International Policy/United Nations

Uganda Mother Pleads for Abducted Children

Thursday, May 18, 2000

A mother looks to world leaders and the international human-rights community to rescue her kidnapped daughter, one of hundreds of thousands of child soldiers caught up in a worldwide epidemic.



A mother looks to world leaders and the international human-rights community to rescue her kidnapped daughter, one of hundreds of thousands of child soldiers caught up in a worldwide epidemic. Angelina Atyam's nightmare began in October 1996. Her fourth child Charlotte, then 14, was dragged from bed in the middle of the night by soldiers belonging to a quasi-religious "liberation army" operating along the Ugandan-Sudanese border. She was marched at gunpoint to a remote area; over time she was beaten and raped. She became pregnant and gave birth under dangerously primitive conditions.

 

Years passed. Angelina Atyam knew where her daughter was and who was holding her, yet she could persuade nobody to go to her rescue.

Over the past 14 years, according to the Leadership Council on Children in Armed Conflict, a human rights coalition, an estimated 10,000 or more Ugandan children have been abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army, a cult-like rebel force sponsored by Sudan. At least 4,000 have escaped to tell harrowing tales of brutality at the hands of the LRA, but most of the children are either dead or still captive.

Charlotte Atyam, along with 138 of her classmates, was kidnapped from Saint Mary's College, a Catholic girls' school in northern Uganda near the Sudanese boarder. Since then, according to escaped abductees, she has been forced to work for a rebel officer and has given birth to a baby boy named Rubangakene, a name that means God Alone.

For Angelina Atyam, a nurse-midwife from Lira, Uganda, that name carries a message from her stolen daughter. "It is God alone who knows what to do," explained the mother of six in a soft voice that belies her determination. She was interviewed in New York City in late April, where she was about to address a meeting sponsored by the Women's Commission on Refugee Women and Children.

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