Uganda is a landlocked country located in East Africa that currently holds a relatively stable political environment and a steadily developing economy; however, before this hard-earned progress, the country had to endure several coups and a seemingly formidable military dictatorship following its independence from Great Britain in 1962. One of the most well-known dictators of that era was Idi Amin Dada, who took the drastic action of expelling all Asians in the nation in the 1980s. In addition, Uganda has a vast political history marked by longstanding effects of continuous instability which includes more than four coups since the nation’s independence.
The article below illuminates the top 10 facts about child soldiers in Uganda and displays how this population interacts with the nation’s historical emergence.
Top 10 Facts About Child Soldiers in Uganda
- Uganda’s volatile political atmosphere paved the way for a brutal 20-year rebel insurgency by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) that began in the nation’s northern region. This organization became notorious for child abductions that were done to fill its ranks, in addition to its brutal crimes.
- According to a UNICEF report, almost 20,000 children have been forcefully recruited in the 19-year conflict.
- The emergence of the LRA rebel group — initially called the Holy Spirit Movement — is one of the major attributes of the country’s instability. This organization is known as one of the world’s most brutal and inhumane terroristic organizations.
- Lord’s Resistance Army demands that Uganda is governed according to the Biblical 10 Commandments, and has also directed its forces to fight against President Yoweri’s oppression of Northern Uganda.
- The LRA was founded by a member of the Acholi Ethnolinguistic Group, Alice Auma (later known as Alice Lawkena), who declared herself as a messenger of the spirits. She led the first army of rebels against President Yoweri Museveni and was exiled in 1987 after being defeated.
- The LRA is currently headed by Joseph Kony who took control of the rebel group after Lawkena, who is rumored to be his cousin and gave the group its current name and tried to sustain the army to no avail.
- During this transition period, the LRA lost significant regional support and resources and resorted to a series of lethal rebellious actions that included stealing supplies and abducting children to serve as soldiers. The abductions came to mark the beginning of child soldiers in Uganda when the practice began occurring in earnest in 1994.
- Following this strategy shift, the LRA became made up mostly of child soldiers. Ninety percent of the forces abducted into the army disrupted the northern part of the country to the point that the population had to disperse in IDP camps — disease-infested areas that lacked resources and appropriate treatment.
- A major part of LRA’ s method of aligning new recruits with the rebel group’s overarching agenda is to reaffirm a notion of hopelessness. Spreading such ideological perspectives included heinous instruction i.e. forcing members to kill their parents and anyone deemed close to the child. If a child refused to perform these tasks, he or she would then face death in front of the other recruits so as to instill fear in other new recruits.
- Thirty percent of child soldiers recruited by the LRA are women whose main roles in the army include cooking for soldiers and serving as sex slaves. One of the most infamous abduction incidents occurred in 2005 when 200 girls were abducted from a Catholic school.
Rehabilitation and Reintegration
The LRA seems to be a shadow of what it used to be after being pushed out of the country following a major expedition in the mid-2000s. Governmental and nongovernmental international forces — such as the U.S. — played important roles in creating global awareness of the destruction and inhumane methods of the group. However, Kony and some army members remain elusive and are reported to roam untraced around fragile nations in central Africa.
While efforts to catch the leading forces of this group and bring them to justice remains significant, the rehabilitation and reintegration of those individuals who endured traumas at the hands of the LRA is a pressing issue that requires all hands on deck.
– Bilen Kassie