UGANDA: Children Born in LRA Captivity Beg End to Discrimination
Religious leaders join the UPDF in welcoming children born in LRA captivity
“We have never killed, but why do you discriminate against us?”
“Accept me as your own child”
“No child should be on the street”
“We lack identity”
GULU-UGANDA: Children who were born to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel commanders by young girls abducted from the northern part of Uganda have appealed to Ugandans to take them as their own children without discriminating against them.
Estimates say about 40% of all the children abducted by the LRA rebels were young girls --some only 10 years old-- were forced to work as sex-slaves and domestic workers to rebel commanders.
There is no official statistics of such children but estimates put it at more than 100, most of who, returned with their mothers after they escaped from captivity.
People in this part of the country suffered from decades of atrocities by both the LRA and government troops.
One of the children appealed to the community to embrace them without discrimination arguing that they never intended to end up in the bush and did not participate in the killings orchestrated by LRA
“We have never killed, but why do you discriminate against us?” asks Lanyero Evelyn, whose mother was one of one the abducted girls, during a prayer ceremony to welcome them home at Gulu town recently.
Mothers to such children find it extremely difficult to re-integrate in the community as their children are rejected by their uncles or new suitors. They resort to raising their children as single mothers.
One of the mothers to such children, Ms. Vicky Oyella, recounted the most difficult times of their lives, how they were distributed to rebel commanders as their wives, some of who are old enough to be their fathers.
“The girl-child who was abducted would undergo through most difficult times during captivity because they were always distributed to older rebel commanders to be their wives. If you refuse, they would kill you”, says Vicky.
Winnie Byenkya, one such child born out of LRA captivity in the bush, says she wants to study hard to become a nurse and fight to make sure that all children are born in hospitals, not in the bush like them.
“Make us good citizens because we lack identity. There is a lot of stigmatization, but do we look bushy? We are bright children although not born from hospitals. My vision is to become a nurse so as to fight for the rights of children to be born from hospitals only, not bush like us”, says Ms. Byenkya.
Another child, Simon Kwoyelo, says he is growing up in the town because he does not know the home of his biological father since he died when he was not yet born. He is studying to become a mechanic.
The chairman of Uganda Episcopal Conference, also Archbishop of Gulu Archdiocese, Dr. John Baptist Odama, appealed to world leaders to stop all wars which destroys humanity.
He wonders why Super Powers still continue to manufacture weapons of mass destruction to destroy humanity yet such weapons should be for the protection of humanity instead.
Archbishop Odama was recently awarded a Doctorate degree by Gulu University for his peace work, especially for his role in ending the LRA insurgency.
“When will you stop being strangers and enemies of one another? Humanity, you should stop wars. Use all the resources of war to promote good health and education. Can you stop war so that nobody can be born in captivity?” says Odama.
Archbishop Odama thanked the mothers of all the children born out of LRA captivity for not aborting their pregnancies or abandoning the children in the bush when they were escaping.
“You were not born by accident. When God says you be a human being, it if fulfilled. God loved you before you were born. I want to thank your mothers for not aborting you or abandoning you in the bush”, says Odama.
Retired Anglican Bishop of Kitgum Diocese, Macleod Baker Ochola II, decried the new culture of raping children sweeping across developing countries like Uganda.
Bishop Ochola says, in Acholi culture, there was no defilement as all girls of marriageable age are always married before the began to rearing their own children.