The release of Kony2012; a video campaign by the American organisation, Invisible Children, to capture the rebel leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony has gone viral on YouTube with over 8 million viewers.
While the people of Uganda especially the women organisations welcome this initiative, they are concerned that the video is out of context regarding the real issues of the conflict in Uganda.
In a paid up advert in one of the dailies they argued that were it not for the work of the women’s movement, human rights organisations, the academia, international development partners and the UN agencies who have been working in Northern Uganda for the last 26 years of the conflict, the issues could have been worse.
“While the idea of this campaign against the LRA leader Joseph Kony is welcomed, the steam it has created overshadows the real concerns of the sufferers and survivors of this conflict in Uganda,” reads the statement
Indeed the sentiments of the women organisations and partners which include ISIS-WICCE, Care, CEDOVIP, Teso Women and Akina Mama Wa Africa could not have been expressed at a better time than now when the world is getting to terms with what the innocent children went through for the last 26 years.
One such child now an adult, whom we had the privilege of interviewing after she was released was Betty Ajok. Her story was made possible after she was rescued by the various organisations working in the area.
Below is her story
I was born in 1990 in Anaka district, some 50 kilometres north west of Gulu town in northern Uganda to Acholi parents. One day in the year 2000, as we went about playing with my age mates immediately after breakfast, as a routine, we decided to move further into the forest to fetch firewood for our parents.
As we embarked on this exercise some armed men surrounded us and they told us to keep quiet or else they slaughter us in a matter of seconds.
In a lightning speed, we were pushed into the bush and told that we were under arrest and asked to obey orders if we want to be alive.
As I walked deep in the jungle, barefooted with rest of the abductees, it came to my attention that the abductors could be the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) soldiers whom I had previously heard people in my village talk about in low tone.
For the next 3 days, I walked in the cold muddy forest without eating and with a big load of looted property that I was forced to carry. As we moved further north into the southern Sudanese territory, I saw another group of people, ostensibly from a similar abduction but from the other part of Uganda.
We arrived into what looked like a makeshift camp and we were all called up to queue as we were addressed by the lead commanders.
A middle aged man, roughly three times my age was brought to me directly and I was told that henceforth he is going to be my husband.
Looking at my age and thinking of the unclear role of my new status, tears started rolling down my cheeks like a river flowing down stream.
That very evening “my man” told me to strip naked and forcefully had sex with me, an experience that I will never forget throughout my life time because it looked to me as if I was being killed.
I writhed in pain and stopped breathing for sometimes but he continued sleeping on me despite my loud crying as I was unable to control the painful experience that I was going through.
In my life time, I had only seen chicken and dogs do what this man was actually doing on my body.
When I came to my senses after the ordeal, I cursed myself and was unable to eat whatever he was providing me as I was in serious pain.
I was unable to walk and even feared looking at my private part as I thought that it was badly damaged. Going for a short call was hell to me!! I writhed in pain and occasionally invoked my mother’s name aloud while alone in the bush answering a call of nature.
After sometime I had to resign to this painful dehumanizing experience and what followed was my first child.
I gave birth without the help of a mid-wife and healed naturally in the makeshift house. But I was shocked that ‘my man” even before my wounds healed, continued to forcefully sleep with me.
Several other young girls also gave birth and were treated the same way.
In the next three years that I was held hostage, I witnessed first-hand killings meted on innocent people whom they blamed for collaborating with the government of President Yoweri Museveni.
Any hostage who fell weak was also shot dead and left in the bush to be consumed by wild animals. Going by the bones that I saw in the bush, I was very traumatized and feared for my life since it was not easy to tell who was next.
As we walked northwards through the thick forest, many weak abductees were shot dead and left to rot while the lucky ones were tied on trees.
The commanders blamed mothers with children saying that they were delaying the movement whenever an enemy approaches. On their orders, I strangled several children to death.
After the ordeal, we were told to parade the dead children and ordered to walk on their lifeless bodies until they bled profusely.
I got pregnant for the second time and was told to leave the camp as I was fast becoming a liability to their cause.
On my release, I felt happy but sorry for what I had done in the bush as well as how I was abused by the rebels
Immediately I was released, I was lucky that Ugandan government soldiers who were hunting the rebels came to our rescue and they took us to a Displaced Peoples camp at Aler near Gulu town in Northern Uganda.
Our arrival was big news and it was broadcast by the local to the local people and my sister who was lucky to be alive, came for me after seeing my name on a Television.
Even though I am back to a formal settlement and living with my sister in her house, life is extremely hard for me considering the fact that I have 3 children, have no formal education and that my parents have since passed on.
It is unfortunate that my parents died at the hands of the rebels – my father was arrested and killed while my mother was killed in a vehicle that was hit by a landmine.
With the help of my sister, I am currently trying to have my name listed in the World Food Programme (WFP) rooster to enable me get food ratio allocated for displaced persons.
In the meantime, I am trying a bit of farming and am currently growing sorghum, potatoes, cassava and maize within the outskirts of the camp.
Looking at my neighbours, it is shocking that majority of them are sick and are suffering from mental problems, respiratory infections water related diseases.
Coupled with the big number of innocent people that have died since the war started, it could be wise if the two protagonists – President Museveni and LRA Commander Joseph Kony signed a ceasefire.