to all of my brothers and sisters who in one way of the other have a similar experience.
I ask for forgiveness for the things I was compelled to do in the bush and now, in case I have done wrong and there is a better way of doing it. I also wish to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I have forgiven all who contributed to my suffering and who forced me to do what I was not supposed to do. I pray they take this chance to request God to forgive them. I ask you for your prayers that I may keep focus and live in a healthy way.
May God bless you, your families and the work of your hands.
The following was written by Komakech Charles who is working on a post college degree in international accounting.
My life after the bush.
Following my abduction in the year 1997 by the LRA, I escaped in late December 1997. I was brought to Uganda People Defense Force Division H/Q in Gulu Barrack where I stayed two week with the Army. GUSCO took us from the barracks to their centre where people below 18 years who went through was were brought for rehabilitation following the horrific activities suffered while in captivity.
At GUSCO we received medication, clothing, food, counseling and guidance from the staff as well as people from various parts of the world like Norway, USA among others That really brought the real hope for a normal life because my mind was totally ruined and I thought I had no value to society.
After a month the result for my primary Living Examination came out and I got a high grade. The people at GUSCO were very pleased with my performance considering the village school where I had been before my abduction and so they gathered the scholastic materials for my admission into senior 1 at Sir Samuel Baker School in Gulu.
School was not easy at first since the instruction was taught in English and I had forgotten much of the English I had learned in the village school, but I slowly captured the situation and my performance was quite good, scoring in the top twenty percent. In senior four I managed to pass with first grade and was very pleased I could compete in the national examination. This please my uncle much as he was very poor. He took me to Katikamu SDA school in Luwere District just 31 kilometers from Kampala. I was admitted to do Science combination in that school but what stopped me was I could not afford the science school requirements and so I had to change to History, Economic, Geography and Agriculture. In the course of the studies we were taken for field work in various places in Kampala. Seeing good things in the city was a motivation for my effort. My performance was quite good but I was disappointed in third term senior six when I delayed at home for almost two months and made only 13 points.
Yet still I was admitted for bachelor of Agriculture Business management at Makerere University and at Gulu University for bachelor of business administration under private sponsorship.
But I had no hope in joining the university because I was living in the village just trying to survive. Then on day I decided to visit GUSCO centre where I was before. I was warmly welcomed by the staff who still remembered my face from the good image I showed when I was in the centre. I was taken to Arach Beatrice, Program Coordinator and she was happy because she was the one who gave me school requirements when they were releasing me from the centre to start senior one. To hear that I had completed senior six and qualified for the university was a real success to GUSCO because most of the children in their care do not go nearly as far. She promised that she would look for an opportunity for me to enroll in a university. After a month she called me to say that she had sent my name for sponsorship so I should soon get an admission letter from Gulu University. I could not believe my good fortune.
I took the admission letter from Gulu University to her and she happened to see that I was admitted under the name “Son of GUSCO. They gave me part payment for semester one I started school immediately in August 2004.
I got in touch with Irene in late December 2004 when the balance of my fees was required but I did not then know where the money was coming from. It gave me a lot of courage when she advised me that my education was my only resource and there I should put my effort.
I got Mary Westring’s address in July 2006 and also Papa John, the Rotary president in the same year. The communication I started with them was the cause of my success in university since I had the opportunity to determine the course of my studies with their help. The friends I made at the university were also helpful to me in my success as they were more experienced at the studies. Since the war interrupted the education of many children, my friends outside of the university tended to be older and already in the work force.
While in the second year at the university I applied for funding from the Northern Uganda Social Fund program funded by the World Bank for cattle restocking. It benefited 30 widows and widowers where $8,000 to buy 30 cows was given to them. This helped me to improve the relationship with my village because villagers do not always immediately accept people returning from captivity.
My performance was quite good at the university and I did not need to repeat any of my papers while there. I finished my studies in June 2007 and I implemented the business plan I made in my 2nd year, a chicken production project which was supported by UCCEF, Dr. Stan, Pap John, Irene Gillman and others. This business was going very well but suddenly failed because of a viral infection that killed the entire stock. Because of problems in Kenya, I was unable to get the necessary drugs to treat the problem. I still have hope that I will be able to resume this business at a later date.
I again made a request to study ACCA (a professional accounting course) offered by UK programme in Uganda in late December 2007. I was admitted and I started in early March 2008. I passed the June exams which brought me a lot of courage to see that I passed an exam administered to over 180 countries around the world. I continue these studies and will take another exam in June, 2009.
I believe that what has gone this far with success is humility of character and inborn discipline and it is these traits that I advise my fellow students to cultivate in their struggles to improve their situations
The following testimony was written by Komagum Joseph who is working towards a degree in Public Health
I, Komagum Joseph Amon, was born on December 22, 1985. I grew up in my village called Paomo. I loved to study and my hobby was football. I had two brothers and a sister who died from a landmine.
My mother was a nurse and my father was a sub-county chief. I was a clever boy and never repeated any class. I reached Primary Seven.
In 1996 when I was twelve I was with three other boys reading in our hut at about 11 P.M. The rebels came and kicked down the door. They entered and kicked us and ordered us to get up. They tied us. I saw my father, my mother and my elder brother also brought outside their hut and tied.
They told us that they refuse to let people live near the r ad so they burnt all our huts. They asked a man where the others had gone and when the man did not know they pierced him with a bayonet and killed him. We continued to another homestead where three boys came out running and were shot dead and the huts burned. We traveled away from there and met some youths were going to a dance and were making a lot of noise. We all squatted down waiting for them and the rebels arrested about 11 of them.
We looted a shop in another village and abducted dome more boys and girls but most people started running and they burned their huts too. The shop man said that they were thieves so the rebels killed him and burned his house.
The commander decided that the older captives should be killed because they refused to obey their command. They tied the adults and made them lie on their stomachs and they shot them and they died. My parents and my brother were among them. We were told that we were not to cry or we would be killed.
From there we moved to a place called Lamogi and they shot three men riding on bicycles. The rebels wrote a letter say8ing that they do not want people to ride bicycles or move in a vehicle or live near the road or they will be killed. We were very hungry, they did not feed us. We reached a forest to sleep and they tied our hands and legs and covered us with a tarp. Two boys escaped so in the morning we captives were lined up and beaten. One of the girls died. We met fifteen people coming from Gulu town and the commander ordered us to kill them. If we did not we would be killed. Two people could not walk and they were killed.
We had a fight with the government troops and I was shot in the leg. I was left in the sick bay for a week to heal.
After a month they gave us guns and we started training. One time we were to cross a river by rope. I was so scared I refused to cross and they said they would kill me. I saw a boy fall in the water and he was left to drown. A kind soldier carried me on his back and swam across the river. We met the government forces again. I was shot on my heel and was taken to the sick bay again.
In 1997 we moved to Sudan. Kony normally came to talk to us once a week. He said they were going to take over President Museveni of Uganda. Every day they beat and killed people. In one battle there were 100 people killed and 50 injured. I was shot again.
Sometime I would think about my parents and my brother and I would become so sad, all the time I wanted to escape and go home but when I began to think about where to stay and who to stay with I started crying. One of the soldiers came to me and asked me if I was planning to go home. I said no because if they know you want to escape they will kill you then and there. After a week the same person found me sitting quietly and asked again if I was planning to go home. I told him I have no where to live because my family was killed, even my relatives, so I would be better dying in the bush.
In 2002 I was rescued by the UPDF of Sudan. We were brought back to Uganda to the World Vision Children of War Rehabilitation Programme in Gulu. I stayed there for four months because I had no where to go. They told me my younger brother who I left at home was also abducted and he was killed.
I wanted to study but had no way. Everyday I would pray to God to help me and in February I got support from Mummy Mary, Grampa George and Uncle David who had come to visit the late honorable Omwony Ojwok. Kilara Patrick and I went to their hotel. We told them we wanted to study but had no support. Mary accepted to support me and David accepted Kilara Patrick. God is on my side; He did not leave me alone. He has brought my mother Mary from a very far place and has a good plan for me. I pray to God to protect my mother Mary in whatever she is doing for the former child soldiers in Northern Uganda.
We were the first to be supported by UCCEF and now there are about 30 students in school. There are six of us at University. When I was in secondary school I told Mum Mary of my dream to become a doctor. I passed science in my final examinations and now I am doing a Bachelor of Public Health at Uganda Christian University. I love to study so much.
The child soldiers in Uganda normally suffer a lot when they go back to their villages. People hate them so much and abuse them so some of them end up joining the Ugandan Army. Most of them do not have their real parents and there are no programs for these children. At times I cry the way I see these children.
A meeting of the children in our program was organized by A. Irene in hopes of developing a network of support among them. The floor was opened to allow them to relate their experiences and share their thoughts and several spoke, among them L. Moses. From the minutes:
Moses advised his fellow children to "work hard to remove the bad reputation that people have about us former abducted children. That we should not show bad behavior and not be violent to people because that is what people think we are". He urged all the children to fight against stigma. "This", he said, "can only be achieved when we perform well at school and advocate for peace among people." He said he has already joined the Information for Youth Group as a peace advocate. He told the children who are being mocked as returnees to be peace advocates in their schools and take control of their emotions no matter how painful it is. He also told the children not to be exposing their past experience to those they do not trust because they will turn to mock them with it. He said he stayed in the bush for eight years but unless he tells someone most people do not know because he does not like being mocked. He said he intends to study up to the university, that better late than never. "I wasted eight years but I can still catch up, it's all about determination." He said he is happy for Justin and Charles for the success (at university) and asked them to help other children to reach their level.
Justin, age 12
One month in captivity
I was abducted and taken to Lira. The rebels collected more children and lots of goats from the villages. We passed my house again and went to Kitgum district. We came to tall hills. My feet were swollen and I could not walk so I gave my luggage to someone else. One of the soldiers pierced my brother with a bayonet. Blood was coming out. He was crying, 'please kill me'. The soldier told me to lie down and told one of the captives to kill him. He killed him and we started moving. I was crying. They said 'what are you crying about? You should laugh.' So I started laughing.
We walked and my feet were swollen. I said I 'I cannot walk'. They beat me with a wire lock so I started running. Then we marched and I got slow again and broke the line. They said 'who broke the line?' I remained behind when they were talking. We went to a homestead. I asked the lady to hide me. She hit me and told me to run. I said 'I escaped, please hide me.' So she put me in a bush and fed me. I could not walk so they put water on my feet. I slept with them until the morning. Then they took me to the barracks. That is how I escaped.
David, age 16
Four years in captivity
This happened to me in 1998 in a place called Awach where we had camped. During the cooking time the government troops attacked. This is a picture of the battlefield and there are people who have been killed. It happened near a homestead. A government helicopter is coming to reinforce the government troops. I was a fighter in this.
I was abducted in 1996 in March at a place called Amuru, 50 km west. In Sudan we were based in a camp called Aru, later at Jabulin. After we were attacked we stayed in Kitgum (Uganda) and then moved to Gulu. At Awa we entered an ambush by governement troops. I was wounded and the government troops rescued me. I fell down and crawled away during the fighting. When it stopped I shouted that I was an abducted child.
This child has been at the center for one week. He asked me to tell his story in private. He spoke in a soft, low voice to Emmanuel, the counselor, who bent close to hear him. He had a face of unsurpassed sorrow and weariness. Emmanuel later said that this was the first time this child had spoken of his time in the bush.
Patrick, age 16
Abducted twice, one year total in captivity
I was abducted the first time in 1996 when I was eleven. I was on my way to church. There were five children riding bikes. They grabbed us and broke our bicycles in pieces. We started moving. They asked us "where are the government soldiers?" We told them they were far away but they were near, in Palaro. We walked across the main road. In the night they tied our hands and feet and covered us with tents so we could not be seen. They covered our faces with plastic so we could not see. And they put logs around us so we could not escape. The next day we crossed the river Aswa that connects to Kitgum. When we reached Kitgum the government soldiers started shooting at us. As a result, others were killed and injured. We were told to lift the injured and the dead were left behind. They continued to shoot. They said if we dropped the injured they would kill us. If you are tired they will kill you. My legs were swollen.
When we reached the border with Sudan we planned an escape. The shooting started and I managed to escape. I joined the government soldiers and they brought me to World Vision.
I was abducted again in 2000 when I was fifteen. I was on my way to school. Two were abducted with me. They tied us in chains. We went to Kitgum again. A government helicopter bombed us. We had to carry much luggage. The bombing was four times in one day. They removed my shoes. We had nothing to eat. We ate raw meat. After three months I got injured on my foot. It was rotten and had a terrible smell. There were even worms. After seeing my condition they gave me even more luggage to carry so I would be tired and then they would kill me. My leg was swollen and I had terrible pain. When I said my pain is bad they beat me. I came to a decision to either escape or die. I could not go on. They told me to bring them an ax and said when we got to a certain place they would kill me with it. When we got to the place they sent five spies in the trees. In less than one minute one spy ran to the leader and said "everyone, run". The government soldiers were coming. I couldnt move so they beat me. I said I was very thirsty so another captive gave me water to drink. I drank the water and went into the tall grass. I slept. The pain in my leg was terrible.
In the morning I saw the same group so I stayed two more nights hiding. On the third day I started moving. I went in any direction because I did not know where I was. I fed on mushrooms and leaves and wild fruit. I walked for a week. I could only walk a short while because of my pain.
I had to feed on the worms that came to feed on me. I thought of shooting lizards to eat but my arms were paralyzed. It took me one more week to reach the road. I found some dried beans that had dropped on the road and I ate them. I saw two people on bicycles and I shouted please help me. They took me to the barracks and they sent information to World Vision and they came and got me.
Patrick, age 18
Abducted twice, seven months total
In 1996 I was abducted as I came from school riding my bicycle. I entered the homestead. All of the houses were burning. My brothers were captured as well and they were under gunpoint. When I came they beat me and tied me up with the others. We carried looted things from the homestead. I saw my house on fire and I did not know my mother and father were inside. They died.
When we were traveling one of my brothers was tired. They told me to kill him but I refused. I said I would rather die. They started beating him and speared him in his leg. They gave him big luggage to carry. We had two days without eating anything. His legs were swollen. We consoled him and told him that we would take him home. In two days he died.
We walked to a place called Lacekocot. We stayed two weeks. I was left with my sister to follow me. We shifted to another place and they gave me a gun. I didnt know how to use it but they said everyone is a soldier. I started enjoying staying with them and I forgot about home. They did not expect me to think about escape.
I told my sister I cannot stay here any longer. I will leave tonight. You try too. At night they set us free and told us to loot some camp. We looted and on our way back they told me to lead. Later they told someone else to lead. I went at the back of the line and remained and hid under a casaba plantation. I walked very fast away and came to a sugar cane plantation. I thought I would meet government troops. I decided to hide my gun. Unfortunately I had on a uniform. I spent the night in the bush. The next day I looked for any homestead. I could not move during the day because of my uniform. I was hungry. I found an empty homestead. They had just cooked but no one was there. I ate and then followed their footsteps. I found the place where they spent their nights. I decided to go back and get my gun and came back to where the people were camped. I greeted them in their language. Instead of answering they exchanged looks. I told them "dont be afraid of me, I am not a bad person. I escaped and I am looking for help". A woman said, "in that case, come in." Her husband and all of the men ran away. The woman asked, "Have you come to kill me?" I said, "no, take me to the local leader." But he had run away with the others. I said that I will climb a tree and wait. I spent the night in the tree. In the morning the local leader came back. I left my gun in the tree.
The local leader asked me many questions and took me to the government soldiers and they brought me to World Vision.
The second time I was abducted when I was sleeping in my house. They said please help us find the way. But we continued past the place where we were supposed to stop so I knew I was abducted again. They took my shoes and gave me two basins of beans to carry and a goat to pull by a rope. We stopped to cook. One cup of beans for ten people. They gave us thirty minutes to get them ready but then they said we have to leave now so we ate the beans raw.
We reached a river Aswa and the rope slipped and the goat swam across and I stayed behind. I later crossed. We stayed one week in a place called Acholibur. We moved from there and found a wide road. They told us to squat. We were near a path. The government soldiers came and said, "dont run. If you run we will kill you". I started running and they chased me and shot at me but I disappeared. That is how I escaped.
Samuel, age 14
Two years in captivity
I was abducted with two others when we were going to church. I was given heavy luggage to carry. We reached Otaru. They took one of my brothers and ordered him to be killed. Fortunately he was not. We crossed a river and saw tents but did not know who they belonged to so we stayed in the bush. They ordered all the children to be killed. Again, they changed their minds and we started moving instead. We moved to Kitgum, then Gulu, then Kitgum, then Gulu again. My brother escaped and they deceived me that he was killed. They said if I try to escape they will kill me too. They tied us at night because my brother escaped. They untied us in the mornings.
We went to Sudan and stayed sometime then came back to Uganda to fight. Again we went to Gulu, then Kitgum, then Gulu. I was given a gun to fight. My brother, too.
In July when the crops were ripe we began looting food. We captured more people to carry food to Sudan. We entered an ambush and we scattered. I was shot in the leg. Then we went to Lango and were told to abduct as many as we could. I abducted seven myself. We gave them uniforms and luggage to carry. When they kill government soldiers they remove their boots and take the good ones for themselves and give the bad ones to the children. Those who cannot walk are killed.
They killed four people in a house. Then we moved to Sudan. We were ordered to loot more food. We looted a cow and five goats, too. We had another fight with the government soldiers. Then one child asked if we were about to reach Sudan and he was killed just for asking "are we about to reach Sudan".
We reached a banana plantation and took the bananas and then cassava because food was again short. Then the fighting started again. It was scary and very hard. My legs were swelling. We reached a very thick forest. I could not move any longer. I thought everyone will fall and die because we had nothing to eat. I got stuck on vines of trees and fell. And I fell again. They said I was doing it intentionally. So they took everything away, even my shoes, and beat me with a cane. So many strokes. Because I was unconscious they left me there to meet my death. But I regained consciousness and began to move. I saw soldiers coming and hid behind an anthill. I lay there waiting to die. I did not and began to move. I ate the feces of wild animals and drank some water from the river and felt some strength. I walked for two weeks without a homestead in sight. Then I heard a cockcrow and walked towards the cockcrow. I saw a house with many mango trees so I ate them. I saw cassava, not the kind for eating but I ate it anyway. I went to the homestead and found people drinking. The men ran away. The women remained. They helped me. I asked to see the local leader but he had run away. They gave me water and nursed my wound. Sometime in the night the men came back after hearing my story. The local leader took me to his place on his bike but he dropped me intentionally. I said, "you dropped me intentionally and if you leave me I will shoot you" I was hurt by what he had done and I refused to eat his food. He took me to a hut where no one sleeps. A witch doctor was there and he took me to the barracks the next day. They took me to the hospital but I had no one to take care of me so the doctors and nurse left me to die. Then someone took pity on me and took care of me and brought me food every day. Then the doctor intervened. They sent information over the radio about me and my father heard the announcement so he came the next day and got me. Then I came to World Vision.
Jimmy, age 17
One year in captivity
I was seated at home together with my family members in the evening at the fireplace. I was not looking elsewhere but concentrating on the fire. My sister saw the rebels approaching the compound and she ran in the house. When the rebels approached they told whoever had run inside to come out. She came out, trembling, and she was speared.
The rebels told my mother not to worry because they only wanted me to show them the way. Then shortly after walking they asked me "are there many boys in this area? We want you to take us to all these boys and if you fail we shall kill you."
Because I was afraid, I had to take them to three homes where they abducted my friends. I was calling them by name. After moving for so long I started feeling hungry and fortunately we reached a forest where we camped and were given thirty minutes to cook and have the food eaten. We had to eat raw beans and then continued moving. We found a river and drank water. We found a cassava plantation and ate the cassavas.
One of the friends I called tried to escape. Unfortunately he was caught and brought back. They told me to follow to where the boy was going to be beaten and said next time they will do the same to anyone who will try to escape. My friend was beaten once with a very big log and he fell down and he died. I started trembling and I had a feeling like I had killed my own friend because I called him myself to be abducted.
Again, after a few days another captive was sent to fetch water and he tried to escape. He was caught and brought back. Our leader sent for me and asked me if I remembered how my friend was killed. Then he told me to beat that captive the same way my friend was beaten. I had to beat him twice with the big log and he died. Again, after some time I was told to kill another captive who tried to escape.
I felt I would die the same way. I was feeling like someone abnormal. I imagined what the people I have killed feel about me and I started getting nightmares. After that we had to perform some rituals to make me become a soldier. I was given a uniform and taught to use guns. After that I was a bit set free because they thought I would not escape.
My legs swelled and I became weak. I started counseling the other remaining two friends not to feel bad about me because I was forced to call them. Life went on and we did a lot of lootings, risked many ambushes and risked crossing rivers, even at night.
After about a year I told my friends that we need to escape. Those friends were afraid because they saw how the others were killed. When I reached the river I started running very fast and after running for about two kilometers I removed my uniform and boots and darkness came. I had nightmares because I was thinking of the people I killed. I wondered what to tell the people at home, especially the parents of my friends who died.
I found a homestead and told them of my experience and asked for help. I was taken to the local leader and later taken home. I was welcomed home but unfortunately the mother of one of the friends I called and was killed asked me about her son. I had to tell her he died. But she started planning to kill me too. Fortunately, people realized her plan and told the local leader who tried to talk to her but she would not listen. She blames me for her sons death. Then the local leader wrote a letter and made some contribution for my transport to bring me to World Vision where I am now. But I have no hope of reaching my village again because I fear she will kill me. Worse still, I get much nightmares because of the experience I had in captivity.
1 year in captivity
I was abducted in the morning when I was at home peeling cassava. When the rebels appeared on the compound, my mother started pleading for them to leave and instead take a goat but they would not listen.
We started moving from morning up to about 7:00 p.m. and entered Parabogo where we wanted to loot but we were attacked by government soldiers where they fired guns and I tried to escape but the security was so tight.
It took us about two months before leaving for Sudan. While on our way to Sudan, I risked several fights and my legs were swollen. I was given luggage to carry and we were tied in chains. I felt very thirsty but I managed to reach Sudan.
When we reached Sudan, they started taking us for military training which took two months. There after they started taking us to battlefields. They would not allow us to refuse. Besides we would sleep hungry.
One day I had gone to look for water and I happened to lose my gun. I was caned 250 strokes and I was sentenced to death. Fortunately my gun was found in the morning prior to my death sentence and that is how I survived.
Again I was picked among the people to come to Uganda and fight. They gave us instructions such as when they tell you to stop, sit or kneel you must follow it. You fail, you will die. I was given luggage, ammunitions, land mines and bullets to carry. It took us three days to reach Uganda. We entered from Atiak. We were chained in four lines and met government troops in six lines. There fighting broke out for about five hours. But we had to run and come towards Pobo around Bar-Olam. Many people died in the course of the fight, while others were injured. Those of us who survived were again picked to fight. We kept on fighting and they wouldnt allow us to throw whatever we were carrying. We then had another fight at Atiak where they started planning for us to go back to Sudan.
They ordered us to carry so many things and loot as much as possible because we are to travel back to Sudan. When I realized we were to go back to Sudan I thought of escaping because I knew I would not have another chance of coming back to Uganda. So in the night we were trekking in four lines. Then I was given four other captives to control and they said if any of them escape then Ill be killed. I gave my gun to one of the girls and my jerry can to another and excused myself that I was going to ease myself. Being dark, I started running instead and went too far where I knew they would not find me and slept because I was tired.
The next morning I threw away the bag I was carrying and started moving to find people. Then I found a man and he took me to the local leader. Then I was taken to the army barracks where I stayed for two weeks and then later I was brought to World Vision.
Christine, age 18
I was abducted on the 26th of January, 2003 at about 7:30 PM while we were at home at the fireplace. The rebels appeared shortly when I had entered our hut to pick something and light some fire in the house. When I came out everyone had run and I found the compound flooded with rebels with very strong torchlights. They flashed my eyes and I could not see anything but I was hearing voices. They asked why people had run and I told them I did not know because I was inside.
They entered our house and looted our hut. They took clothes, a small radio, flour and beans. They tied me up and found another child of 9 years old and took him too. We were taken to the rebel commander who asked me if the UPDF were near. I told them I had no idea. I was given a hot slap for responding that way. So one of the abductees threw a stone at the rebel commander and it stabbed him in the arm. He then ordered all of the abductees to be killed. They then killed many people abducted from the area. I was also ordered to be killed but the rebel who saw me first at our home refused me to be killed. He said I am beautiful and by then I had just come from my holidays. We started moving and went and looted a trading centre. I was given a case of soda to carry. They gave me a bottle to drink.
The next morning they released most elderly people and we looted food and continued walking. After 4 days walking we joined a big group of rebels. I was then taken away from the group and given to another group. On the 5th of February 2003 the rebel commander ordered all the girls who were not yet given to soldiers as wives to be distributed while the abnormal ones to be killed. So they asked for those who had sickness to put up the hands. Four of us did so and they said I should be the first to be killed because I look so healthy and they said I was fooling them. They then found the rebel doctor who I dont even think is a real doctor but just a chance to examine our skin. The three girls were released and they retained me. The other girls were distributed as wives. The same man who abducted me refused all the other women and said he wanted me. I started staying as his wife.
He gave me orders and told me never to try to escape or go anywhere alone because if I did that he would kill me. I should always be talking and not be sad because if I am that will mean I want to escape. He was a very bad man and so rough. I became pregnant and so worried. He told me never to sing but I always forgot and sang. One day he beat me severely because I was singing and he said he would lose nothing if he killed me. He said he does not care about me being pregnant even if I give birth to Jesus. I started bleeding in my nose, mouth and like my periods were coming. I fainted and he stopped beating me. He then ordered for water to be taken for me to bathe. But I could not even stand. He then told one of his women to take water for me to bathe. Fortunately I stopped bleeding after some days. I underwent a lot of suffering and I only wished to die.
Process of escape: We were moving at night and we reached a cassava plantation at about 7:30 PM. People were uprooting cassava and because I was already weak they thought I had gone in front, but I had hidden myself in the cassava plantation. I started running after the rebels had gone a distance. I then came to the main road and found some people who took me to the camp leader in Acholi not in Poder district where I escaped. I was then taken to Acholi police barracks then to Lira barracks and then to Gulu World Vision where I am now.
Future Plan: Since my education has been disrupted due to abduction, I feel I should go for skills training because I am already six months pregnant. But I am so worried about the future of the unborn child. So I need to acquire some skills training and support myself.
Kenneth, age 18
I was abducted on the 12th of December, 2002 while at home at about 2:00 AM when I was sleeping with my brother. The rebels looted our home and tied our hands at the back and took us. After moving a short distance we found other groups of rebels plus many abductees. We started looting other homesteads. I was severely beaten that same night and yet we had to move towards Kawa River and again found another big group where the rebel leader ordered those from 18 years to be killed because they are big and would escape.
After a few days they were forced to become soldiers. They were told to say their prayers to be strong soldiers and successful. I was given a gun and we planted a land mine. Shortly we entered an ambush and the rebel leader told us not to throw anything we were carrying. We ran towards Lira and crossed to Gulu.
One day we were told to go and uproot cassava. Unfortunately, the UPDF soldiers started firing gun shots and 7 of the people I was with were shot dead and I was also shot in the leg. The UPDF saw me lying and I was crying for help. They equally wanted to shoot me but I raised my hands and told them I was just abducted. Then they pardoned me and carried me to their barracks in Lalogi and then later to Gulu barracks and then I was taken to Lacer hospital where I took six months. When I was discharged I was brought to World Vision where I am now. I am not yet fully recovered and I am still walking with a stick to support me.
Future Plans: I feel I should continue with my education because I am still young. I got abducted before joining my senior year so I need to continue studying.
Bosco, age 15
I had gone to take refuge in the bush where we normally spend the nights because of fear the rebels can attack our home. So on the night of 20th, December 2002 the rebels first had a fight with the UPDF near our home and they later advanced towards our home. They found the elders who sleep at home and asked them to show where children are sleeping. The elders were forced to follow them and made us come out of hiding. The rebels abducted me and my friend and tied us in chains and we started moving including other abductees. We continue moving with the rebels throughout the night and I was given almost a full sack of sugar to carry.
The following day we came across a UPDF ambush and there was fire exchange. My friends escaped, but I did not. We later joined a big group of rebels under the leadership of Bugal, a rebel commander. While in captivity we kept on moving from Gulu to Kitgum and Pader. Five months later I was already trained as a soldier and I was authorized to keep child mothers in the sick bay. We continued looting various places and would always go back to the sick bay where I took 4 months.
Escape Process: I was told to go and keep watch on an anthill if the rebels were coming. I decided to escape. I knew the place since I had already taken 4 months in that same place. I had my gun so I was not afraid. I walked the whole night but I could not find any place like a home. I had to spend the night in the wilderness. The next morning I walked and saw a homestead. I decided to hide the gun because I thought they would kill me if they see me with the gun. I then came to the compound and told them I was abducted and I needed help. They took me to the LC whom we found digging near his home. The LC asked what I escaped with and at first I refused to tell them the truth because I thought they would kill me. He then promised nothing wrong would happen to me and I admitted I escaped with a gun. I took them to where I had hidden the gun and the LC took me to the army defense barracks nearby. I took four days in the barracks and I was brought to Bulu main barracks and then later to World Vision where I am now.
I was stabbed in my back when I was slow to move, I have chest pain and nightmares.
Future Plans: I feel I should go back to school and continue my education since I am still young. For that is the only future I can see at the moment.
Thomas, age 17
I was abducted from Lalogi at night on the 4th of September, 2003 when we were sleeping in the camp. We had already left our homestead and taken refuge in the camp because we thought it was safe. When they attacked the camp they took the little money I was saving in the hut to pay my school feels next academic year since I could not go to school because my father had just died the year I was to join secondary education. I had raised already 87,000 UgS and yet demanded more. I was beaten because I had nothing more to give. From that house three of us were abducted.
We started moving with the rebels, we had little or some times nothing to eat, the rebels would beat us at any moment and rain would wash us almost every night. Life was very difficult. One day a boy decided to escape but unfortunately he was caught and we were given to beat him to death. He was beaten to death but I refused to participate and I was also ordered to be beaten to death. They caned me over 50 times and the rebel leader stopped them from killing me. The punishment given to me was to carry those who were shot and could not move and to carry heavy luggage. Life was so difficult that I could not continue any longer.
Escape Process: I gave up life and I had to take a risk of escaping. This happened at night after about two months when we were sleeping, eight of us in the same location. The seven were tied but the rope was not long enough to reach me so I took the guards dustcoat and his boots and started moving. I ran for about two days and I could not find any homestead. But I later chanced to get one.
I did not realize I was in Lira district until I was taken to the barracks, then later taken to concerned parents and later to Gulu World Vision where I am now.
My plan is to get support so I can go back to school since my father is now dead and I have no one to help me. All I need is to continue with my education and I need help.