For the last year, we have been working behind the scenes with a team to produce the story you’re going to hear today, the first part of a three-part series. This series has been extremely challenging, because we’re leaving the United States, we are in Uganda, which is in east Africa, it’s a small, landlocked country. About thirty years ago, a man named Joseph Kony began something called the Lord’s Resistance Army. These rebels in Northern Uganda began abducting children as young as five. The boys Kony forced to fight, the girls were raped and then forced to bear the children of his rebel commanders. The really interesting part of this series is that we’re looking at a country where the structure of the country failed to protect its people. 60,000 people were abducted; 20,000 were children as young as five. In this series, we go back to 1986, when the abductions began, and we are going to follow two people – two children who were abducted through the thirty years, to find out who they were, what happened when they were abducted, who they became, how they survived, and their lives today. And we’re doing this at a time when one of the rebel commanders, Dominic Ongwen, is on trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity. But will that really give these people – these mothers, fathers, children, and the communities – will this bring them justice? That’s the focus of this series. Today we present part one. It’s reported by Gladys Oroma, who lives in Gulu, Uganda, which is in northern Uganda where the conflict all began. I do want to give a warning – our story does contain descriptions of violence and sexual abuse that may be difficult to hear. Part one – Abducted.
ISAAC OKWIR: It’s a long story, in 1986 I would say was the beginning of the LRA forces with the leadership of Joseph Kony.
ISAAC OKWIR LIVES IN GULU DISTRICT IN NORTHERN UGANDA AND HEADS AN ORGANIZATION KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE AND RECONCILIATION PROJECT. LOOKING BACK, OKWIR SAYS THE VIOLENCE, AND THE ABDUCTIONS BEGAN WITH JOSEPH KONY, BUT THAT WASN’T WHERE IT ALL BEGAN.
TO TELL THE STORY, WE HAVE TO GO BACK TO 1893 WHEN THE BRITISH COLONIZED UGANDA. TO SUIT BRITISH INTERESTS, THEY PITTED THE ETHNIC GROUPS IN THE NORTH OF THE COUNTRY AGAINST THE ETHNIC GROUPS IN THE SOUTH. UGANDANS LIVING IN THE NORTH WERE TO DO MILITARY SERVICE AND PROVIDE CHEAP LABOR. ETHNIC GROUPS IN THE SOUTH WERE GIVEN ADMINISTRATIVE JOBS IN THE COLONIAL GOVERNMENT. THIS PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT, PITTING UGANDANS IN THE NORTH AGAINST THOSE IN THE SOUTH, CONTINUED FOR GENERATIONS.
NEWSCASTER: In the new Africa, one more independent country: the state of Uganda…
WHEN UGANDA FINALLY BECAME INDEPENDENT IN 1962, THOSE EXTERNALLY DRIVEN ETHNIC DIVISIONS MADE IT DIFFICULT FOR THE PEOPLE OF UGANDA TO BUILD A UNIFIED STATE. THE ETHNIC GROUPS IN THE NORTH AND SOUTH FOUGHT FOR CONTROL OF THE COUNTRY.
IN 1970, NINE YEARS AFTER INDEPENDENCE, THERE WAS A MILITARY COUP AND A YEAR LATER, IN 1971, A DICTATOR NAMED IDI AMIN DADA TOOK CONTROL OF UGANDA. OVER THE NEXT DECADE, IDI AMIN KILLED MORE THAN 100,000 PEOPLE IN A REIGN OF TERROR. THEN IN 1979 A GROUP OF REBELS FROM THE NORTH CALLED THE UGANDA NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY, OR UNLA, SUCCESSFULLY FOUGHT TO OUST IDI AMIN FROM POWER AND HE WAS EXILED TO SAUDI ARABIA. IN 1980, AN ELECTION WAS HELD TO TRY AND BRING THE COUNTRY TOGETHER. MILTON OBOTE, A LEADER FROM THE NORTH, WAS DECLARED THE NEW PRESIDENT. THE PEOPLE FROM THE SOUTH WEREN’T HAPPY WITH OBOTE.
THOSE WHO OPPOSED THE NEW GOVERNMENT BEGAN A CIVIL WAR. A REBEL GROUP FROM THE SOUTH CALLED THE NATIONAL RESISTANCE ARMY LED BY YOWERI MUSEVENI FOUGHT TO OVERTHROW OBOTE’S GOVERNMENT. AND IN 1986, REBELS FROM THE SOUTH TOOK CONTROL OF THE COUNTRY AND INSTALLED YOWERI MUSEVENI, THE NEW PRESIDENT OF UGANDA. THAT DIDN’T END THE FIGHTING, EITHER. IN THE NORTH, REBEL GROUPS FORMED TO OPPOSE MUSEVENI’S GOVERNMENT.
THAT’S WHERE WE BEGIN OUR STORY.
ONE OF THE MOST VIOLENT AND LONGEST LASTING OF ALL REBEL GROUPS WAS THE LRA OR LORD’S RESISTANCE ARMY. THE LRA WAS LED BY A MAN NAMED JOSEPH KONY.
ISAAC OKWIR: It is a kind of spiritual attack that Joseph Kony claimed that he was abducted by the spirit to fight a holy war and that is how he started his recruitment.
KONY PROMISED TO FIGHT WHAT HE CALLED A HOLY WAR FOR THE RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE IN THE NORTH. OTHER REBEL GROUPS, INCLUDING THE UNLA SOLDIERS FROM THE OBOTE GOVERNMENT JOINED KONY IN HIS FIGHT AGAINST MUSEVENI.
ISAAC OKWIR: It became easy because in 1986 was the moment when the NRA government took over power and the UNLA were taking refuge. Many who returned back home in northern Uganda returned with their guns and they were not safe and they found it easy to take safety under the LRA leader by joining the force of LRA.
AT FIRST KONY AND HIS GROWING ARMY OF LRA REBELS REACHED OUT TO COMMUNITIES IN THE NORTH TO ASK FOR FOOD AND SUPPORT FOR HIS HOLY WAR. BUT WHEN THAT DIDN’T WORK OUT, KONY AND THE LRA REBELS BEGAN TERRORIZING THE PEOPLE OF NORTHERN UGANDA. INSTEAD OF FIGHTING FOR THEIR RIGHTS, THE LRA LOOTED THEIR HOMES AND BUSINESSES. AND BEGINNING IN 1986 AND CONTINUING FOR THE NEXT TWO DECADES, KONY AND LRA REBELS ABDUCTED MORE THAN 60,000 PEOPLE FROM THE NORTH, INCLUDING 20,000 CHILDREN, SOME AS YOUNG AS FIVE YEARS OLD.
BEATRICE OCWEE: We were asleep when at around 4am, we heard someone kick the door open.
BEATRICE OCWEE IS SITTING IN A SMALL THATCHED HUT IN A VILLAGE IN GULU DISTRICT IN NORTHERN UGANDA. SHE LIVES THERE WITH HER FIVE CHILDREN. NOW 30 YEARS OLD, BEATRICE SAYS SHE REMEMBERS THE NIGHT THE LRA REBELS ABDUCTED HER FROM HER UNCLE’S HOME. SHE WAS 15.
BEATRICE OCWEE: I woke up and moved to the side where my uncle’s daughter was sleeping. They told me to girl stand up, and I did, they told me to remove my blouse and I did, then they said, “This is a grown-up girl because her breast has already developed.” And they came and picked me. They picked both me and my uncle’s daughter and we moved outside. They had come in numbers.
SAMUEL AKENA: They came at around 2am in the night.
SAMUEL AKENA OPERATES A SMALL SHOP IN GULU WHERE HE SELLS BISCUITS, SWEET BREADS AND ALCOHOLIC AND NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS. HE LIVES NEARBY WITH HIS WIFE AND CHILD. SAMUEL SAYS HE WAS ABDUCTED BY LRA REBELS IN 2000 WHEN HE WAS 11 YEARS OLD.
SAMUEL AKENA: They opened the door. We were asleep. I only realized that I was being slapped and kicked. I was thinking it was my friends slapping and kicking me. When I woke up I saw soldiers. They told me to get up, tied my waists with robes and chained us in a line and told us to begin walking.
BEFORE THEY WERE ABDUCTED BEATRICE AND SAMUEL SAY THEY LIVED WITH THEIR PARENTS AND THEIR SIBLINGS AND ATTENDED THE LOCAL SCHOOL.
BEATRICE OCWEE: My life was not bad because I was staying with my mother. My mother used to take care of us well, and we used to stay with my sisters. We were a happy family and we used to listen to one another and respected each other’s views. My elder sister used to train us on how to do domestic chores whenever our mother was not around. If is school term I would go to school. I was performing well in mathematics and I had a good relationship with my friends because I was not violent.
SAMUEL AKENA: Because we were young we used to every Friday to collect firewood and food stuff and return every Sunday and on Monday we have to go to school. The life was so fine with my friends. Whenever we would come back from school, we refresh our minds by playing football.
CHILDREN LIKE BEATRICE AND SAMUEL, WHO MANAGED TO SURVIVE THEIR INITIAL CAPTURE, SAY THEY WERE THEN FORCED TO MARCH NORTH FOR WEEKS, THROUGH BUSHES, ACROSS RIVERS AND SWAMPS AND OVER MOUNTAINS TO THE LRA’S PERMANENT COMPOUND IN SOUTHERN SUDAN. THERE, THE LRA REBELS HAD BEEN GIVEN PROTECTION BY THE SUDANESE GOVERNMENT.
SAMUEL AKENA: We were abducted at around 2am, and we walked through out until we reached Tee Got Atto at around 7am in the morning. We spent a night there and left at around 4pm in the afternoon, to cross Kampala highway. We crossed the highway at around 10pm.
AS THEY MARCHED FROM ONE TEMPORARY CAMP TO ANOTHER ON THEIR WAY TO SOUTHERN SUDAN, LARGER GROUPS OF CHILDREN WERE SEPARATED FROM THEIR SIBLINGS AND RELATIVES INTO SMALL GROUPS.
SAMUEL AKENA: From there we proceeded to Koch where we met so many other abducted children and they distributed us among different groups. We were picked in shift of one or two and taken to a particular commander, where we stayed with them but our duty was to carry food stuff.
AT NIGHT, SMALL GROUPS OF LRA REBELS AND CAPTURED CHILDREN SLEPT IN MAKESHIFT TENTS. THEY ATE FOOD THE REBELS HAD LOOTED FROM VILLAGES ALONG THE WAY. EACH MORNING, CHILDREN WERE FORCED TO CARRY LARGE BUNDLES OF FOOD AND SUPPLIES. SAMUEL SAYS IF A CHILD WAS TOO WEAK TO CARRY A BUNDLE, OR THEY COMPLAINED THEY WERE TIRED OR SAID THEY COULD NO LONGER WALK, THEY RISKED BEING KILLED.
SAMUEL AKENA: Those who were not able to walk were killed then.
CHILDREN WHO WERE ABDUCTED SAID LRA REBELS WOULD ORDER THEM TO USE A CLUB OR A MACHETE TO CHOP TO DEATH CHILDREN OR OTHERS ON THE MARCH. THEN, THEY WOULD LEAVE THEM ALONE, TO DIE.
SAMUEL AKENA: The greatest challenge was walking long distances for examples of 8 miles without any drinking water. There were those who were drinking the urines of their colleagues.
ALONG THEIR WAY NORTH, SOME VERY YOUNG CHILDREN, THOSE INJURED IN BATTLES, THE SICK AND HEAVILY PREGNANT WOMEN WERE TAKEN TO A GUARDED CAMP ALONG THE MARCH KNOWN AS “SICK BAY” WHERE THEY RECEIVED MEDICAL ATTENTION.
SAMUEL AKENA: We stayed in that place for almost two months. We left sick bay and went to Amuru. But when we reached Amuru we met resistance from residents and getting food stuff was not so easy. The residents fought us with bow and arrows, so it was difficult to get food stuff. We started shooting wild animals for food.
SAMUEL SAYS IT WAS DURING THEIR LONG MARCH NORTH TO SOUTHERN SUDAN, THE ABDUCTED CHILDREN REALIZED NO ONE WAS GOING TO SAVE THEM. THEY HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO ADAPT TO THEIR LIFE IN THE LRA.
SAMUEL AKENA: If young and in the care of a kind commander taking care of you, for example, we walked for three weeks to reach Sudan, in some places I could not walk, my legs were swollen. I was carried for two days.
BEATRICE SAYS AFTER SHE WAS ABDUCTED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, SHE AND A GROUP OF 20 CHILDREN WERE FORCED TO WALK TO THE LRA’S TEMPORARY CAMP IN KITGUM.
BEATRICE OCWEE: When we reached Kitgum, they gathered us under a big tree. There were so many commanders. Each commander started pointing at the girls of their choices and they picked five of us to stand up and we stood. We thought they were going to kill us. Thereafter their escorts took us to the homes of these commanders and the other girls who remained were taken to other soldiers.
WHILE ON THE MARCH NORTH, COMMANDERS AND SOLDIERS WERE ALLOWED TO PICK THE GIRLS THEY WANTED FROM AMONG THE ABDUCTED CHILDREN. BEATRICE WAS TAKEN TO THE TENT OF OKOT ODIAMBO, ONE OF THE LRA’S TOP COMMANDERS.
BEATRICE OCWEE: During the day nothing happened but after we cooked and had eaten at around 8 pm, Odiambo sent his escort to come to pick me and take me to him. He started asking me if I know why I was there. I told him I did not know and he told me that starting from that day I would be his wife. He asked me if I had understood, but I kept quiet. But he reiterated that even if I kept quiet, I was his wife. For me, I did not know what it meant to be a wife because when I was abducted, I had not started seeing my menstrual period.
At night he Odiambo told me to undress and I refused. I told him I was not going to undress. He wanted to have sex with me. I refused. He then started forcing me but I would not accept. He realized he would not force me so he went and picked his gun and said if I refuse, he would shoot me. He pointed the gun at me and told me to undress and I did. He started forcefully having sex with me. I started crying and screaming for help but he told me he will kill me if I am yelling. I told him I could not manage having sex with him. But he said if I was young I would not have breast. I told him even if I had developed breasts, I told him I was still young and I had never been involved in sexual intercourse.
By that time I was bleeding and my hip was paining too. Since he forcefully had sex with me I did not have any energy and the following morning when we were to depart, I could not move and he told me he was going to kill me if I was pretending.
I could not walk. He later told me to move and we started walking and he was behind me. Blood was all over my clothes and I did not have another dress. There came a lady who was abducted earlier. He moved and left me behind and told me to remain there if I could not walk and people who are coming behind would kill me.
That lady when she saw me, she told me to stop. She picked a dress from her bag and requested me to undress and throw my clothes away because blood was all over it. She picked up her skirt and told me to follow her even if I could not walk. She told me that if I did not follow her, they would kill me. She grabbed my hands and she started walking with me. My inner thigh was bruised. I was bleeding.
AS ONE OF THE FIRST REBELS TO ENLIST IN THE LRA, AND ONE OF THE MOST SENIOR COMMANDERS IN THE RANKS OF THE LRA, BEATRICE SAYS OKOT ODIAMBO, HAD TAKEN TEN CAPTIVE WIVES.
BEATRICE OCWEE: He told the girls at his home, “That warm water for this girl to bathe.” I got his wife who was called Margaret. He told Margaret, “Go and boil water and nurse this lady so that she will be able to walk tomorrow.” Margaret went and boiled the water and started nursing me. While doing that she was asking me what happened to me. I told her and she told me not to mind about such incidences. That similar thing happened to her. She told me, “Just be strong and be ready for walking.” The following morning, we started to move heading to Sudan. We walked for five days to reach Sudan.
IN SOUTHERN SUDAN, THE LRA’S TOP COMMANDER JOSEPH KONY HAD ESTABLISHED A PERMANENT COMPOUND WITH THATCHED HUTS, AND A MILITARY BASE.
BEATRICE OCWEE: When we reached Sudan, my feet were swollen, my inner thigh was badly bruised and I could not do anything. From there they started telling us where we were going to stay. Margaret was boiling water for me to nurse my swollen feet and my bruised thighs which were full of wounds.
EVEN THOUGH THE GOVERNMENT OF SUDAN HAD OFFERED THE LRA PROTECTION AND AT TIMES PROVIDED THE REBELS WITH FOOD AND AMMUNITION, THE LRA FACED SURPRISE ATTACKS FROM THE SUDAN PEOPLE’S LIBERATION ARMY.
BEATRICE OCWEE: After one week at the LRA camp, people who had wounds on their feet started healing. We were not used to such kind of life. We found there was nothing to eat. If you want to get some food stuff, you must go the civilians in the villages to loot food and when you go there you might come or not because the civilians there had guns. People ate raw cassava. It makes people vomit a lot because it was not good for consumption. You find people dizzy and vomiting after eating the raw cassava. Some people who were weak died. They used to tell me to go and get it on my own. Because I did not know how people used to get what to eat, I found life very difficult.
WHEN HIS GROUP FINALLY ARRIVED AT THE LRA COMPOUND IN SOUTHERN SUDAN, SAMUEL SAYS THERE WAS AN OUTBREAK OF CHOLERA AND LITTLE TO NO WATER OR FOOD.
SAMUEL AKENA: We would boil the sorghum and eat. This happened for one month. There was no food. There was an outbreak of cholera. Cholera killed so many people.
SAMUEL SAYS THAT MEANT CHILDREN HAD TO EAT A LOCAL CEREAL CALLED DURA, AND WHAT THEY COULD FIND IN THE WILD. SAMUEL SAYS ONLY KONY AND THE SENIOR COMMANDERS HAD ENOUGH TO EAT FROM THE GOODS THEY HAD STORED.
SAMUEL AKENA: The commanders used to store their own food stuff. The children whose commanders had stored food stuff and were liked by the commanders would eat the same food. Those suffering from cholera were left alone and when they died, they were carried and dumped.
THERE ARE ONLY ROUGH ESTIMATES HOW MANY PEOPLE LIVED IN THE LRA COMPOUND IN SOUTHERN SUDAN. IT’S ESTIMATED THERE WERE THREE THOUSAND. WHAT HAS BEEN REPORTED BY THOSE WHO SURVIVED IS KONY LIVED IN THE CENTER OF THE COMPOUND, AND HE HAD COMPLETE AUTHORITY OVER EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE IN THE LRA.
GRACE ACAN: The highly ranked person is Joseph Kony of course, followed by another person who is second in command and there is a third one but those first three are the ones who normally share most of the top secrets before they go down to other commanders.
GRACE ACAN SPENT EIGHT YEARS IN LRA CAPTIVITY IN SOUTHERN SUDAN. ACAN RECENTLY AUTHORED THE BOOK “NOT YET SUNSET” ABOUT HER LIFE AS A SURVIVOR OF THE LRA. ACAN SAYS THE LRA WAS RUN AS A MILITARY ORGANIZATION WITH KONY THE SUPREME COMMANDER.
GRACE ACAN: Those top three stay at the headquarters, what they called control alter. There is chief defense, there is administrative unit, there is the yard which is mainly concerned with prayers and rituals and then there is support, those who deal in big guns.
IN 1986, WHEN KONY BEGAN RECRUITING REBELS FOR THE LRA, HE WAS JOINED BY MEN AND WOMEN WHO BECAME KNOWN AS “THE ORIGINALS.”
ERIN BAINES: Original women, while some of them fought, they eventually married senior commanders and when they moved to Sudan they became senior wives to commanders.
ERIN BAINES IS A PROFESSOR AT UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA IN VANCOUVER. SHE HAS STUDIED THE WOMEN IN THE LRA, AND THE “ORIGINALS.” BAINES SAYS THE SENIOR COMMANDERS HAD AUTHORITY IN THE COMPOUNDS, BUT THE ORIGINALS, THE FIRST WIVES, HAD LIMITED CONTROL OVER THE FAMILY UNITS.
ERIN BAINES: Senior wives then ran the familial unit which coincidentally was also the military unit within the LRA so they had a great deal of power and decision-making within that unit, for example over distribution of food or distribution of labor, or which of the new recruits went to training or got fed and were taken care of. They also had a great deal of power over junior wives and they could exercise it compassionately or they could exercise it in a coercive and even sometimes violent way.
INSIDE THE LRA COMPOUND BEATRICE SAYS THERE WERE FIVE BATTALIONS. EACH BATTALION HAD ITS OWN AREA WITH A SENIOR COMMANDER, HIS SOLDIERS AND HIS CAPTIVE WIVES.
BEATRICE OCWEE: For instance, I was staying under the command of Odiambo. He was my husband. By then he was a captain and he was in charge of a battalion. He would be the commander and lead that group to battle while assisted by a second lieutenant. He directed me to stay with his first wife. There was one hut. Each wife would wait for her turn when she would be called to go and spend the night with Odiambo. The other women would sleep in the kitchen. When we reached there we got two huts, one was the kitchen and other was for sleeping.
AS THE SECOND CAPTIVE WIFE IN ODIAMBO’S FAMILY UNIT, BEATRICE SAYS HIS FIRST CAPTIVE WIFE, MARGARET HAD AUTHORITY OVER HER — OVER HOW MUCH SHE WOULD EAT AND WHETHER SHE WOULD BE ABUSED.
BEATRICE OCWEE: When I was abducted I got him with one wife Margaret and I was the second wife. Other ladies were brought when we were there. Later we were seven wives. She would maltreat me. Sometimes she would punish me for no reason, force me to loot food and I was always the one to cook. And when I brought food stuff she would not allow me to eat yet, I was the one who went and brought it from the villages. If she decided that I eat, she would give me little portion that if you eat you would not get satisfied. She was a big woman and she knew the usefulness of having a husband. Sometime when Odiambo would call me to spend the night in his hut, she would beat me with a stick and she would ask me what took me there. Yet I was always called there by Odiambo.
AS A TEENAGE GIRL, BEATRICE SAYS IF SHE SHOWED ANY SIGN OF RESISTANCE TO ODIAMBO, SHE WOULD SUFFER MORE ABUSE.
BEATRICE OCWEE: My husband did not like me because I was so rebellious throughout my life there with him over the issue of sex. He always forced me into sleeping with him. He would look at me like a woman who was not ready to satisfy his sexual desire.
BEATRICE SAYS IF SHE RESISTED HIS SEXUAL ABUSE, ODIAMBO WOULD OFTEN PUNISH HER BY SENDING HER TO UGANDA TO FIGHT WITH LRA REBELS.
BEATRICE OCWEE: Instead of killing me, Odiambo wanted me to be engaged in battle while his first wife Margaret would remain with him. If they were to pick fighters under the command of Odiambo, I would be the only female fighter among them.
SAMUEL SAYS INSIDE THE LRA COMPOUND, CAPTIVE CHILDREN WERE TAUGHT HOW TO USE A GUN AND WERE MADE TO FARM NEARBY LANDS, SKILLS THEY NEEDED TO SURVIVE.
BEATRICE OCWEE: We were trained how to use guns, how to dismantle a gun, to shoot, and how to confront your enemies during cross fires. If now you knew how to use guns they would give you a gun and uniform and prepare you for battle. They would send us to go and loot food from civilians in Sudan and they would send you back in Uganda to fight with government forces.
INSIDE THE COMPOUND, SAMUEL SAYS WITH SO MANY GUNS AND AMMUNITIONS, MOVEMENT WAS RESTRICTED, AND CONVERSATIONS WERE MONITORED TO PREVENT REVOLT AND ESCAPE.
SAMUEL AKENA: Leadership wrangle also exists, for example if I am higher than you in rank, or you are higher than me, I might go to Kony or to other commander that is higher than you and gossip or tell lies against you so that you are demoted and I replace you. This is what I saw happen among themselves.
THE LRA HAD STRICT RULES AND REGULATIONS. IF A CHILD WAS CAUGHT TRYING TO ESCAPE, THE LRA COMMANDERS FORCED CHILDREN TO KILL THEM, OFTEN BY BEATING THEM TO DEATH. FAILURE TO OBEY ORDERS BY COMMANDERS WAS PUNISHABLE BY DEATH.
SAMUEL AKENA: When you have just been abducted you think about escaping. You think of ways to escape from captivity. The thoughts of the parents and the relatives you had left home, makes one think of escaping. You would look at how you’re suffering, the hard life you are enduring in the bush, and think of escaping.
While Beatrice and Samuel were in captivity, the LRA continued to abduct children across northern Uganda. In 1996, LRA rebels abducted 139 school girls from St. Mary’s College in Aboke in northern Uganda. A nun from the school followed the rebels into the bush and pleaded with them to release the girls. The rebels released 109 and took thirty others into captivity. Parents of abducted girls came together to fight for the unconditional release of their children.
OKELLO PHOEBE: I was a teacher. A primary teacher, and now I am a retired teacher.
ONE OF THE MOTHERS, OKELLO PHOEBE, IS PART OF THE TEAM OF PARENTS THAT FOUNDED CONCERNED PARENT’S ASSOCIATION.
OKELLO PHOEBE: The parents of the abducted children had been meeting to find out the solution to that we can recover back our children. We thought of walking to the bush. So they say, if we walk to the bush and you are killed and your children come back, they will not get you. Then what benefit will that be.
SAMUEL WAS HELD CAPTIVE FOR THREE YEARS. BEATRICE FOR SEVEN.
SAMUEL AKENA: Sometimes it rains and you are beaten by the rains. You would imagine life at home and mentally draw the image of home, relatives and parents.
MANY CHILDREN WHO HAD BEEN ABDUCTED WERE AFRAID IF THEY ESCAPED FROM THE LRA AND RETURNED TO THEIR VILLAGES THEY WOULD BE KILLED BY UGANDAN GOVERNMENT SOLDIERS. SAMUEL SAYS THROUGHOUT HIS YEARS IN CAPTIVITY, HE AND THE OTHER CHILDREN HOPED SOMEONE WOULD DO SOMETHING TO RESCUE THEM AND BRING THEM HOME.
SAMUEL AKENA: Some children were so young, we would wonder if it were possible for the parents of the children to talk to the rebels to allow the young children to be released but it was very difficult.
PARENTS OF THE ABDUCTED, GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES AND SOCIAL WORKERS WOULD TRY AND COMMUNICATE WITH THE ABDUCTED CHILDREN, OKELLO SAYS, BY SENDING MESSAGES AND INFORMATION THROUGH THE RADIO. BY SONG. IF THEY CAME HOME, THEY WOULD BE SAFE.
OKELLO PHOEBE: We had been meeting, so we were trained on advocacy skills. After training us, we started advocating in different ways. We would bring some boys together to sing for us, so we were sending information through singing. We were even advocating to the parents, who are in the villages because the rebels used to come to their parents, so we were advocating parents, tell them to come back. Tell them the government is not killing you. Our chairperson would go to the bush and meet with them and talk to them. They kept on promising us, ‘We’re going to release them, we’re going to release them’ but they were not releasing them. Most of the girls escape because we were praying so I believe it was our prayer that helped the girls to escape. That prayer. Nothing else.
FOR LIFE OF THE LAW I’M GLADYS OROMA IN GULU, UGANDA.
You’ve been listening to Abducted, part one of our series from northern Uganda was reported by Gladys Oroma. To hear more about Gladys and her work, and to access links to research on Uganda, the background audio and the music you heard, visit our website lifeofthelaw.org. Our three-part series is produced in partnership with Annie Bunting from York University in Toronto, Teddy Atim, researcher in Kampala, Uganda, and Life of the Law senior producer, Tony Gannon. Additional support by Daphne Keevil Harrold, Ian Coss and Rachael Cassandra. Our post production editors are Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle and Rachael Cain. Life of the Law is a project of the Tides Center and we’re published by the panoply network of podcasts by Slate. Our series is funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, The National Science Foundation, The Law and Society Association and by you, our listeners. Join us in two weeks when we present part two of our series… ESCAPE.
Suggested Reading and Viewing:
https://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/5290.htm (I am Evelyn Amony)
http://fic.tufts.edu/location/uganda/ (Feinstein, TUFTS work on Uganda)
http://www.berghahnbooks.com/title/DolanSocial (Chris Dolan, Social Torture)
https://www.ubcpress.ca/contemporary-slavery (Bunting and Quirk, Contemporary Slavery with Bunting chapter on forced marriage as crime against humanity)
http://csiw-ectg.org/resources/videos-interviews/ (interview with Teddy and others)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2Yuc4ugw48 (interview with Bunting on CSiW)