OCTOBER 19, 2009: Story of Child Formerly Abducted By LRA

Former Ugandan Child Soldier Tells Of 15 Years Trapped In Rebel Army

SOURCE: AlertNet

Written by: Katie Nguyen

Martin, who declined to give his real name, was 10 when he was kidnapped by northern Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in 1994. He escaped last month after 15 years in captivity and spoke to AlertNet about his experiences. Close to 2 million people were uprooted at the height of the conflict, one of Africa's longest-running, and tens of thousands were killed.

It was in the middle of the night when the Lord's Resistance Army knocked on my door and ordered me out of my home in Kitgum district. I was terrified because I had heard all about the atrocities they were committing.

I was taken along with four cousins - but only after the rebels looted my house, taking chickens, a goat and even some clothes. We were all tied together with rope and ordered to walk. We spent the following day trying to dodge the UPDF (Ugandan army), which was scouring the area for the LRA.

We were so close to them that the smoke from their lit cigarettes still hung in the air as we crossed the paths where they had been. Because the soldiers were so near, we had to walk very fast through the bush to evade them. Soon after, we entered southern Sudan.

Initially we walked for a week. Days would start with a parade and then training on how to handle a gun. The commanders told us we were being trained because President Yoweri Museveni had ordered the Karamoja (tribe) to come and raid all the cattle in the countryside and that he had inflicted numerous abuses on our community.

We were told that the most important thing was to fight to overthrow the government, Joseph Kony would then be president and life would be better for us Acholi.

In the early days, we young children were not forced to commit violent acts, but the older boys were forced to kill some of the other children especially when they tried to escape. When that happened someone was ordered to bring a wooden club, then all the children had to gather around and watch as that child was beaten to death. It was meant to be a warning to us all.

You would also get beaten if you broke the rules - for example, not eating pork, white chicken or shea nut butter.

I was 12 when I was first sent to the battlefield. We were going after the SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army) and attacked one of their barracks at dawn. I was afraid and cold, my heart was beating so fast. It was only after the battle as we were walking away that I felt my strength return to me.

I used to think about home and going back to school all the time. I used to think if one day I was chosen to be part of an operation in Uganda I would escape. But it never happened. Instead, we moved from south Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The LRA is now full of people from Central African Republic, Sudan, Congo as well as the Acholi. These foreigners were also abducted. Although they speak their own language, they are also learning Acholi...

For the full story, please see: http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/SNAA-7WZ927?OpenDocument