Uganda: Abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army
13 November 2009

A former child soldier in Kitgum, northern Uganda. Many former abductees are rejected by their own community and have no perspective for the future. (Angela Hellmuth/JRS)
On our way to Southern Sudan, we captured three women who had gone fishing and the rebels forced us to kill them but we did not know how.
Kitgum, 13 November 2009 – I was 18 years old when I was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The rebels came at 10 o’clock in the morning. We all ran away but they had positioned one of their groups on the other side of our village and we ran right into their hands. 

I managed to dodge three soldiers but the fourth one kicked me and I fell. Then they tied my hands and asked me questions about the presence and the movement of the Ugandan army in our area. They also asked me why I ran away when I saw them and I told them that it is common to run when you see something strange happening. 

After we had walked for a mile we met other senior rebels who asked the same questions again. I did not answer so I bent and they hit me with a stick for so long, that I could hardly bear the pain. Other abductees who watched the scene later told me it were about 120 beats. 

During the following weeks we moved around. Two captives were killed by government soldiers who had pursued us. Another day we were hit by a government helicopter and the rebels treated my injuries with drugs they had looted before. My hands had been tied for a long time and my right hand was sore. Still, we kept walking and looting.

Forced to kill

On our way to Southern Sudan, we captured three women who had gone fishing and the rebels forced us to kill them but we did not know how. They told us to use sticks and threatened that, if we do not kill them, they would force the women to kill us. So we beat them to death. 

Shortly after, we met another group of rebels. They said that LRA leader Joseph Kony was with them, so we gave them all our food and other supplies before walking back all the way we had come. For the following week we were trained in the use of weapons. 

Then the rebels took us to Gulu to test our loyalty. They forced us to loot in order to find out who might be planning to escape. I was part of a group sent to attack an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp. We lost three soldiers during this attack and since the fighting was so fierce, some of us had to leave their guns behind. After this attack we joined another rebel group which was operating in the area. 

In a fight with a civilian I lost my gun. As a result, we were punished and ordered to go back and kill everyone alive. We committed the worst atrocities I can remember. We killed children by pounding their heads on the ground and captured four government soldiers. But instead of killing them immediately, we tortured them slowly. We tied their hands and feet and burnt them alive. 

Escaping the horror

After I had been with the rebels for one and a half years I felt part of them and somehow forgot about home. But one night I dreamed that all my relatives had been killed. I kept thinking of them everyday. 

By coincidence, Okello, a fellow abductee, and I were selected to watch over the other soldiers. It was then that I decided we had to escape. I took Okello’s gun and fired in the air to make the rebels believe that we were attacked by government soldiers, which would give us time to run away. We ran the whole day and were very hungry. The following day, after we had slept, we continued walking and came across a bushy road which we followed. 

We decided to throw away our uniforms and put on civilian clothes. Then we stopped a car and told the driver our story. He got scared and went off. Shortly after, he came back with an army officer who took us to the military barracks where we were questioned. After one week we were released and taken to a reception centre in Kitgum. 

Starting a new life

While at the reception centre, my parents were located and came to see me and after one month I was sent home. I thought of joining the army but later thought this may not help me and I joined school. I had been in standard six when I was abducted, so I joined standard seven. I later joined secondary school but after one year dropped out and started attending the JRS community college which offered skills training for young people in vulnerable situations. 

The life skills training helped me cope with life. When I came back from the bush I preferred to be alone. Memories from my time with the rebels kept coming back and I was not comfortable among big groups. After going through the training I find it easier to mix with people and talk to them. I feel more confident now. I have also learnt how to make furniture which helps me to earn a living. In the future I would like to continue my vocational training and with the money I earn, continue my secondary education.