Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Groups Ask Help for Children Abducted by a Guerrilla Cult in Uganda

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Groups Ask Help for Children Abducted by a Guerrilla Cult in Uganda

Article excerpt

In a sad irony, what the United Nations calls "one of the most serious violations of children anywhere" is occurring in one of Africa's success stories. The religious militia calling itself the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has abducted thousands of Ugandan children and turned them into killers, laborers, and sex slaves, according to a new report prepared by UNICEF and the Christian aid agency World Vision International, based in Washington. World Vision's acting chief in Kampala, Charity Kivengere, says that since October 1995, more than 3,000 escaped children have passed through the agency's aid-and-counseling center set up in the northern town of Gulu. Based on interviews with them, the UNICEF/World Vision report estimates that between 5,000 and 8,000 children have been abducted over the past two years and brought to LRA training camps in southern Sudan. The most recent mass abduction took place three weeks ago and involved 30 refugee children from a camp near Moro in northeastern Uganda. All but six later managed to escape. Last week, Ugandan officials confirmed that they had traveled to Sudan earlier this month to negotiate the return of 21 girls still missing from a mass abduction in October. The plight of the girls, who were kidnapped from a Roman Catholic school, has come to symbolize Uganda's quest for the return of its children. Last Thursday, however, government officials said they turned down an LRA offer to free the children in return for a cease-fire and the resumption of diplomatic ties with Sudan. Several freed girls told the UN researchers that they had been forced to act as "wives" for the guerrillas. Many children said they were forced to witness or participate in killings. One boy,

David, told researchers how he helped kill another child who tried to escape. "Sometimes, even during the day, I hear him crying, begging ... me not to kill him," he said. According to Ms. …

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