An estimated 14,000 children in northern Uganda have been abducted and turned into soldier-slaves by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). More than 90 per cent of the LRA’s troops are children – terrorized through violence, sexual abuse and threats, then forced to kill. Many die at the hands of the LRA or in skirmishes with Government forces. Those who escape are severely traumatized. They can face rejection by their communities and may be charged with treason by the Government.
These slave-soldiers are not restricted to Uganda. The United Nations estimates nearly 300,000 children between 10 and 17 have been forced into toting guns at the behest of rebel groups or governments in 30 countries.
Here is the testimony of one Ugandan child soldier.
‘They arrested a boy called Oyet who had tried to escape. They tied him and stabbed him in the back... The commander told us [new recruits] that Oyet will be hit three times and then “sent home”[killed].
The commander chose one boy who was given an axe and told to hit Oyet once. Then he was told to hand over the axe to another boy who hit. And then I was given the axe... I know that it is my blow that sent him home.
Later on, the new recruits were asked to finish off all the wounded soldiers. The commander said, “The new recruits can now feed themselves on these two soldiers” [initiation by killing]. This was my second day with the rebels...
I heard later that two boys from my home were captured and beaten because I had escaped. One of the boys was stabbed in the hand and asked to bring the rebels to my parents’ home. They beat my mother and brother with clubs and axes until they died. They threatened that they’ll kill more people if I don’t come back. This was told me by a boy who lived near my home. He told me it was my fault my mother and brother had been killed.’
Testimony provided by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.
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