AUGUST 29, 2009: 'They Made Me Their Slave': Former LRA Captive

'They Made Me Their Slave': Former LRA Child Soldier


By Peter Martell

JUBA, Sudan, Aug 29, 2009 (AFP) - The boys were fishing when the rebel fighters struck, dragging them off for a slave life in one of the world's most notorious guerrilla armies.

"I thought they would kill me," said 16-year old Genekpio Kumbayo, seized in December from the farming village of Faraj, in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). "I was so terrified, I couldn't talk."

Kumbayo was captured by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan-led rebel group, whose two-decades-long campaign of guerrilla raids continues to terrorise a vast swathe of land across several nations in the region.

"For five months they forced me to carry all their equipment," Kumbayo said quietly.

"I had no choice, they made me their slave - they kept us moving through the forests, always hard at work."

Unlike others, Kumbayo was relatively lucky.

He escaped into neighbouring southern Sudan in April when Ugandan troops attacked the rebels, but was shot in the leg in the crossfire.

Ugandan soldiers began a military operation in December on remote rebel bases in the DR Congo after peace talks failed -- triggering a wave of brutal attacks as LRA fighters scattered, carrying out reprisal raids.

More than 230,000 people have fled their homes in south Sudan since late 2008 as a result of the LRA, according to UN estimates.

In addition, more than 25,000 refugees from the DR Congo and the Central African Republic (CAR) have arrived seeking shelter.

But the attacks continue.

Since late July, more than 180 people have been killed in LRA attacks in south Sudan and the numbers of refugees and displaced are rising, said Lise Grande, the UN's top humanitarian official for southern Sudan.

"The LRA continues to wreak havoc" she said.

"The picture does not look very good. Violence is continuing in the DR Congo and CAR, raising the concern of future displacements and increased numbers of refugees," she added...

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