Youth work for peace in Northern Uganda

By Nigel Marsh - Africa Communications

WV Uganda's Gulu-based Children of War Rehabilitation Centre is not only undoing the damage of previous abductions of children by the LRA, it is making partnerships for peace for the next generation.

One of those is with the Canadian-based Children/Youth as Peacebuilders (CAP), a voluntary group aiming to encourage the young people in northern Uganda to pursue peace.

The World Vision centre has provided an office, transport and logistical support to the organisation as it works to sow the seeds of peace among young people in the conflict-torn region.

"We use drama, songs, poems and radio talk shows to convey the message that young people have a vital role in peace-building," says Samuel Odyambo Kitara, the 22-year-old chairman of CAP Uganda.

"None of us is paid for this," says Samuel, who has worked with CAP for four years, since he was in the second year of high school. "We are volunteering for peace."

CAP also has projects to try to reinforce child rights and to work with young girls who have been raped and impregnated by the rebels.

"In all our work we also do HIV/AIDS awareness, focusing particularly on youth in school," says Samuel. "We talk about treatment and prevention of HIV transmission, and how to eradicate it from the community, and we do offer some skills-training."

The team members acknowledge that their efforts to bring peace take them to risky places, and could create dangerous enemies among the rebels.

"If you are a worker for peace, you must be prepared to sacrifice for peace," says Samuel, adding that he thinks it likely that CAP's shows have been seen by undercover rebels and collaborators in the villages and displacement camps.

"When they report back, they will be taking the message that we have been saying the people need peace. There are some who don't want peace, but we think there are some among them who will listen."

The World Vision Children of War Rehabilitation Centre is internationally-recognised for its work reintegrating into the community brutalised children who have been abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army and subsequently escaped or been re-captured.