night commuters

Uprooted Children: Uganda

Night commuters at a shelter in Gulu, northern Uganda
REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Nearly a million children have been uprooted by the war in northern Uganda where the cult-like rebel Lord's Resistance Army is notorious for abducting and brutalising children.

  • There are 935,000 children living in over 200 camps.
  • Rebels have kidnapped around 25,000 children.
  • Boys are used as soldiers and porters.
  • Girls are used as sex slaves.
  • Thousands of child "night commuters" walk miles each evening to find places to sleep where they won't be kidnapped.
  • "Child mothers" who return from captivity with babies are stigmatised.
"I always had to force myself to go into battle - I never wanted to do that. We were obliged to fight, or be killed by our leaders."

Barnabas, 13, talking to World Vision

The Children's War: Uganda


Child Soldiers of Uganda and Sudan

This is Patrick.  He has seen more atrocities than most any adult will in a lifetime.  He was forced to kill his own mother and fight for Joseph Kony's rebel army.  He escaped and was one of the "night commuters - children of Uganda," hoping to stay alive to see another new day.

Each evening tens of thousands of children were forced to hide in the night to escape being killed or abducted by rebels.  If caputred by the rebels, these children of war are were torn from their families and forced to become soldiers under the maniacal leadership of Joseph Kony.  Who is he?  And why is his reign of terror unknown to most people in the world?

Testimonies of Northern Uganda children:

Around northern Uganda, little children who couldn't find a safe place at night were in danger. And so were adults. People who were found by the rebels could be burnt to death, or beyond recognition. Body parts were cut off — noses, lips, ears, fingers.

Jan Egeland the United Nation’s head of disaster relief said that he’s seen it all. But nothing like this what he saw in Uganda.. "His (Joseph Kony) is terror like no other terror," he says. “I’ve been in a hundred countries. I’ve been working with human rights, peace, and humanitarian problems for 25 years. I was shocked to my bones, seeing what happened in Uganda. For me, this is one of the biggest scandals of our time and generation.”

Archival Photograph by Australian photographer, Kevin Evans

The root of this trauma was a civil war that raged for 19 years in northern Uganda, almost unnoticed by the rest of the world.

What makes this stand out from other wars is that it is was fought with children. Children stolen from their families and forced to become soldiers. At the age of 8, or 10 or 12, children forced to kill. 

 

Joseph Kony: "Worst of the Worst"


Who steals the souls of children?

His name is Joseph Kony. He imagines he’s a reincarnation of Jesus and calls his group “The Lord’s Resistance Army.” With virtually no popular support, he has increasingly resorted to abducting children to fight for him— against not only government forces but his own civilian people. His army has stolen as many as 30,000-50,000 innocent kids since the war began.

He is anything but a defender of the people. He terrorizes.“Your nose will be cut off together with your ears and in the end the sword will kill you. Your children will be taken into captivity and they will be burnt to death,”  he says on video tapes.

His maniacal rants are more than empty threats. Listen to what these kids say they were forced to do:

Patrick: There was a boy who could not walk anymore because he was too thirsty. So they made us kill him with a club.

Attempting to escape is dangerous.

Patrick:  If you are captured trying to escape, you will be beaten or killed.

Girls are no exception. They are forced to fight. Or, something else— become sex slaves for the rebels.

Jennifer: They gathered all the girls aged 13 years and above. They then distributed us to the commanders as their wives.

Some of them are lucky, they escape, now in recovery centers.  But you can see the damage in their eyes. It's in the pictures they draw, that the horror at the hands of Kony comes back to life.

“He knows how to instill utter fear,” says Egeland.  “But he also knows how to make them believe that he has some kind of a mission.”

Among the worst because Kony preys on children— they’re easier to indoctrinate, control, have them commit atrocities.

Source: MSNBC

 

The Whereabouts of Joseph Kony

Uganda borders are shared with war-torn and famine-plagued Sudan and Congo

 On October 6, 2005 it was announced by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that arrest warrants had been issued for five members of the Lord's Resistance Army, including Kony, for crimes against humanity.  On October 13, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo released details on Kony's indictment. There were 33 charges, 12 counts were crimes against humanity, which include murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement and rape. There were another 21 counts of war crimes which include murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, inducing rape, and forced enlisting of children into the rebel ranks. Ocampo said that "Kony was abducting girls to offer them as rewards to his commanders."

On July 31, 2006 Kony met with several cultural, political, and religious leaders from northern Uganda at his hideout in the Congolese forests to discuss the war. The following day, August 1, he crossed the border into Sudan to speak with Southern Sudan Vice President Riek Machar. Kony later told reporters that he would not be willing to stand trial at the ICC because he had not done anything wrong.

On November 12, 2006 Kony met Jan Egeland, the United Nations Undersecretary-General for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief. Kony told Reuters: "We don't have any children. We only have combatants."

On August 28, 2008, the United States Treasury Department placed Kony on its list of "Specially Designated Global Terrorists," a designation that carries financial and other penalties. It is unknown whether or not Kony has any assets that are affected by this designation. The Ugandan military has attempted to kill Kony for most of the insurgency. Uganda's latest attempt towards tracking down Kony has been to enlist the help of former LRA combatants to search remote areas of the Central African Republic, the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo where he was last seen. 

 

 

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