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The United States Human Rights Commission
760 United Nation Plaza,
New York, NY 10017,
I am writing this letter from Uganda jail, to inform you of the plight of children soldiers in the Northern Region of Uganda, East Africa. I have been staying in Uganda for the past three months, mobilizing the local people in a campaign to force the government to intervene and stop this crisis that has been going on for the past 18 years. The Government has instead decided to throw me behind the bars.
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Lord Resistance Army (LRA) rebels led by their leader, Joseph Kony, have been terrorizing Uganda’s civilian population by cutting off their hands, lips, ears, and legs of suspected individuals who are sympathizing with the Government. There is the continued use of spiritual ritual as a psychological weapon to enslave the population and abducted children with fear. The elusive LRA leader in a rare interview which I attended recently, said he is in constant communication with spirits will one day lead Uganda according to the 10 commandments. 90% of the LRA army is comprised of children who are enlisted through violent abduction and forced enlistment, some are as young as 8 years old.
LRA attacks displacement camps and villages to abduct children, in the past three years alone, over 300,000 children have been kidnapped and forced into hard labor as frontline soldiers and porters while girls are subjected to sexual enslavement, acting as the wives of the LRA rebels. Those children who are lucky to escape have to commute long distances to an urban center where it is much safer than villages. In my stay in Uganda, I have noted with concern that the number of children entering Kampala city and towns surrounding the capital city has increased by 30% to stand at 17,000 children by the end of 2007.
Once the young children are enlisted in the LRA, they are forced to participate in all aspects of warfare. They wield M-16s and AK-47s on the front lines as they battle government soldiers, they also serve as a human shield for their leaders and as human mine detectors. They are those whose work is to carry supplies, other act as messengers and spies. They have also been increased cases of LRA children soldier participating in suicide missions, as it happened in December last year in broad daylight at a market in the Kivu town, Northern Uganda, right in front of me. I was lucky I was not hurt but the bomb claimed the lives of three people and left dozens with body injuries.
The young boy barely fifteen years old was identified as an LRA soldier. He had strapped the bomb in his body to carry out the suicide mission; he was torn into pieces by the bomb impact beyond recognition. This gives you a clear picture of the extent to which young children’s minds have been corrupted and taught to turn against the society and the government of the day.
In my interaction with parents of children soldiers, I have come to understand that, due to the vulnerable nature of children, they are easily intimidated; they undergo forced recruitment and are compelled to follow strict orders under the death threat. These children become obedient soldiers. I have also come to note that there is another group of children soldiers who joins the LRA army out of desperation. As the Northern region breaks down due to conflicts, children are left homeless, without school, and in most cases separated from their families. This desperation makes the children perceive the army as the best option left where they can survive.
Despite Uganda Government is a signatory to an international treaty guaranteeing the basic rights of children, the government has turned a blind eye to the crisis. It has made it clear to everyone trying to highlight the plight of children that he/ she is not welcomed to Uganda. The situation I have found myself in is a clear indication of the government’s continued effort to cover up the crisis in Northern Uganda. This has led to a long duration of terrific humanitarian crisis and economic and social cost for most Ugandan as the international community intervention is limited. Health facilities and other basic amenities like water no longer function leaving the Northern region in a state of anarchy.
In writing this account, I am hoping that you will use your influence on the international community to put pressure on Uganda Government and help in un-arming the LRA soldiers and free the young children. This will bring sanity and cohesiveness to the Northern region. Its is my hope that your office will intervene to free all those whose have been put to jail, including me, by the Uganda authority and the LRA rebels in a different part of this country.
Thank you in advance.
Children at war, the Crisis in Northern Uganda. 2008. Web.
Children soldiers. 2008. Web.
Itaru Ohta, Gebre Yintiso (2005) Displacement risks in Africa, Trans pacific publishers, United Kingdom.
Loretta Elizabeth. Child labor in sub Sahara Africa, Lynne Rienner publisher, United Kingdom.
Peter Warren (2006) Children at war, University of California Publishers, United States.
Uganda Child soldier. 2008. Web.
Uganda at a cross road. 2008. Web.
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