What is the process from abductees to child soldiers?

According the Cambridge dictionary, the abduction is the act of making a person go somewhere with someone else, especially using threats or violence. When it is concerned child soldiers this process is tinted by a strong psychological aspect through indoctrination. Child soldiers are gradually relieved of their identity and humanity to become emotionless weapons of war as they are easier to control than adults.

The mechanism of indoctrination and control follows those steps:

1- Isolation and control of identity:

Once they were abducted from their villages or on their ways back home or school, children are strictly prohibited to speak with other child abductees on their way to the LRA camp located in the deepest bush. The LRA wants to isolate them and prevent children to create ties and to try to escape together. They can also give them new names as to imply it is the begin of a new life for them from now on, and at the sale time the end of the one they have up to now.

2- Public punishment to intimidate:

They are obliged to spend long hours walking in silence and are subject to physical punishment in case of disobedience. If a child try to escape, the other children are obliged to surrounding the fugitive and killed him with pieces of wood if they do not want to be also killed by the LRA members. Like this, they can ensure that children will be obedient and will not create any kind of ties between them.

3- Transience and instability:

LRA life is characterized by constant movement in the forest punctuated by violence and raid in the village to get foods as they can not get foods in the forest, what create a dependence from the child soldiers to their commandant and obedience to the group to survive.

Acting like this is a way to deprive the children of their civilian identity.

4- Assignment to a family structure:

Abductees are given to a trusted older commandant to be part of his family structure where they have the lowest ranking member and are subject to physical violence and any kind of abuse. This structure is basically composed of a commandant, his wives and children.

Girls are used as servants or sex slaves, or wives and have to follow not only the orders of the commandant but also those of the other wives.

Boys are either used to help carry supplies from the village for instance, or they are trained during one year to become soldiers. This year enable them to prove their loyalty and obedience to the group.

5- Witchcraft:

The final step of the mechanism of manipulation and control is shown by the use of magical rites on the children by using a form of oil and cutting. In Uganda as in many other african countries, a strong belief in magic rituals are spread among the population, and being witchcrafted is another and very effective way to dehumanize people and especially children who are easier to influence.

This step is also considered as the last one to become a child soldier, and most of them considered the mental changes they were facing since, are due to this witchcraft.

It is very important to underline that during all those steps, any kind of resistance will be punished by death, and the only way for those children to survive is to be an integral part of the group by giving up their former life, who they were and everything who made them individuals and human beings.

Source:

Abducted children and youth in Lord’s Resistance Army in Northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): mechanisms of indoctrination and control, Jocelyn TD Kelly, Lindsay Branham and Michele R. Decker, Conflict and Health

Overview of the conflict and IAMSCS’ main actions

TIMELINE

  • 1980 – 1986: Civil War in Northern Uganda known as “Bush War”
  • 1986 : Yoweri Museveni, head of the National Resistance Army (NRA), seized control of Uganda and declared himself President
  • 1987: Militant groups appeared to displace his government (the most significant was the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) led by Joseph Kony
  • 1987 : Beginning of the Civil War in Northern Uganda
  • 1990 : Over 20 militant groups were involved in the Civil War
  • December 2008: official end of the Civil war
  • 2012: last activities reported from LRA in Northern Uganda

WHAT THE WAR LEFT BEHIND…

  • More than 60,000 children were abducted
  • More than 10,000 civilians were killed
  • More than 2 million people in Northern Uganda were displaced

WHAT IAMSCS IS PROVINDING

1- Access to education

  • 601 pupils from 6 to 19 years old  are currently attending our local partner school in Gulu district called Laroo ADRA School. Gulu district is where most of the fighting between the Uganda Army and militant groups took place.
  • 236 boys and 365 girls are attending Laroo ADRA school at the primary level education as of January 2019.

2- Access to sustainable livelihood initiatives for women returnees (former female abductees who suffered sexual violence in conflict)

  • 185 women returnees provided with initial investment in a form of equipment necessary for their businesses. Namely, sewing machines, hoes, seeds, kitenge (material).
  • Business training sessions through partnership with local skills training academy called VAC-NET.

3- Access to group therapy by holding several ‘Story circles’ at Laroo ADRA school for the children to share their stories in a safe space.

SOURCES

Aid workers’ role: encouraging development in poor countries

Stressing the great work of aid workers around the world, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres thanked them for their unfailing support of people in vulnerable situations. He also pledged his support to people affected by crises, as the 2017 WHD campaign – #NotATarget – focused on the role of conflict in affecting millions of civilian lives. I am Somebody’s Child Soldier (IamSCS) wants to join Mr Guterres in giving credit to aid workers for their tremendous efforts, as the 19th of August marks World Humanitarian Day (WHD). What better way to pay tribute to their vast contribution than to review the type of work international organisations and agencies are doing?

How to achieve reintegration for post-war Ugandan children

Despite the end of the 20-year Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflict in Northern Uganda, challenges remain and the fighting has not been forgotten. Ugandan former child soldiers have been returning home since the conflict has moved to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. However, some of them are still struggling to find their place in their communities. In the eyes of many people, while former combatants were once victims of armed groups, they remain soldiers who killed innocent men, women and children and ignored the pain and bloodshed they caused. In the strategy to improve this negative image, international organisations, policy-makers and humanitarian actors play an important role.

The young deaf people in Uganda

Even though the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has stopped abducting children in Uganda since 2006, some remain captive in other parts of East Africa by the LRA while some suffer from the aftermath of a lengthy brutal period. Indeed, very few of those who participated in the war and were associated with armed forces and groups are now healthy persons.

For all of these children who are now young people, the current situation is particularly complicated. Almost none of them have received a basic education and not all of them have been welcomed back to their former homes or accepted by their communities. Many of them are poor and are suffering from a physical and/or a mental disability. Even worse, some children have become deaf as a result of the war – their hearing impairment mainly due to the actions of the LRA that forced them to become soldiers or to perform other roles on the battlefield such as those of porters or spies in the 1990s and the early 2000s.

Child Labour in Uganda

In Uganda and especially in Northern Uganda, children have suffered from civil unrest since the early 1980s. For instance, they were killed, raped, mutilated and/or brutalised in the rebellion against the Ugandan government by the movement of the Lord Resistance’s Army (LRA). They were also used as child soldiers in this armed conflict which, according to International Labour Office (ILO) convention No. 182 (1999), is one of the worst forms of child labour. 

Refugees in Uganda: a safe haven

Every year, June the 20th marks World Refugee Day. As people across the globe appreciate the strengths and hope of refugees, I am Somebody’s Child Soldier (IamSCS) wants to illustrate the situation of refugees in Uganda where an average of 2000 individuals have been fleeing to everyday for nearly a year.

Reintegration of girls and women after their experiences in fighting forces and groups

Girls’ and women’s experiences within fighting forces and groups

When a conflict erupts, a number of girls and women are abducted to perform tasks for fighting forces or groups while others join the armed opposition as an opportunity to meet their basic needs and as means of protection. Moreover, in an armed-conflict society, girls and women are exposed to more violence, especially sexual violence than boys and men. Northern Uganda, where the war against the civilian population began in 1986, was no exception. Girls and young women were abducted, especially during 1993 and 1994 when the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) gained power as an offered sanctuary by the government of Sudan.

Protection of Children Associated with Armed Forces And Groups: what international law says

When participating in a war, children are denied their rights in various ways; they are abused, neglected, deprived of education and healthcare and, in some cases, forced to witness the killing of innocent civilians and loved ones. In response to this worrying situation, international law has been taking action in favour of those rights since the late 1980s. This blog concentrates on the body of law and policy that has been most influential in protecting the rights of children associated with armed forces and groups.

Profile of Children Associated with Armed Forces And Groups

IamSCS works in Uganda where the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was founded 30 years ago. This armed rebellion – which has been widespread in East Africa – has killed at least 100,000 people, has driven 2.5 million people from their homes, and has forced 100,000 children to fight or act as porters, cooks, messengers, informants, spies or even as ‘wives’ of rebels. These children have emerged as central figures of this war as they constituted 90 per cent of the LRA’s soldiers. Worldwide, 300,000 children are estimated to be active in armed groups. Although we can refer to a “child soldier” as any person below the age of 18 who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity, the more accurate term to describe these individuals is Children Associated with Armed Forces And Groups (CAAFAG), since not all of them are used as soldiers. This blog presents their profiles.