Uganda: Former child soldiers and rape victims failed by government

Hundreds of thousands of men, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights who were abducted, raped or beaten by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) during the 20-year conflict in Northern Uganda remain destitute and physically and mentally traumatised due to the government’s failure to deal with the conflict’s aftermath, says Amnesty International in a new report today.

Amnesty’s report examines the continued suffering of the victims of northern Uganda’s brutal conflict, and makes recommendations to the government on how to put in place a comprehensive reparations programme.

In its report, Amnesty International highlights the plight of:

- Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls who were victims of sexual violence. One 18-year-old from Pader district, abducted by LRA forces, told Amnesty International: “I dream about my forced marriage and the people I was made to kill and others who were killed during our time with the LRA. Because of my experience, I sometimes find myself shouting uncontrollably.”
- young men and boys forced to become soldiers. A 20-year old from Amuru district dropped out of school because of “regular flashbacks and memory of the terrible things I was made to do, including the forceful participation in the beating of my dad and the killing of other abducted people. When I think of these things I find myself losing my sense of being normal”.
- people unable to recover because of lack of access to money and medical care. A 26-year old from Pader district who returned to her community after ten years in LRA captivity told Amnesty: “There is still a (bomb) splinter inside my right leg. I have endured terrible pain for the last three years…I don’t know whether I can access medical treatment. I also doubt if I will have the money to pay for it…As it is, the only thing I do is to occasionally clean the wound by myself.”

Thousands suffered abuses at the hands of the LRA during the conflict. Unlawful killings, sexual violence and torture were also committed by government forces. There was general impunity for soldiers who committed human rights violations against civilians, and about 1.8 million people were displaced from their homes.

Godfrey Odongo, Amnesty International’s Uganda specialist, said:

“Thousands of Ugandans still bear the physical and mental scars of the abuses they suffered. They are unable to go forward with their lives.

“They desperately need government assistance to help them come to terms with the ordeals they survived and rebuild their lives – assistance that sadly has not been forthcoming.”

The conflict in northern Uganda between Government of Uganda armed forces and the Lord’s Resistance Army lasted over two decades from 1986. There has been a lull in the conflict since the start of a peace process in 2006. In September 2007, the Ugandan government unveiled a three-year Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) – but this plan does not specifically address the reparation needs of the victims of the conflict.

The agreements signed between the government and the LRA under the peace process attempt to lay a framework for reparations. But they are flawed and far from comprehensive, Amnesty says. There is a lack of provision for consultation with victims and it remains unclear if and when the government will even implement the agreements.

Godfrey Odongo said:

“What is needed is an effective programme that is victim-focused and a comprehensive reparations programme that addresses the continued suffering of victims of human rights violations.

“Survivors need medical attention, counselling and psychological support. Formerly abducted Children's rights need access to education. Families need compensation for the deaths and injuries that occurred, restitution for their destroyed land and property, an apology for the violations and proper reburials for their loved ones. The government needs to start acting on these needs now.”

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