Uganda + 1 more

Uganda: Alice: "I saw my friend being beheaded and his body cut up"

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GULU, 17 November 2008 (IRIN) - Children abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) during its decades-long insurgency in the north have to live with the trauma and psychological scars long after their rescue and return to civilian life. One such is Alice*, abducted in 2005 when she was only 12. She told IRIN about her escape from rebel captivity in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo:

"Rebels emerged from the bush as I was helping my mother harvest groundnuts and abducted me; one of the rebel commanders, called Pope, said he would kill me if I escaped.

"We went to Southern Sudan. Pope gave me food to cook for him but I couldn't; for this he caned me until I became unconscious.

"When I gained consciousness, [LRA deputy commander] Vincent Otti took me away from Pope. Otti saved me because Pope wanted to kill me.

"I stayed with Otti's group for some time and later went with them to Congo. While in Congo, we planted crops -maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, sim-sim, millet and other crops.

"Otti would often tell me that one day we would go back home, but he was killed before this happened.

"[LRA leader Joseph] Kony told us he would also kill us if we cried over Otti's killing. Everybody was fearful after Otti's death. Kony often ordered the killing of any soldier suspected of planning to escape.

"Although I was put under tight security, I decided to escape one day while going to fetch water. I walked in the forest for two weeks, looking for any place where UN peace-keeping forces could be. I was scared and thought the wild animals would kill me in the jungle.

"Another boy who had also escaped the rebels joined me but he was killed by civilians in Congo. His head was cut off and the people carried his head, saying rebels were killing people in Congo.

"I was beaten severely and almost died but I was saved by a chief who took me away that night. He said I would be his wife but after some time Congolese soldiers came and took me away.

"The soldiers handed me to UN soldiers in Dungu [Ituri district] where I stayed for two weeks before being brought back to Gulu.

"I know that other children in the rebel camp want to escape but they are scared of people in Congo. I cry a lot when I imagine how my friend was beheaded and other parts of his body cut up; why do people kill children? We were all abducted and did not want to be with the rebels.

"I do not want to go home because I fear people; they will say I was a rebel. I will stay with my uncle. I cannot wait for the day I will go back to school."

*Not her real name.

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