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Northern Uganda's Girl Soldiers Find a Harsh Homecoming

Monday, September 19, 2011

Reintegration is hard for all child soldiers in northern Uganda who were abducted and forced to commit atrocities for insurgents. For girls who also had to marry and have children with rebels, the social rejection can be particularly acute.

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Amnesty Certificates 'Ineffective'

Sam Lawino, a northern Ugandan journalist, says the amnesty certificates given to the returnees to protect them from being labeled as killers and attracting revenge are ineffective.

Gladys Cano-Ogura is the coordinator of Women Peace Initiative, a community-based organization that helps formerly abducted girls in Kitgum, a district in northern Uganda.

"They are meeting a lot of challenges in reintegrating," Cano-Ogura says. "When they came back under the amnesty law, some of them were not fully accepted by their parents since they had children whose fathers' clan was not known."

Steven Oola, head of research and advocacy for the Refugee Law Project, which provides legal aid to internally displaced people here, has done extensive research in northern Uganda.

"The unclear distinction between victims and perpetrators of the LRA insurgency makes reintegration a huge task," he says. "The abducted children were forced to commit severe atrocities in their own villages, sometimes on family members. The distinction between abductees and combatant was blurred in the eyes of their own family members."

Oola says male and female returnees have different reintegration experiences.

"While both male and female returnees face enormous stereotypes and rejection from communities, female returnees suffer disproportionately more," he says.

He says one reason is because many women were forced to marry and bear children with the LRA rebels.

"First, the female abductees were forcefully given off to senior commanders as wives and mistresses," he says. "Many were also impregnated and forced to bear children without consent. A woman returning home with children is bound to be rejected by her own family members."

He says the women who return with children pose a problem for their communities' land distribution.

"Female returnees bearing girls were more likely to be received home than those with boys," he says. "Apparently, this was because the community perceives girls as likely to be married off but the boys grow up and start claiming land."

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Adapted from original content published by the Global Press Institute. Read the original article here. All shared content has been copyrighted by Global Press Institute.

Beatrice Lamwaka, from Kampala, Uganda, joined Global Press Institute's Uganda News Desk in June 2010. She is on the shortlist for the 2011 Caine Prize and loves telling stories that are read and heard by others.

 

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Another horrendous story, perhaps the worst I have heard for a while, women forced to kill with their babies strapped to their backs, thus putting their babies lives in danger, and this woman having to witness her own child, on her back, killed in battle. I cannot imagine the lack of humanity that has taken over the souls of these militias.
The guns that enabled all this violence were not made by the Ugandans. Somewhere, safely away from this fight, are some folks who are sitting happily with their profits from the sale of the guns to Ugandans. Everyone in Uganda in that situation loses. Women and men lose their ability to trust each other, communities are not the same working-together places, perhaps for many, many, years later. All caused by companies from large developed nations willing to send guns to fuel disagreements.
Women in these communities, if never having been able themselves to claim land ownership, are at a worse loss, as they apparently cannot even see themselves as land-owners, and are not helped to do so. This women was a target, even having her UN helps stolen from her. A man came into her life for the purpose of stealing her valuables, while having claimed to be her friend. How many women there have experienced this? How can the UN prevent this? There is needed some spiritual guidance, especially to the men who appear to have lost all sense of anything other than the fight and survival of themselves.

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