Playing soldiers is familiar to many children, but in Uganda, this is no game. Perhaps 20’000 boys and girls have been abducted and forced to serve as child soldiers for the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Northern part of the country around Kitgum.
Denis Oweka was one of them.
Denis Oweka: Former child soldier
I was being given different assignments each time, such as killing people. Most times, cutting them dead with pangas. Or shooting them, with a gun.
Denis now attends primary school on the outskirts of Kitgum. Many of the children here have also been abducted.
Ochan John Odokonyero: Teacher
Abduction in Kitgum’s district has been rampant. These children were abducted and forced to do some work which is not suitable for their age group, and especially the girl child. Most of them turned into sex slaves.
According to the International Labour Organization’s Global Report on Forced Labour, a great number of children are recruited by coercion and intimidation. The number of child soldiers throughout Africa is reported to have been as high as 120,000. The Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda has repeatedly abducted children and forced them into combat or to act as “wives” of commanders.
Denis’ aunt Sarah Alimo, was forced to be a wife to a rebel commander at age 10. She too killed some of her classmates before escaping.
Now she tries to make up for lost time at school, studying at night before she goes to sleep. She stays in Kitgum’s town centre with the 5-10,000 other so-called night commuters who take refuge from the rebels. But there is no refuge from her dreams….
Sarah Alimo: former child soldier
The dreams that perturb me at night are as a result of the children I captured. Their images keep coming back to me. Even the images of the older people I have seen killed, actually haunt me.