Uganda: Two years with the LRA
13 February 2009

Pauline was 13 when she was abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army. She spent two years in captivity before she managed to escape. (Angela Hellmuth/JRS)
Even if we are now at home we still have to cope with so many painful memories and flashbacks from the time we spent with the rebels.
Kitgum, 13 February 2009 – I was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) when I was 13 years old. I remember very well that it was on 17 January 2002. While we were sleeping they came and abducted me, my father and some of my siblings. 

My father escaped but I was forced to stay with them for two long years. They beat us and forced us to carry heavy loads for long distances. This was one of the most painful experiences. 

Sometimes we would begin to walk at 6am and continue until 9pm. Once we reached the place where we were going to spend the night we were very tired. But then we had to cook for the soldiers. 

Often we were hungry because only the soldiers and those who had stayed in captivity for longer were allowed to eat. All others were beaten when they tried to get some food. We looted villages to steal food and other materials on a regular basis. 

Escaping into freedom

One night when we reached our final destination they gave us a jug of beans. The soldiers told us to cook the beans so that it becomes enough for everyone which, of course, was impossible. They said if it’s not enough we were all going to be killed. 

We cooked the food and since it was raining we were sent to fetch water. This was the moment we escaped. We threw our jerry cans [containers] away and ran. We were three girls, the others were much younger than me and I had decided to seize the opportunity and escape.

We tried to find either our villages or government soldiers. Then we saw smoke coming out of a forest near Gulu. We did not know who it was but it looked like another group of rebels so we changed direction until we reached the main road at around 5am. 

We saw government soldiers walking up and down and we were afraid because the rebels had told us that these soldiers would kill us. So we waited until they had gone. By then our hunger was almost unbearable. Luckily we found a mango tree with ripe mangos and we picked some and ate. 

Returning home

Then we metan old man who was cutting sisal at the road side. We approached him and explained that we had escaped. He welcomed us into his home and took us to the local counsellor of that village who finally brought us to Rachele rehabilitation centre. This was on 30 March 2004.

After I had spent one month at the rehabilitation centre I returned to my family in May 2004 and I was warmly welcomed. But unfortunately I could not go back to school. 

I had meta man and I got pregnant. It later turned out that he was a relative of mine so we could not marry. Now I am staying with another man and I have a two-year-old baby boy. 

I joined the JRS community college and the skills I learnt there were very useful. The life skills training was particularly important for me. I used to just bypass and ignore people. The communications skills helped me a lot to learn to communicate with people and become more confident. 

Sharing helps

Regarding the work skills, I have learned to cook and to bake which helps me to earn a living and to sustain my family. If the money I earn is sufficient I would like to open my own restaurant. 

I also like the fact that in the JRS support groups for former abductees we can share our experiences from the bush. Even if we are now at home we still have to cope with so many painful memories and flashbacks from the time we spent with the rebels. It helps to come together, to share and to support each other.