Skip to comments.Sex Slaves and Battle with Demons
Posted on 11/24/2002 7:57:45 PM PST by FreedomCalls
Rebels stormed into Hellen's village and clubbed her father to death before dragging her into the Ugandan bush for training as a child soldier.
For the 11-year-old girl, that was just Day One of her ordeal as slave "wife" in the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), one of Africa's most fearsome rebel groups.
Kidnapped by the raiders who murdered her father, she was forced to stand in a row with 18 other abducted girls as a rebel commander picked her out as his mate. Rape consummated the union. Hellen had yet to reach puberty.
Now 17, she cradles his baby in her arms.
"I love the child, but I hate the father," says Hellen, speaking in a rehabilitation center in the northern town of Gulu. "If he comes here he won't touch my baby," she said, gazing intently at her son Justin suckling on her breast.
Hellen was released in June after nearly seven years of captivity, along with about 100 mothers and babies freed by the rebels during a forced march to escape a Ugandan army offensive.
"They beat us so much the skin peeled off our backs," she said softly, as Justin clasped at her gray and white dress.
The freed mothers were a lucky exception. Since June, rebels have embarked on their worst spree of abductions for years, seizing an estimated 4,000 children, some as young as 9.
Charities in Gulu say an average of at least 10 children are taken every day to serve the LRA, whose leader Joseph Kony is said to be a former altar boy who takes orders from a Holy Spirit and a host of "angels."
Northern Uganda's eerie landscape of abandoned villages, long grass and misty hills is full of parents waiting in vain for their sons and daughters to come home.
Charities in Gulu estimate that Kony has seized at least 20,000 boys and girls during his 16-year-old rebellion, which has killed hundreds of people and forced half a million to flee.
Abductees are rapidly trained to shoot, then herded into battle against the army's tanks and helicopter gunships.
Anyone caught trying to escape is clubbed to death. Sometimes they have to dig their own graves first. Other children are forced to participate in the killings to instill discipline, according to the testimonies of escapees.
Food is scarce. Children eat wild plants. Most are used as slave laborers. Some are killed as "sorcerers."
For girls, it's worse.
"Once you are given to a man, whether he is young or old, you can't say no," said Esther, 29, who escaped in September after eight years at an LRA base in neighboring Sudan, which says it has now cut off support for the LRA.
Esther said she had been one of 12 wives serving one commander.
"Once the person wants to have sex with you, you have to do it - if you try to refuse they can beat you with machetes," she said, telling how she carried her baby, Brenda, on a two-week flight through the bush to safety after an army attack.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has promised to crush the rebels by the end of February, but even if his "Iron Fist" offensive succeeds where others failed, healing the children of war will take years.
The LRA has created a lost generation of teen-agers who can barely read but know how to fire an AK-47 rifle, fueling a vicious circle of war and poverty gripping the north.
Human rights groups say northern discontent is rooted in discrimination under British colonial rule, ethnic massacres under former military ruler Idi Amin, and a feeling of neglect by the government, but Kony seems to have no clear agenda.
The self-styled prophet has in the past said he wanted to overthrow Museveni and rule according to the Biblical Ten Commandments. But to northerners, his motives are a mystery.
For those lucky enough to escape or be rescued by the army, the brainwashing by the LRA is hard to cast aside.
Children at rehabilitation centers look deceptively normal. They play cards, swing their legs from bunk begs and line up for lunch with green and red bowls, some laughing with visitors.
But many suffer mood swings and nightmares, shunning their peers. Some believe that Kony can still read their thoughts.
"Sometimes I dream that they have abducted me again," said Christopher Ojok, 14, who was held for almost two years but escaped in August during a gun battle between the army and rebels. "Sometimes I wake up startled. I think they've caught me," he said, matter-of-factly relating his ordeal.
The abducted boys and girls have grown up starved of love and can hardly speak about the past. Counselors say they must attempt the seemingly impossible - to forgive their captors.
"When they know you love them they begin to trust you and they can talk to you in detail," said Florence Lakor, who counsels escapees. "Once they open up, the healing can begin."
Even if the children can confront their inner demons, their neighbors may not want them, sometimes seeing them as outcasts.
For the girls, whom some men consider as used goods, finding a husband may be difficult. The centers do not test for HIV (news - web sites)-AIDS (news - web sites), but counselors say some girls must be infected.
Hellen, who preferred not be identified by her second name, is hoping to learn tailoring, before heading back to her village, where the rebels may again come knocking.
"I'm scared, but there's nowhere else to go," she said.
It begs the question: Would some African countries be better off today if they had not shed their colonial rulers in the post-WWII years?
This is relevant today as we decide the fate of certain Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries in a post-war environment (the war still to come).
Of course, since this story originated with Reuters, there is the usual attempt to lay blame on the West, not on the thugs who are responsible.
But it will be by the Chinese, and they will not have much use for Africans.
Goodness... You're having the same nightmares I am.
At least it'll be entertaining watching the Left try to spin *that* when it happens.
Those silly Fuzzy Wuzzies had better check out what the Chicom did to Tibet. Not-so-all-of-a-sudden, the Chicom are everywhere around the globe, especially in greater numbers where there is potential trouble brewing, or crude is percolating out of the ground. (Venezuela, Cuba,Panama, Colombia.)
Amazing what you can do with a mere 2-3 BILLION operatives!