Kidnapped people struggle with cruel memories

The civil war in northern Uganda must not be forgotten. The children had to see parents and siblings mutilated and killed. Meet four who were kidnapped and escaped Joseph Kony's horror night alive.

Grace (27)

The commander forced Grace and three other girls to beat their uncle until there was no skin rag left on his body. Then the little girls were ordered to kill the mutilated man.

- Why do you want to kill me and my daughters? Those were the last words Grace heard from her uncle's mouth. Then she had to cook and eat the remains of her uncle. Grace and her uncle fell victim to the terror of the Lords Resistance Army.

Born three children. She survived eight years in captivity after being kidnapped at just 10 years old. In the jungle, the teenager gave birth to three children. One child died, the other two go to school. The teenager was the commander's property.

- My wish for the world is - help me and my children. Thank you for talking to me, it is a help to open up, she says and must let the tears come. Then she asks for understanding that she can not bear to tell more and disappears into the village bustle.

Her father and five brothers were killed by the LRA, and her mother died shortly after Grace was released. It is a bright spot in all the misery that she was not infected with HIV in the bush. Grace returned to her uncle's family with two young children after the war, but was chased away. She is now married and has two children with her new husband.

Samuel Omara (15)

Samuel Omara carries heavy memories, but he does not let the memories shatter the dream of becoming an engineer or a doctor.

The boy was abducted twice when he was five years old. The soldiers burned their house and abducted everyone. The children had to carry too large burdens. The little ones were given the choice of walking or being killed.

- I could not bear to kill anyone, he says. The commander let him go and Samuel walked alone through the bush for two days back to his village.

But one night, two weeks later, the soldiers returned and took Samuel with them. He was a boy so he could be used for something, said the soldiers who soon after killed his father. His mother, who was eight months pregnant, was tortured because she did not walk fast enough.

Can not stand meat. - One day I was ordered to cut a woman's breasts and ears and then eat the meat, he says. Today, the 15-year-old can not stand the taste of meat. Their group was tracked down by the Ugandan government army. - God was with me, says the teenager who came to a refugee camp where he found his sister again.

Today Samuel goes to school and lives with his mother. She is mentally devastated. School work and therapy have freed him from some of the nightmares of captivity.

- There are many other children who need to go to school. Help them, asks the adult 15-year-old.

Dillis Ajwang (15)

Dillis Ajwang was only seven years old when the LRA soldiers surrounded their house one evening. The father refused to come out. The soldiers set fire to the house and the father died in the flames.

The soldiers would then force her brother to kill an old man, then he would be allowed to go free. But the brother said no and was killed while the old man was released.

Dilli's mother carried a small baby, but it annoyed the soldiers that the child cried. They took the child and smashed his head against a tree. The mother howled and then they also killed her. Little Dillis had to shut up and pretend not to see anything. - We went without food and water for a long time, and the soldiers killed those who could not take it anymore, Dillis says.

Sew the mouth again. At one point, the LRA soldiers lined up the children and asked if anyone liked to laugh or liked to smile. Those who smiled had their lips cut away, while those who liked to laugh had their mouths sewn back on.

- I ran to the commander and lay down at his feet and asked: - What's wrong with me? The commander was surprised and replied that she was a "good girl". Then he fed Dillis and asked her to run away.

The teenager is now going to school, and she has received help to renovate the house in her village. The two weeks of captivity by the rebels have left marks that will never go away, but Dillis wants to finish school and become a doctor. - Then I can help other people.

David Otim (18)

David Otim was only 10 years old when he was captured.

- We were tied together with a long rope, and could walk for days and weeks without food. We collected water from the leaves of the trees. The children were sent into the villages to steal food for the soldiers, Otim says with a frightening calm in his voice.

- We slept naked on the ground at night, and next the children had to carry huge loads of food and ammunition. One day, the group was attacked by a helicopter from the Ugandan army, and someone in the group was killed. Then the soldiers demanded that we eat some of the dead, says David.

Children killed children. The children who tried to escape were hung from a tree and the other children were forced to kill them. David's fortune was that government soldiers found the group and took the children to a military camp. The visible memories from captivity are gunshot wounds to the back and a disfigured foot, the easiest to carry on.

- School is my only hope for the future, the 18-year-old answers.

Help from abroad absolutely crucial

Jane Ekayu heads the organization Children of Peace Uganda (CPU), which in turn collaborates with the Adina Foundation in the work of rehabilitating the children who were abducted. The therapy uses play, role play, normal schooling and social interaction with the disabled.

- We explain to the children why it is important to put the past behind them, that their minds should not be filled with hatred directed at someone they still can not hold responsible. We teach them about the real Uganda. The society they experienced in childhood was only about war, murder and mutilation. But the nation must never forget the recent past, says the social worker.

Children new victims. There are uncertain numbers for how many children and adults were abducted by Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army during the Civil War. Official figures say approx. 75,000. The government in Kampala does not deny what has happened in the northernmost provinces, but the poor and corrupt country lacks funds for relief work. - Therefore, foreign aid is absolutely crucial, says Jane.

The CPU leader sees that child born in the bush with LRA soldiers to fathers is having a hard time. The innocent children evoke memories of the atrocities many families experienced.

Everyone is important. When the young people gather, the constant appeal from Jane is:

- You should say to yourself - I am important! I'm important!

And Jane asks: - Why?

The young people answer: - We future generations in Uganda. Everyone is important!