Since 1986 an armed conflict raged through Northern Uganda between the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the government army (UPDF). Rebel leader Joseph Kony and his rebel army have made life for people in Northern Uganda very unsafe. Kony has spread fear and terror amongst the people of Northern Uganda. He believes he receives orders from divine powers to continue the fight. His soldiers are rubbed with sacred oil, after which they cannot be harmed, according to Kony. Those who return from the struggle are proof of this story, and those who are shot in the struggle didn’t listen properly.
See Photo gallery of the Peace Day 2007 event in Uganda
Children in the conflict
In Northern Uganda children every day are confronted with the effects of the war. Children have lost parents, brothers or sisters, their families are fallen apart and villages and schools were destroyed. Children also were actively part of the war as child soldier. The rebels recruited children by kidnapping them from their villages and schools. They had to fight, spy, carry heavy loads or act as human shield or sex slave. They were forced to plunder the poor food supplies from the communities where they were born. Some children even had to kill their own family members, so all ties were cut off. To attempt an escape was like Russian roulette. Many children who tried to escape were rounded up again and were mutilated, ears or lips were cut off, or killed by their fellow rebels in front of others. At least 25,000 children have been abducted by Joseph Kony and its rebels in the last decennia. Estimated is that between 1,500 and 3,000 children are still in the hands of the LRA (2007).
The work of War Child
Formerly abducted children
When children are demobilized from rebel groups, they try to return to their communities. An extremely difficult undertaking. They are emotionally wrecked, are seen as murderers and are not accepted because of the horrific things they were forced to do. Acceptance and reintegration are the main goals of the programs in Uganda. Activities are set up for returning children, other children and their parents. War Child deliberately does not target their activities at former child soldiers, because the stigmatizing effect of it.
War Child has a community based approach in order to get the community involved in the improvement of the wellbeing of children. Presently a three year program is being implemented in the Gulu, Lira and Kitgum districts. War Child’s work focuses on children, youth child-mothers, parents and caretakers, teachers, youth groups, other non governmental organizations (ngo’s) and community based organizations.
Formerly abducted children and children from refugee camps participate in creative workshops, where sports, dance, drawing and drama is used to improve their psychosocial wellbeing. Parents, caretakers, teachers and aid workers from other ngo’s are trained how to use these creative methods. Parents and caretakers themselves are stimulated to participate in the workshops and events. They are made aware of the fact that participation of children in creative activities is very important for the improvement of the wellbeing of children.
Catch up education
Because formerly abducted children spent a substantial amount of time with the rebels (sometimes a few years), they are too old to go back to primary school. However, they often missed out on this basic form of education. That is why War Child offers literacy and numeracy courses to let them catch up with their peers. It is also possible for them to get vocational training to become a painter, carpenter or plumber. With a diploma it is much easier to get a job and be self supportive.
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-What’s going on in northern Uganda? (23 Feb 2006)