Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Reintegration of Child Victims of War in Northern Uganda: Options and Challenges in the Post-War Era

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Reintegration of Child Victims of War in Northern Uganda: Options and Challenges in the Post-War Era

Article excerpt

Uganda became independent in 1962 and suffered a coup in 1971 by Milton Obote. Yoweri Museveni wrestled power from Milton Obote in 1986 and has been president ever since. There are over 40 different indigenous ethnic groups living in Uganda and none ethnic group seems to have the majority (Blake, 2013). The Lord's Resistance Army, (LRA) a rebel group led by Joseph Kony, originated as a movement to fight for the interests of the Acholi people. Kony rapidly lost support and for the last 24 years has led a terrifying regime targeting attacks on innocent civilians, kidnapping children and forcing them to fight in his rebel forces (War Child, 2008). This means that the majority of ex-child soldiers live a life characterised by emotional, cultural, psychological, social and economic hardships. This also requires effective and workable solutions towards the rehabilitation of the affected child soldiers in northern Uganda.

The objective of this article is to determine the success of the programme that is currently reintegrating the former child soldiers, who for several years experienced violent war conditions into society in northern Uganda. In the process, the paper seeks to assess the current challenges of implementing the reintegration programme as well as the preferred options and solutions. In this regard, success is determined not only by the ex-combatants themselves, but also by the other stake holders in the process including the Uganda government, the general population, the families of child victims, international and local organisations involved in the process and, community leaders.

War in Acholi

The 20-year war in Acholi land has taken many twists and turns. When the National Resistance Army (NRA) under Yoweri Museveni seized control of Uganda in 1986, it ruled the country through a "one party system" (Lamwaka, 2002). Members of the Acholi ethnic group felt alienated, due to their exclusion from Museveni's government, and thus left the ranks of the military in droves. These former military soldiers started a resistance force, the Uganda People's Democratic Army (UPDA), led by Brigadier Odong Latek in (year). Later that same year, the NRA responded by launching an offensive against the Acholi-dominated UPDA soldiers who had left Kampala with their weapons. However, Briggs (2005) argues that the demoralised UPDA rebel floundered largely due to failure to gain any sort of initiative.

The demise of the UPDA led Alice Auma Lakwena1 to form the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM) in 1986 to overthrow the Ugandan government, which she accused of mistreating the Acholi people of the north. Based on claims that the Holy Spirit was behind its ideology, the HSM proved to be a formidable force that increasingly resented the Ugandan government. By the end of 1986, there were claims of 18000 soldiers under her command (Allen, 2006). However, following HSM's defeat in 1987 in Jinja, Alice Lakwena and some of her followers fled into exile in Kenya (Veale and Starvru, 2007). Following the demise of the HSM, Joseph Kony recruited the remnants of the two previous movements and formed 'the LRA in 1986' (Harvey, 2003) based on the Ten Commandments to overthrow the government. Unfortunately, the LRA mission that began as a small unit, enjoyed little support base from the Acholi, a development that compelled Kony to abduct local people, particularly children in order to bolster the organization's membership profile. Since the LRA rebellion began, the organization has abducted thousands of children and forced them to work as soldiers, sex slaves, and bondservants, with many forced to kill loved ones in order to break off family relations and dissuade future desertions. These children are mistreated and forced to commit unspeakable atrocities against their fellow abductees and family (Human Rights Watch (HRW), 2008).

Experiences of Child Victims of War

During the two decades of war in northern Uganda, the LRA had systematically targeted and abducted children. …

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