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Makerere brings hope to the female ex-soldiers

  • In General
  • 9 Nov 2010 - 9:24am
  • By Anonymous (not verified)
  • 209
Day in, day out, our hearts, tears and prayers went out to them. As we prayed in churches, in mosques, in groups, at home, and as we called unto the world to hear us, they captured them from their beds as they slept at night, and gang- raped them.

They gave birth to children whose fathers were unknown to them and they believed their cries for help were in vain. These were the young girls who were forcibly abducted and spent years as child soldiers, slaves and child mothers for the Lords’ Resistance Army (LRA).

Until recently, the term child soldier meant in reality a ‘boy soldier’. This is apparent in academic work where quite a number of studies do not include girls in their samples. However, the volume of literature concerning the situation of girl soldiers during the war and in post-conflict context has gradually increased in recent years although more still needs to be done.

As we reintegrate the female ex-rebel returnees, there is need to understand and address the particular stigmatization experienced by the girls that have returned with children, and the stigmatization experienced by the children as a result of their fathers’ rebel status and therefore being “illegaly conceived”.

It is against this background that Makerere University under the Department of Religious Studies, together with the School of Mission and Theology in Norway brought together researchers under the topic; “Culture, Religion and the Reintegration of Formerly Recruited Girls in Northern Uganda.” The two day conference ran from 20th – 21st October, hosting researchers who presented their findings on reintegration of the girl child in Gulu.

Prof. Bard Maeland, Rector, School of Mission and Theology and the project supervisor, highlighted that in as much as the research process was demanding, he was so proud that the researchers, through collection and documentation of information have found the solution to better reintegration of the female abductees.

“We had an opportunity to share findings, results, opinions, stories and moving experiences with the major stakeholders in the process of bringing peace to Uganda. It was a moving moment to listen to what people have gone through and how they want to forgive and bring peace to Northern Uganda, realizing that there is a long way ahead.” Prof. Bard remarked. “I am convinced that what the researchers have been doing is important as it will start a further process to take us into further discussions and reflections,” he further added.

Prof. Bard explained that the researchers have documented stories from the formerly abducted girls, women, and children, and believes that the establishment of these memories and experiences is valuable for forgiveness and reconciliation.

Who is Joseph Kony? Giving the key note address, Col. Rtd. Walter Ochora enlightened the conference on the identity of Joseph Kony. “Joseph Kony hails from Odek Sub County in Gulu District. He is a Primary Six graduate; his father and mother died of natural.” Col. Ochora explained.

As a young man, Kony joined the battalion of the UPDA, the first rebel group in Northern Uganda as a catechist. He prayed for the soldiers before they went to war. This made him very popular hence becoming their spiritual leader. It was from this reputation that he started a rebel group, renowned for recruiting its members through abductions, the most infamous being from the Sacred Heart Girls Boarding school abduction in Aboke, Gulu.

The documentation and sharing of real-life experiences by the researchers has been developed into a book entitled “Culture, Religion and the Reintegration of Female Girls in Northern Uganda”. The Norwegian Ambassador to Uganda H.E. Thorbjørn Gaustadsæther officially launched the book.

“The abducted children were forced into battle, exploited for their labour and subjected to violence and mistreatment. Many of them are girls whose background and experiences upon return can prove particularly difficult for society to handle,” The Ambassador noted.

The book further underscores how armed internal conflict is a major threat to national development in Africa. The Ambassador appreciated the topic of the research project as it laid emphasis on the role played by a peaceful civil society in the economic development of a nation. With successful implementation of these research findings, it is without a doubt that the reintegration of the former girl soldiers will succeed and bring prosperity to Gulu and Uganda at large.


Article by Moreen Katushabe

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