November 11, 2009 (YAMBIO, WES) – Two Western Equatoria young girls abducted by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, have returned home, revealing details of their harrowing experiences and dangerous escapes.
The abductees are two teenage ladies, one of whom gave birth in the bush, fled the LRA during recent battles between the rebels and the Ugandan army in the jungles of Central African Republic.
The clashes followed the mid-December joint Ugandan, South Sudanese and Congolese offensive against LRA bases in the Garamba National Park in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, codenamed Operation Lightning Thunder.
The two abductees escaped from Central African Republic, where the Uganda People’s Defense Forces continue to hunt Kony and his men. However the attacks against have scattered to CAR
Together with their allies, the Ugandans have been pursuing the LRA fighters since their surprise attack on rebel camps in Garamba on December 14, 2008.
The attack failed to defeat the rebels, however, allowing them to rampage across the regions of Southern Sudan, DRC and CAR for the past 11 months, leaving thousands Congolese and South Sudanese civilians displaced, abducted and dead.
The escapees told Sudan Tribune that “LRA leader Joseph Kony is indeed in Central African Republic as their base was near to his, said Idie John, a 10-year-old former resident of the Western Equatoria sub-county of Mukuntu, who was abducted in Maridi during the Christmas of 2008.
Ms Siama Daniel who has given birth to a two years child said she was captured in Nabanga, near the border of Sudan-Congo corridor.
Siama said she was fed with looted food from the southern Sudan civilians, “I escaped during gun battle between the Uganda Army and the rebels and spent four days in the jungle with my beloved child.”
Likewise, Idie escaped during fire exchange between the rebels and the Ugandan Army, she spent 6 days in the dense forests of Central Africa, before crossing to the residential areas, “I appeared first to residents of CAR, who had taken me to the WES’s town of Tamnbura 150 miles from Yambio.”
“I was beaten several times in the bush by the rebels, because I failed to collect and carry the cooking saucepans when Ugandan Army attacked our base, out of a spate attacks on the rebels by UPDF is when they left me behind alone and I made my way from the captivity of LRA rebels,” said Idie.
“In the bush I witnessed some of the horrible atrocities of LRA rebels, which include beheading of young men, looting of food items from innocent civilians and burning of tukuls (local huts).
According to Siama, the LRA rebels in that base she was kept in, the rebels were few in number, citing their actions “cruel and callous”.
"I was near the base of Kony. When General Kony addresses his soldiers women are not allowed to attend his briefing, [we] were kept far away from him, however I saw him once."
She added that, “some times LRA rebels could claim to [us] that they have destroyed the allied forces sooner they will liberate Uganda.”
Mr. Justin Ebere Ginana is the State Director for Child Welfare, he says, “The State Ministry of Social Development is rehabilitating the former abductees with the hope of uniting them with their families.”
“[We] also counsel them from psychosocial and traumatic behavior changes, for their integration to the society,” said Ebere.
He further said that, the Directorate of Child Welfare has rehabilitated 26 former abductees so far in 2009.
“The abductees have a choice in choosing to remain in the Rehabilitation Centre or to join their families, as some of these children fear the stigma of living again in the communities which regard them the LRA rebels.
Gracia, a 12-year-old girl currently under rehabilitation and treatment in Yambio at Women Resource Centre (WRC), is one example. After being abducted, she was forced to walk to the LRA rear base in Central African Republic. However, after falling behind the main group of abductees, part of her foot was chopped off by a rebel commander to "teach her to walk properly." Luckily, she was found and rescued by the army.
LRA ABDUCTION, TORTURE, AND MURDER IN WESTERN EQUATORIA
Some child abductees have managed to escape their captors and tell of the extreme hardships they endured in the bush. They tell horrendous tales of suffering and extreme cruelty at the hands of their abductors.
As part of initiation into the rebel movement, abducted children are forced into committing inhuman acts, including ritual killings and mutilations. They tell of how they were forced to club to death other children who were not ’properly cooperating’ with the orders of rebel commanders.
"Some of the worst atrocities being committed against children are taking place in Western Equatoria, and the international community is nowhere to be seen," a frustrated farmer, John Mbikoyo of Buremanga Boma, told Sudan Tribune.
Abducted children also speak of a harsh and exhausting journey to Sudan, during which many die from hunger and exhaustion. Those who survive face even more inhuman conditions in training camps in Sudan, where many more die from starvation, disease, or injuries suffered in battle.
"Although some children like I die have returned, many are still missing," feared dead.
In Yambio neighboring villages, due to fear of abductions, parents in affected areas are forced to send their children to the relative safety of the towns, where they stay overnight in now most dense populated residences.
But there is a price to pay for this. Parents are often beaten cruelly, and in some cases brutally murdered, when rebels fail to find children in their homes.
Most women and girls who have been abducted and retained by the LRA are taken to serve as "wives" for the LRA commanders. Those who do not comply with the sexual demands made on them are beaten or killed. It is reported that many babies have been born in the LRA camps, and for those young women who would otherwise try to escape and return to their families, the social stigma of having become pregnant under such circumstances reportedly adds to their reluctance and fear to return home. A large part of the estimated 6000 missing children are presumed to be dead.
Despite the system of terror that reigns within the camps and the deadly punishment for showing disloyalty, children do escape from the LRA and make their way to freedom. A total of more than 100 such persons, including both adults and children, who have escaped in southern Sudan during the early 2009 reprisals attacks from LRA in WES, have escaped. Most of those individuals are small children or women and babies who were born in the camps and escaped with their mothers. Most of the remaining adolescents and adults spent from two to four years in the camps before escaping.
Thursday 12 November 2009 03:30.
By Richard Ruati
Submitted by BF Bankie