N. Uganda continues recovery after Kony’s reign of terror

World Vision works side-by-side with communities continuing to rebuild.

By Shawna Templeton and Simon Peter Esaku. Photo by Jon Warren.
Published March 9, 2012 at 12:00am PST

In 2006, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) — a rebel group with a 20-year history of violence in northern Uganda — reached a ceasefire with Ugandan government, allowing internally displaced people to return to their homes.

However, the LRA leadership abandoned the final peace agreement and is known to continue terrorizing innocent civilians in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Central African Republic.

Children forced to be soldiers

LRA leader Joseph Kony created his army primarily through the violent abduction and forced enlistment of children. Over the span of war, some 25,000 children were kidnapped by the LRA and forced to be laborers, frontline soldiers, and — in the case of girls — sexual slaves. 

A significant number of children escaped LRA captivity or have been rescued by the Ugandan army. But they were traumatized and lacked the social, educational, and livelihood skills necessary to reintegrate themselves into their families and communities. These children are frequently mistrusted or hated by their communities for what they have done, or are perceived to have done, while with the LRA.

World Vision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu, Uganda, receives and counsels former child soldiers, providing them with:

>>HIV and AIDS education
>>Food
>>Medical treatment
>>Psychosocial counseling
>>Vocational training
>>Spiritual nurture

The center also facilitates a smooth reunion of children with their families. Since 1995, more than 14,000 children have been successfully rehabilitated and resettled back in their communities of origin. Thankfully, since the LRA left Uganda in 2006, the number of children coming through the center has dropped dramatically. 

Recovering from decades of war

As the war ended and security improved, displaced families began to return to their homes. Families are striving toward and starting to achieve a sense of normalcy. Land is being cultivated, livestock are increasing, and children walk to school without the constant threat of abduction.

Throughout the rebuilding process, World Vision has helped communities resume normal lives by providing assistance such as clean water initiatives, anti-malaria programs, business loans, and more. Through child sponsorship, we can be present in communities for the long haul.

Preventing child exploitation

World Vision is also partnering with communities across Uganda to ensure that the conditions that allowed the LRA to form in the first place are never allowed to emerge again. One way we do this is by promoting child protection awareness so that children and their caregivers are equipped with new tools to protect children from exploitation.

World Vision trains community members on topics including advocacy for child rights, forms of child abuse and neglect, procedures for managing allegations of child abuse and neglect, and child participation in the community.

A single mother of four, Margaret, attended a training. “I learned about the right of children to education, dangers of child labor, [and] obligation of parents to provide for their children, including providing them with educational materials,” she says. “They told us that a girl below 18 should not be married off.” 

Margaret’s 10-year-old son, Jolly Olara, has also learned a few things. “Some of the things I know about child protection are firstly, no defilement; secondly, no early marriages; thirdly, no child labor; and fourthly, children should not be beaten or mistreated,” he enumerates.

In post-conflict Northern Uganda, mothers have a newfound hope for their children. Says Margaret, “I would love my children to study up to Makerere University in Kampala. That’s why I am cultivating to educate them.”

Learn more

Read more about World Vision’s efforts to bring hope and healing to northern Uganda and its children.

Two ways you can help

Thank God for the peace that has finally come for the children and families in northern Uganda. Pray for them as they continue the long process of rebuilding their communities. Pray for children and families that continue to be terrorized by the LRA, and pray that the LRA would be brought to justice.

Sponsor a child in Uganda. Sponsorship helps provide essentials for the present and stability for the long term, giving a boy or girl in need the foundation for a future of dignity, hope, and independence.