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Battling the effects of LRA rebel abduction

By Andrew Masinde

Added 10th February 2016 11:48 AM

“When I got out of the hut, the rebels were in the compound asking for my husband. I said I did not know his whereabouts.”

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This group of former child soldiers started a SAACO. (Credit: Andrew Masinde)

“When I got out of the hut, the rebels were in the compound asking for my husband. I said I did not know his whereabouts.”

 
It is 8:00am local time. A calm blue sky hovers over the arid terrain in Pakor village, Parabongo sub-county in Agago district.

In one of the homesteads, a family sits under a papaw tree shelling groundnuts: 53-year-old Otto Aldo, his wife Pauline Ayenyo, 29, and their four children.

This is an ordinary family except for one thing. Ayenyo is recovering from many years of torture as a child abductee by the Joseph Kony-led Lord Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.

 tto ldo left with his wife yenyo and their children redit ndrew asinde Otto Aldo (left) with his wife Ayenyo and their children. (Credit: Andrew Masinde)

 

‘Memories still haunt me’

“I was 16 years old when the Lord's Resistance Army rebels abducted me. It was at 9:00pm in 2003. My husband was away and I had gone to bed early,” she recalls.

Ayenyo was half-asleep when she heard loud gunshots followed by loud screams. When she opened her house, her neighbours’ houses were on fire.

“People were running for their dear lives. Some were struggling to pick a few possessions to go with.”

She tried to return to her hut for her children and belongings but did not find them.

“When I got out of the hut, the rebels were in the compound asking for my husband. I said I did not know his whereabouts.”

They set her hut ablaze and ordered her to carry a sack of potatoes and join them. The group moved through the bush to an unknown destination. Their life became tough. “The young women were turned into sex slaves; then men were used as messengers or child soldiers,” remembers Ayenyo.

After one year of torture, she was sent back home without harm, probably because of the baby she was carrying. But her experience there left her traumatised.

“I saw people being killed, girls being raped and other people molested. Those memories still haunt me.”

 ome of the former child soldiers attend a counselling session in gago district redit ndrew asinde Some of the former child soldiers attend a counselling session in Agago district. (Credit: Andrew Masinde)

 

The findings

According to a 2006 study by UNICEF, at least 66,000 children and youth were abducted by the LRA between 1986 and 2005. Many of these became child soldiers or sex slaves. A few escaped and several die in captivity.

For those who survive, the effects can be life changing – poor health, missed education opportunities, failure to reintegrate into society, etc.

Lamwaka’s story


Betty Lamwaka (pictured below) was only 15 when LRA rebels abducted her. First, they killed her uncle then they took her to the bush with 15 other girls.

“We walked all night. When one of us tried to escape, the soldiers shot and killed her.”

 

In the bush, they were beaten and forced to carry the soldiers’ loot. She escaped narrowly when the rebels encountered the government Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers.

Trauma


Despite her release, Lamwaka was greatly affected: “I became traumatised and started fighting my husband. Eventually, he left me with one child,” she recalls.

Because of her violent nature, her community also isolated her. She soon became a recluse.

Her life changed after a friend introduced her to a World Vision’s Restore Former Child Soldier project which supports the rehabilitation of former abductees in Northern Uganda. She is now a cook at Pakor Primary School, Agago district.

 xabductees also started sunflower growing in ader redit ndrew asinde Ex-abductees also started sunflower growing in Pader. (Credit: Andrew Masinde)

 

Abduction of young children has devastating long term effects. But with the support of organisations like World Vision, their lives will gradually change for the better.

Since 1986, the LRA rebels under their elusive leader Kony have caused untold suffering to the people of Northern Uganda and surrounding parts.

Many of the victims have been children. The international community and the United Nations have called for action against the rebel group.

 

omen formerly abducted by the  are trying to lift themselves back up in groups redit ndrew asinde Women formerly abducted by the LRA are trying to lift themselves back up in groups. (Credit: Andrew Masinde)

 

 

ere ldo and his wife yenyo in an interview with ew ision redit ndrew asinde Here, Aldo and his wife Ayenyo in an interview with New Vision. (Credit: Andrew Masinde)



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