A project of Sponsoring Children Uganda funded by the Belgian Government

Lira, 2003 - 2006

I. SITUATION IN NORTHERN UGANDA II. REHABILITATION AND REINTEGRATION OF WAR AFFECTED CHILDREN IN NORTHERN UGANDA 1. Background 2. Activity report 2.1. Rachele Rehabilitation Centre • Reception • Meeting basic needs • Trauma counselling • Vocational training programmes • Family tracing and reunion 2.2. Community Follow-up • Monitoring • Income generating activities • Sponsorship programme • Training of teachers 2.3. Advocacy • Radio programme • Drama • Art exhibition • Visitors • Media • Participation in peace conferences and workshops 2.4. Rachele Comprehensive Secondary School III. FINANCIAL REPORT IV. EVALUATION 1. External evaluation 2. External audit

Northern Uganda has experienced civil war since 1986, resulting in the death of over one hundred thousand people and the displacement of almost two million. Rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by self-styled prophet Joseph Kony, have been fighting a low-intensity war to overthrow the government of Uganda and rule the country by the Ten Commandments. In recent years, the LRA has been mainly targeting the civilian population, whom they accuse of siding with the enemy. The rebels carry out attacks on convoys, villages and internally displaced people’s camps, maiming and killing civilians, looting property and burning down entire homesteads. Terror has become the hallmark of the LRA.

Joseph Kony (middle) flanked by his deputy Vincent Otti (right) and commander Odhiambo (left)

Child abduction As few people voluntarily joined the rebel army, child abduction has been the main method of recruitment by the LRA. The World Bank in its 2006 report estimates that 66,000 children have been forcefully recruited over the years. Children as young as six have been seized from their homes and schools and turned into soldiers and/or sexual slaves. Many were taken to bases in South Sudan, where they received a basic military training. They were subsequently sent back to Uganda to loot, kill, abduct and fight the government army.

Abducted children returning from the LRA

The abducted children suffer some of the worst forms of child abuse. They are tortured or murdered for failing to walk or carry the loot. They are exposed to starvation and lifethreatening situations at the battle field. They receive little or no medical care and are denied any form of education. The girls are raped from a very young age, often for years. The Sudan factor The LRA was able to sustain itself for all that time because of the backing of the Government of Sudan. Though denying it at first, President Omar el Bashir eventually acknowledged his government supported the LRA in retaliation for Uganda’s support to the SPLA, the rebels of South Sudan. Since 1994, the Sudanese government has been providing Joseph Kony with bases, arms, ammunition, communication means, food and medical care. The kinds of weapons supplied by Khartoum were not small. They included rocket propelled grenades, SPG9-missiles, B10 bombs, anti-aircraft guns and anti-personnel mines.

International pressure on Khartoum mounted at the end of the nineties. When the US placed the LRA on the list of terrorist organisations in early 2000, Sudan was forced to sign a protocol with Uganda, allowing for the Ugandan army, the UPDF, to enter South Sudan and dismantle the LRA bases.

LRA fighters display their weapons received by the Sudan Government

Operation Iron Fist Operation Iron Fist was launched in March 2002. The LRA response was to flee from its Sudanese bases into northern Uganda, where it started a new and unprecedented wave of terror, abducting and killing thousands. The attacks were marked by sadistic mutilations, such as hacking off heads, lips, ears and breasts with axes and machetes. Even as the protocol was repeatedly extended, the Sudan government continued supplying Kony with arms, ammunition, intelligence and bases.

An LRA massacre in Pader in October 2002

A victim of the LRA in Lira in 2003

In June 2003, the LRA expanded it area of operations to the south, west and east. Regions previously spared by the conflict, such as the Lango and Teso region and West-Nile, were now also hit, causing massive displacement.

By the end of 2003, almost two million people were living in internally displaced people’s camps, almost the entire population of northern and eastern Uganda. Over 40,000 children walked kilometres every night to go and sleep in night shelters in the urban centres of Gulu and Kitgum to escape abduction. They came to be known as the ‘night commuters’. In November 2003, UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, described northern Uganda as one of the world’s worst and least known humanitarian disasters.

An internally displaced people’s camp in Amuria (Teso)

A centre for night commuters in Gulu

Defections The tide began to turn in mid-2004, when LRA commanders started surrendering, taking advantage of the government’s amnesty act. A combination of military pressure, reduced support from Sudan, and psychological inducement through radio programmes spreading the amnesty message, eventually led to the defection of over 100 LRA officers. These included Kony’s top adviser, Kenneth Banya, the LRA spokesperson, Sam Kolo, and head of military operations, Onen Kamdule. They brought with them nearly 2,000 former abductees. The massive defections seriously weakened the LRA and reduced its capacity to strike and abduct. Negotiations Attempts to reach a negotiated settlement with the LRA resumed at the end of 2004. On November 15, 2004, the Ugandan government issued a cease-fire in a limited area in northern Uganda, where peace talks could take place. The mediation team, led by former Minister of the North, Betty Bigombe, was able to open contact with the LRA, giving its leadership an exit option. However, the promised signature of a ceasefire agreement by the LRA was never forthcoming and rebel attacks continued outside the cease fire zone, reinforcing the general feeling that Kony and his top commanders would never come out of the bush. Negotiations broke down in early 2005 and fighting resumed.

Sudan peace accord A window of opportunity for peace occurred when the Sudan government and the SPLA signed a peace agreement on January 9, 2005, thus taking away Sudan’s alibi to support the LRA. SPLA leader John Garang was sworn in as Vice-President of Sudan on July 9, 2005. In his inaugural speech, he vowed to expel the LRA from South Sudan. But Garang’s unexpected death in a helicopter crash three weeks left the SPLA with other, more serious problems than hunting down Kony. International Criminal Court Investigations by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into crimes committed by the LRA increased the pressure again. Between July 2002 and June 2004, the investigators registered 2,200 killings and 3,200 abductions in over 850 attacks. On October 14, 2005, chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo issued arrest warrants against Joseph Kony and four of his commanders for war crimes and crimes against humanity. A month earlier, the LRA Vice-Chairman, Vincent Otti, and about 100 fighters had left for a new safe haven in Garamba National Park in Congo. Their move was facilitated by the Sudan government and elements within the Congolese government.

Congo factor Reported airdrops of supplies by Sudanese intelligence suggested that Khartoum wanted to keep the LRA around in case it needed the rebels to destabilise South Sudan ahead of the referendum on independence for the South. Following threats by Uganda to pursue the rebels into the DRC, the Congolese army and the UN peacekeeping force MONUC initially moved troops to the area and issued an ultimatum to the LRA to disarm or be forcefully disarmed.

But for Congo’s leaders, elections which would effectively end a five-year war were a higher priority. And when eight Guatemalan peacekeepers were killed in a well-planned ambush on January 23, 2006, the UN, too, gave up trying to arrest Kony. Even from their hide-out in Congo, the LRA continued to destablise South Sudan. The rebels regularly carried out cross-border raids; looting villages, killing civilians, abducting children and ambushing vehicles in Western Equatoria. Juba talks In a bid to stop the LRA from disrupting the reconstruction process, the leaders of South Sudan in early May 2006 met Kony and his commanders in a remote jungle clearing on the Congo-Sudan border. During the meeting, which was filmed, Kony assured his visitors that he was a human being and a freedom fighter, not a terrorist. After that, he accepted five tons of food and a brown envelope containing $20,000 in cash. The meeting and the gift stirred controversy. The leaders of South Sudan defended the action, saying it would stop hungry rebels from looting villages. But even after receiving the money, the rebels continued their attacks. On June 12, they murdered nine civilians, including two Russian engineers, in the South-Sudan capital Juba. The ICC was furious. The prosecutor repeated his call that Kony and his commanders should be arrested. Pushed in a corner, President Yoweri Museveni on July 4 offered Kony amnesty if he responded positively to peace talks and abandoned terrorism. Three reasons had prompted him to take this step, Museveni said: the failure of the UN to arrest Kony, the fact that Uganda was not allowed to enter Congo to hunt for the LRA, and concerns about the LRA’s disruption of the peace process in South Sudan. “The noble cause of trying Kony before the ICC had been betrayed by the failure of the United Nations to arrest him despite knowing his location in DR Congo’s Garamba National Park. We have been forced to abandon human rights and condone impunity because we have no partners in the region,” Museveni said in a statement. The peace talks in Juba started officially on July 14, 2006. In the opening speech, the LRA delegation, composed mostly of Acholi from the diaspora, denied any atrocities or abductions committed by the LRA. The delegates, instead, accused the Ugandan government of warmongering, rampant corruption and political persecution and demanded the disbandment of the UPDF. Broken promises A cessation of hostilities was signed on August 26, giving the LRA fighters four weeks to assemble at two points in South Sudan, Owiny-Kibul and Ri-Kwangba, where they would be disarmed and demobilised.

But the deadline passed without the LRA complying with the terms of the agreement. As did all subsequent deadlines. According to the latest addendum, the LRA has to assemble by the end of June 2007 in one assembly point only, Ri-Kwangba at the Sudan-Congo border. The negotiations themselves have been limping on for ten months, with the LRA delegates constantly walking out, mostly citing attacks by the UPDF. The peace talks stalled altogether between January and May 2007, when the LRA demanded a new venue and a new mediator. Throughout the talks, the LRA itself has been accused of numerous ambushes and attacks, mainly against the civilian population of South Sudan. By May 2007, only point two of the agenda had been signed. The most sticky point, accountability and reconciliation, item three on the agenda, had not been tackled yet.

LRA fighters on their way to one of the assembly points

1. BACKGROUND Since 1994, abduction of children has been the main method of recruitment by the LRA. Boys and girls as young as six are dragged from their homes and schools, tied up and marched to the rebel bases in South Sudan. They are beaten, tortured, and brutally murdered for as little reason as having swollen feet. In Sudan they receive a military training, after which they are sent to fight. Countless children have been wounded or killed at the battlefield; others have died of disease, exhaustion or hunger in South Sudan. Girls from the age of twelve are given as ‘wives’ to the senior soldiers. They are routinely raped and made to produce children. It is estimated that over 2,000 babies have been born in captivity. In addition, the abducted children are made to abuse others. They are forced to participate in killings of fellow abducted children. They are sent to burn and loot villages, and maim and kill civilians. Forcing children to participate in acts of extreme violence is a deliberate tool to implicate them in criminal acts and make them feel they can never go back home. In its report ‘Breaking God’s Commands’ Amnesty International described the plight of the children abducted by the LRA as ‘one of the worst violations of children’s rights anywhere in the world’. Abduction and the subsequent abuses have a far-reaching impact on the physical and psychological well-being of the returnee children. Many are malnourished and suffer from skin diseases, respiratory infections, diarrhoea and sexual transmitted diseases. Others display gun shot wounds, scars of torture and disabilities. Apart from the physical scars, most children also suffer from psychological disorders. They have nightmares, feelings of guilt, self-contempt and distrust. All returnee children live in fear of being re-abducted. Signs of ex-cultists Moreover, many show signs that are common for people coming out of a cult. Indeed, the LRA is in many ways a cult: a group which uses coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members, led by a founder who is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic and not accountable. Joseph Kony uses very much the same techniques to control the mind as cult leaders do. These include separating his members from family, friends and society; encouraging blind acceptance, child-like obedience and rejection of logic; creating cult marriages and

‘families’; chanting and singing; bringing about increased dependence on the group by burning bridges to the past; promoting acceptance of the leader by promising power and salvation; and maintaining loyalty to the group by threatening soul, life or limb for the slightest ‘negative’ thought, word or deed. Like a cult leader, Kony claims he has a mission from God to save his country, transmitted to him through a vision. He preaches the restoration of the Ten Commandments, using long hours of prayers, chanting and singing, as well as cleansing symbols, such as holy water and stones. He also promises salvation for those who follow him - another life, a new generation. And he exercises total control over his subjects – both their minds and bodies – through terror, guilt, brainwashing, physical hardships, deprivation, restriction of speech, suppression of emotions and control of information. The symptoms of those escaping from the LRA are therefore very similar to people coming out of a cult. Dependent on the number of years in captivity, they suffer to a more or lesser extent from depression, a sense of meaninglessness, regret about lost years, loss of selfesteem, loneliness, flashbacks, hallucinations, indecisiveness, inability to evaluate and judge, fear of revenge or heavenly damnation, guilt about what they did in the bush, and the difficulty of explaining. One ex-cultist in Dr. Margaret Singer’s book ‘Coming out of the Cults’ put it as follows: ‘People can’t just understand what the group puts into your mind. How they play on your guilts and needs. Psychological pressure is much heavier than a locked door. You can bust a locked door down in terror and anger, but chains that are mental are real hard to break. The heaviest thing I’ve ever done is leaving the group, breaking those real heavy bonds on my mind.’

Children who escape from the LRA show signs of ex-cultists

Stockholm Syndrome Formerly abducted girls suffer the additional trauma of having been given as ‘wives’ to senior commanders, some of whom return pregnant or with babies. Apart from the financial and emotional problems they face, having to look after children while being children themselves, their marriage chances are jeopardised and few have been infected by HIV/AIDS. Some returnee girls also suffer from the so-called ‘Stockholm-syndrome’, a condition experienced by people who are held hostage for a long period of time, during which they become attached to their captors. According to psychologist Fr. Charles T. Brusca in his book ‘Psychological Responses to Terrorism’, captives begin to identify with their captors at first as a survival mechanism, based on the often unconscious idea that the captor will not hurt them if they are cooperative and even supportive. Long term captivity builds even stronger bonds to the captor, as he becomes known as a human being with his own problems and aspirations. ‘Particularly in political and ideological situations, longer captivity allows the captive to become familiar with the captor’s point of view and the history of his grievances’, according to Brusca. ‘He may come to believe that the captor’s position is just. Depending on his degree of identification with the captor, he may deny that the captor is at fault, holding that the would-be rescuers are really to blame for his situation.’

Child mothers returning from the LRA

Other experts describe the Stockholm Syndrome as a bond of interdependence between captive and captor that develops when someone threatens your life but does not kill you. ‘The relief resulting from the removal of the threat of death generates intense feelings of gratitude and fear which combine to make the captive reluctant to display negative feelings towards the captor or terrorist’, write Dee Graham, Edna Rawlings and Nelly Rimini in ‘The Stockholm Syndrome: Not just for Hostages. ‘Hostages are overwhelmingly grateful to their captors for giving them life. They focus on captor’s kindnesses, not his acts of brutality. (They) assume that the abuser is a good man. Denial of terror and anger, and the perception of their captors as omnipotent people, help to keep victims psychologically attached to their abusers.’ In the case of the LRA, particularly girls who were given as ‘wives’ to commanders at a very young age and who stayed in captivity for a long time, display a strange association with their captors. Some sent love messages over the radio to their rapists while a few are known to have gone back to their ‘masters’ in the LRA. Rehabilitation centre for Lango and Teso If these severely abused children are not rehabilitated and reintegrated into the community, they might develop delinquent or psychopathic behaviour or turn into bandits for a living, which could lead to further conflict and criminalisation of the society of northern Uganda.

One of the returnees at Rachele Rehabilitation Centre

As much as there were a number of efforts towards return and reintegration of the formerly abducted children into their families and communities in Acholiland, such efforts were rare in the Lango and Teso regions. Indeed, before Rachele Centre opened, there was not one rehabilitation centre in the eight districts of Lira, Apac, Pader, Kumi, Kotido, Kaberamaido, Soroti and Katakwi.

Furthermore, a survey conducted by Unicef and the Government of Uganda (‘Northern Uganda Psycho-Social Needs Assessment’, 1998) showed that the parents and the community as a whole were as much traumatised as the abducted children. Many people in northern Uganda suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, acute anxiety and general depression. Support to the families and the community as a whole was therefore also needed. Objectives The five main objectives of the projects were therefore:

To contribute to the physical and psychological recovery of formerly abducted children. To foster the reintegration of formerly abducted children by tracing their families and reuniting them. To improve the socio-economic status of formerly abducted children through education, training and income-generating activities. To sensitise the community about the plight of the abducted children and advocate for forgiveness and reconciliation. To advocate for the release of abducted children still in captivity and to a resolution of the conflict in northern Uganda.

Specific objectives of the project were:

To create a secure and stable environment in a structured framework. To provide access to basic necessities of life, especially food, shelter, clothing and medical care. To provide psycho-social support to formerly abducted children, through counselling and therapeutic activities, to help them overcome the emotional and psychological traumas. To provide medical advice and support to meet specific health needs of returned children, in particular formerly abducted girls and child-mothers to help them come to terms with the traumatic experience of having served as wives to commanders and cope with the children born in captivity. To re-instil social and cultural values. To contribute to the reintegration of formerly abducted children by facilitating access to education, ensure that all the children of school-going age can go back to school, and those above school-going age are supported to attain alternative education, especially through vocational training in locally marketable skills, and through income-generating activities. To provide family and community counselling to help them avoid stigmatising and discriminating the returnee children. To update the existing data-base of abducted children in the districts of Lira and Apac and provide information to parents of abducted children.

The project consisted of three pillars: • Rachele Rehabilitation centre in Lira • Community follow-up programme • Advocacy programme

2.1. Rachele Rehabilitation Centre

Rachele Rehabilitation Centre is located on Omodo Anyuru Road, next to the railway station in Lira town. It was built with funds from the Belgian Government. It houses four dormitories, seven offices, a conference room, a dining hall, a reception, a store, a recreation hall, a kitchen, sports fields, sanitation facilities, a clinic, a matron’s room, a sick bay and a half-open hall for debate called the ‘parliament’. The centre became operational in October 2003. It was officially opened on October 8, 2003 by the Belgian foreign minister Louis Michel. Fourteen additional class room and a library were built in 2005 with the remaining funds of the Belgian Government in order to provide vocational training to the formerly abducted children and to prepare the centre for its future destination: a boarding school for war affected children.

A team of 22 local staff was employed in the rehabiliation centre, recruited through public announcement and on the basis of their qualifications. Most social workers had university degrees in either education or social sciences and/or had experience with working with war affected children. The staff was composed of one director, one deputy director, one accountant, eight social workers, one education officer, one store keeper, two nurses, one matron, one secretary, three guards, three drivers, two cooks.

The staff of Rachele Rehabilitation Centre on a retreat in Murchison Park

Several training workshops were organised for the entire staff. These included: • Two initial training workshops on ‘Psycho-social support to war affected children’ by George Omona, Director of Acord-Uganda and founder of Gusco (Gulu), the first rehabilitation centre in Northern Uganda (October and November 2003) Games Manual and workshop by Bert Vercamer, monitor of youth camps in Belgium (December 2003) Two workshops ‘Adolescent Reproductive Health’, facilitated by the district health officers Alice Odyek and Bensy Okello, and the district Probation and Social Welfare Officer Peter Edonga (August 2004 and November 2004).

• •

• •

A workshop on ‘Improved psychosocial support to formerly abducted children’ by George Omona, Director of Acord-Uganda (April 2005) A training ‘Dealing with Child Trauma’ by Dr. Robi Sonderegger, Clinical Pychologist specialised in child trauma, Director of Family Challenge Charitable – Australia (May 2005) Evening classes computer Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Internet, Email, Photo Editing and Page Maker at Infonet ICT Training Centre in Lira (April to July 2005) Three senior staff members were facilitated to participate in the ‘Visiting Professionals Programme’ of the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Senior counsellor Joan Aja, director Daniel Okello and deputy director Sylvester Ocen each did a five-week internship at the Victims and Witnesses Unit between July and December 2005.

A total of 2,552 returnees were received over the three years of the project. The majority was handed over by the UPDF. Only a few came to the centre on their own account or were referred by the community. These were first taken to the army for screening to avoid LRA informers, or impostors who were after the resettlement package. In addition, the centre received 70 children from other rehabilitation centres who had already been rehabilitated and only needed to be reunited. In most cases, these children stayed only a few hours or days at Rachele Centre before they were collected by their relatives. They were therefore not included in the general database.

New arrivals at Rachele Rehabilitation Centre

Of the 2,552 received, 268 were children born in captivity, i.e. children conceived in the LRA by abducted girls who served as sex slaves to commanders. The term ‘children born in captivity’ refers to both children born in the rebel army and children born in the centre. A total of 46 children were born in the centre, an average of more than one a month. The numbers of children received varied considerably from month to month and from year to year. The highest number – or 1,759 – was received in the first year of the project - between September 2003 and September 2004. This coincided with a high number of abductions in Lango and Teso regions and an intensified offensive by the UPDF, giving the abducted children a chance to escape. The numbers started going down drastically towards the end of 2004 due to the changing political situation (peace talks, LRA defections, less abductions, less children in captivity). In the second year of the project, 576 children were received while in the third year the number went down to 216, as can be seen in the curve below. The influx stopped in October 2006. Though there are still an estimated 500 to 1,500 children in the ranks of the LRA, the cessation-of-hostilities agreement, compelling the LRA fighters to assemble in South Sudan, have made it impossible for them to escape.

New arrivals 2003 - 2006






0 November, 2003 November, 2004 November, 2005 September, 2004 September, 2005 December, 2003 September, 2006 December, 2004 December, 2005 November, 2006 May, 2004 May, 2005 February, 2004 February, 2005 February, 2006 March, 2004 March, 2005 March, 2006 May, 2006 July, 2004 July, 2005 July, 2006 December, 2006 January, 2004 January, 2005 January, 2006 April, 2004 April, 2005 June, 2004 August, 2004 June, 2005 April, 2006 August, 2005 June, 2006 October, 2003 October, 2004 October, 2005 August, 2006 October, 2006

When splitting up the new arrivals per sex, females overtook males on two occasions: in October/November 2004, and June/July 2005, the time LRA commanders defected with their ‘wives’.
Male 200 180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0
T DE O B CE ER ,2 M FE BE 00 BR R , 3 UA 20 RY 0 3 AP , 20 04 R IL ,2 JU 00 N AU E , 4 20 G U O ST 04 C , T DE O B 2 00 ER 4 CE ,2 M FE BE 00 BR R , 4 UA 20 RY 0 4 , AP 20 05 R IL ,2 JU 00 N AU E , 5 20 G U O ST 05 C TO , 2 BE 00 R, 5 DE 200 C. 5 2 FE 00 B. 5 AP 20 06 R IL .2 JU 00 AU NE 6 .2 G 0 U ST 06 .2 00 6
New arrivals per district
700 640 600 631 500 445 400 393 300 210 200 176 100 10 0
oy o c er am ai do M or ot o Ad ju m an i Ka ta kw Ki tg um Su da n Ko tid o Li ra ul u er Pa d So ro ti i Ku m Ap a G i M


Returnees according to district The highest number of children received at Rachele Centre came from Lira district (640), followed by Pader (631), Gulu (445) and Kitgum (393). The five districts of the Teso region accounted for 254 children or 11% of the total. Some returnees came from as far as West-Nile (Adjumani, Moyo) and Sudan.









Ka b

Returnees according to sex Roughly one third of the abductees received – or 938 - were females and two thirds – or 1,614 – were males.
New arrivals according to sex

Female 37%

Male 63%

Returnees according to age In terms of age, the majority of the abductees received were between 12 and 15 years old. This age group represents 57% of all new arrivals, followed by the 16-18 age group (25%) and the 7-11 age group (10%). The youngest abductees received at the centre were seven years old. Two of them had been abducted a year earlier, at the age of six.

New arrivals according to age
above 18 17 years 15 years 13 years 11 years 9 years 7 years 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350

Of those above 18, the majority had been abducted for a long period of time. Of the 185 in that age group, 117 (63%) had been abducted for five years and more, while 89 (48%) had spent eight years and more in captivity. The longest period an abductee spent in captivity was 16 years.
New arrivals according to age group

above 18 8% 16-18 years 25%

7-11 years 10%

12-15 years 57%

When splitting up the age groups according to sex, there were significantly more males than females in the younger age groups, while the opposite was the case in the older age groups.
Percentage male-female age group 7 - 15
Percentage male-female above 18

females 31%

males 31%

males 69%

females 69%

Girls on average stayed a longer period in captivity for various reasons. Many were taken straight to Sudan, where they served as sex slaves to commanders. They were far away from home, in an unknown area, and tightly guarded, making it difficult for them to escape. Once they got children, chances of running away became even slimmer.

Child mothers The centre received a total of 171 child mothers. Almost one in five girls who returned was either pregnant or came back with children. The term ‘child mothers’ refers to girls who were abducted at a young age and came back with children from captivity, although some of them were above 18 by the time they returned.
Percentage child mothers

child mothers 18%

other females 82%

The majority of child mothers came from Acholi land: the districts of Gulu (59), Pader (46) and Kitgum (44). Those three districts, which make up 85 % of the total number of child mothers, were much longer affected by the conflict. Teso and Lango regions were only hit in 2003, and many girls abducted from there areas escaped before they had been distributed as sex slaves to commanders. In general, girls were abducted at a young age, when chances were slim they were HIV positive, and be groomed for some time as ‘ting ting’ (baby sitters) in Sudan. They would be allocated to a commander the moment they had their first period, around the age of 13 -14. Also, most girls were given to commanders once they had arrived in Sudan and were more or less settled. Operation Iron Fist and the re-entry of the LRA into Uganda in 2002 made it much more difficult to live in a family-like setting.
Child mothers per district
Adjumani 1% Pader 26% Apac 3% Gulu 35%

Lira 10% Kitgum 25%

As mentioned earlier, child mothers were abducted for longer periods of time. The average child mother spent 7.3 years in captivity. Of the 171 received, 95 or over half spent eight years and more in captivity and 154 (90%) spent four years and more in captivity. This group would most likely show signs of the Stockholm Syndrome. Since they now had children from their captors, for many the bond was very difficult to break.
Child mothers: number of years abducted

1 - 3 years 10%

8 - 16 years 55%

4 - 7 years 35%

Sex slaves It is important to note that the number of girls who served as sex slaves is much higher than the number of child mothers. Some never got pregnant. Several girls complained that their period stopped the day they were abducted, a side-effect of trauma. Others delivered in the rebel army and the child died either in the fighting or from malnutrition and disease. Of a random sample of 232 girls from Pader, Gulu, Kitgum, Lira and Katakwi 139 (60%) said they had been given as a ‘wife’ to a commander, while 93 (40%) said they were not given. The most common reason cited for having been spared the plight of a sex slave was that they were too young.
Girls who served as sex slaves

no 40% yes 60%

As is the case with child mothers, more girls from Acholiland served as sex slaves than from Lango region. Whereas 74% of girls from Pader, 63% from Gulu and 57% from Kitgum said they were given to a commander, the percentage for Lira dropped to 52% and Katakwi to 50%.
Girls who served as sex slaves per district
80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Pader Gulu Kitgum Lira Katakwi 74% 63% 57% 52% 50%

Intake form The new arrivals were registered upon arrival in the centre. An intake form was filled, mentioning the particulars of the child (name, sex, age, place of birth, date of abduction, date of escape, former school and class), as well as the family background (name of father, mother, number of children in the family and status of parents – dead/alive or divorced). A picture of the child was attached to the form. This would prove very useful during the community follow-up as impostors would try to benefit from the income-generating-activity or sponsorship programme (see example intake form below).

Returnees are registered upon arrival at Rachele Rehabilitation Centre

Life story A second form, which was filled in a later stage when the child had opened up, was the life story with regard to abduction, in the form of a questionnaire. This gives a detailed account of what each child experienced while in captivity. It contains confidential information about their abduction, torture inflicted on them, participation in killings, fighting, looting, burning of houses, the kind of military training they got, the armies they fought and the type of weapons they had. Girls were asked if they were given to a commander, name and age of the commander and the number of children they got in captivity. Finally, it contains detailed information about how they escaped and their ‘worst experience in captivity’. Most children indicate having been forced to participate in killings as the worst experience in captivity, followed by hunger, thirst, the long marching, beatings and bombings. Indeed, the single most traumatic experience was being forced to kill, or witness the killing of fellow captives. The ritual murders, which was mostly done shortly after abduction, was meant to break down their resistance, turn them into merciless killers and cut off their way home: united in blood and fearing revenge from the community, it becomes now difficult to escape. Of a sample of 792 returnees, 437 (55%) admitted having participated in killings, while 355 (45%) said they had not participated. It must be noted that admitting to killings was extremely hard for the returnees, considering their fear of retaliation and the Luo culture of having to pay compensation to the families when causing somebody’s death. The true figure is, therefore, almost certainly higher.
Forced to kill
70% 60% 54% 49% 56%

Forced to kill per district


no 45% yes 55%

50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%





Split up per district, more children from Lango region were forced to kill than from Acholi land. Whereas 49% of returnees from Kitgum said they were forced to participate in killings, the percentage goes up to 62% for returnees from Lira. Possibly, children from Lango, belonging to a different tribe from the commanders, were considered more likely to escape and were perceived more in need of deterrent tactics.

Assessment form A third form was the assessment form, which was meant to evaluate the physical and psychological progress of the child on a weekly basis. It contained the most common symptoms of injuries and signs of trauma. Every week, the social worker had to add his/her comments and recommendations. When the child was considered ready for reunion, she had to fill in her final recommendations before reunion (see assessment form below).

Name:…………………………………………….. Age:…………….. Sex:……………. Mother’s name:…………………………………. Father’s name:………………………… District:…………… County:…………………. Sub-county:……………Village:……….. Date of arrival:…………………………… From:…………………………………………

Weak and malnourished Bullet wounds Other wounds Diarrheoa Deformities Weight Withdrawn Aggressive Pilfering Low self-esteem Physically healty Emotional Day dreaming Nightmares Highly sensitive Depression Bitter/hatred Mistrust Restlessness Lack of concentration Suicidal thoughts Fear

Database All the new arrivals were numbered and entered into a database. The database mentioned name, sex, age, district, division, parish, village, date of abduction, date of escape, date of arrival in the centre and date of departure. The database was one of the most important working tools in the centre. It was used for family tracing and reunion. It was consulted when parents came to check if their children had returned. And it was used to analyse data. Therefore, a secretary was almost full-time employed to enter data and update the database (see annex 1). Problems encountered A major problem encountered during the intake was disinformation. Children would lie about basic facts, such as their name, the period spent in captivity and even their place of birth. This was partly because of fear that information about their escape would leak to the rebels, who could take revenge on their families; partly because they believed that by reducing the number of years in captivity, there was less chance that they would be kept for questioning by the army or blamed for atrocities committed by the LRA. Some children also had taken on another name the moment they were abducted and had forgotten their real name. Others were abducted at such a young age that they could not remember the names of their parents, their village or parish. Girls would also deny the fact that they served as sex slaves. In early 2005, we discovered only after weeks of counselling that four girls at the centre had been given as ‘wives’ to Joseph Kony. The social workers therefore resolved to ask only a few basic questions upon arrival. They would cross-check and complete the forms after the child had been in the centre for some days and was reassured about his safety and the confidentiality of the information given. There was also a problem of planning as the returnees would arrive in an unpredictable and irregular way. Children would sometimes be released from the barracks late in the evening, and they would arrive in overwhelming numbers. For example, the centre received 57 children on November 29, 2003 and again 43 children four days later. This was at a time when the building was still under construction, had no electricity or fence, and at a time when the LRA carried out the notorious Ngetta massacre, about 8 kilometres from the centre. In early March 2004, the centre received 136 children in just four days: 76 on March 3, another 30 on March 5 and again 31 two days later. Though a policy had been agreed with other centres to refer children from the respective districts to each other immediately after arrival, this proved difficult in practice because of security problems, transport hurdles, late hour of arrival and because many children arrived wounded or sick and needed immediate attention. Rachele Centre referred a total of 64 returnees to the rehabilitation centres in Gulu: 56 to World Vision and 8 to GUSCO.

Addressing basic needs
Before anything else, the basic needs of the returnee children had to be addressed. These were acute and numerous but can be categorised in four groups: food, health, clothes and a feeling of security. The majority of the returnees arrived in a deplorable state: malnourished, exhausted, sick, wounded, covered with scabies, in rags, fearful and traumatised. Some children arrived with up to thirteen bullets in their body. Others were so malnourished that they had to be carried or supported.
Case study: Bosco Okello Bosco arrived at Rachele Rehabilitation Centre on September 3, 2005 with a bleeding amputated left leg and several bullets in the other leg. He had been abducted from Lira in 1998, at the age of 13, trained as a soldier in South Sudan and sent back to fight the UPDF. In one of the battles, he sustained 13 bullets. He was hiding in the bush for over two weeks before he got any help. A group of rebels found him and carried him to an IPD camp, where civilians took him to the nearest army detachment. By then, the leg had become so rotten that it needed to be cut off in order to save his life. Bosco was then transported to Rachele Centre, where the nurse found that the amputation had not been done properly. The rot was not out and he risked bleeding to death. He was taken to Kampala International Hospital, where he was first given blood transfusion and later re-amputated. He got an artificial leg with the help of Rotary Jinja and is now a second year student at Rachele SecondarySchool.

New arrivals were received by the staff and the other children at the centre with a welcome song, hugs and shaking of hands. The first priority was serving them with food and tea. Meanwhile, the social worker addressed them, welcoming them back and reassuring them that they were safe. They would spend only a short time in the centre, they were told, to gain strength both in body and mind. Their parents would be traced and they would be taken home once they had fully recovered. To break down their fears and distrust, the social worker also made it clear that, although we disapproved of the things they did in captivity, we forgave them as we knew they had been abducted and forced. After the meal, they would receive a resettlement kit, consisting of a mattress, two blankets, slippers, shoes, tooth paste, vaseline, soap, a basin, a cup, a plate, a bag, two pair of underpant, a mosquito net, a bathing sponge and clothes. Girls were given two T-shirts, two skirts, one dress, a bra, two petty coats and two nickers, while boys were given three T-shirts, two shorts, one trouser and two underpants. Then, they were taken to the dormitories by the other children, shown their beds and the bath rooms, while the sick and wounded were taken to the nurses. Children with minor wounds and common diseases were treated at the centre’s clinic. The most common diseases treated

were malaria, chest infections, skin diseases, intestinal worms and diarrhoea. Malnourished children received treatment and a special diet.
Number of patients treated at the centre per disease
1800 1600 1400 1200 1000 800 600 400 200 0
in fe ct io ns m al ar i w a or m sk dia s in rrh di oe se a as es ey w ou e in nd fe ct s io ns to ea ns r i illi t n de fec is t nt al ion s c m arr ie al s nu tri tio n ch S ic TD ke s os n te po x o tu my be lit rc is ul os is ty ph oi d

Children with more serious diseases, severe malnutrition and gunshot wounds were taken to hospital. A total of 100 children were admitted at various hospitals in Lira, Gulu and Kampala (see list annex 2). The majority or 51% were treated for gunshot wounds, followed by labour pain (24%) and severe malnutrition (12%). Other complaints included tuberculosis, wounds from walking, amputation as a result of stepping on a landmine, hysteria, anaemia and pneumonia. The centre had two deaths during the three years of the project. The child of Christine Akot from Pader died at birth in Rachele Centre on February 30, 2004. Olweny Charles, also from Pader, succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds in Lira Hopsital on May 27, 2006.
Returnees referred to various hospitals

ch es t

others severe 13% malnutrition 12% labour pain 24%

gunshot wounds 51%

Returnees with gunshot wounds were sent to various hospitals

One girl, Evelyn Apoko, was hit by bomb splinters in the face. For unclear reasons, the rebels then cut away the rest of her mouth and part of her tongue. She was sent by Rachele Rehabilitation Centre to the US for plastic surgery, funded by the Children’s Medical Mission and the Lutheran Hospital of Indiana.

Evelyn Apoko was hit by fragments

The nurses of Rachele Centre support a new arrival

Burning of clothes An important part of the welcoming ceremony was the burning of the old clothes, military uniforms, boots, charms, beads, shea nut oil and everything that reminded them of life in the rebel army. Apart from hygienic reasons - the clothes were infested with flees and microbes – this was also a symbolic act: to mark the break-away from the past, the end of their suffering, and the beginning of a new life. Burning clothes is both a traditional and a religious concept in Northern Uganda. When a child’s cloth is lost, it is believed that somebody hid it to put a spell on it, i.e. to kill the child. At the other hand, as most of the clothes had been stolen from people they had attacked and

sometimes killed, they were considered ungodly things, possessed by demons. Destroying them was meant to cast away the evil. The ceremonial rite, which was always an emotionally powerful moment, was carried out just before sunset, at the western side of the centre. ‘Wang ceng otero ce otero’ (Let all the evil go by the setting sun’) the children shouted when the clothes were set on fire. Sometimes, a child would pull out something from his pocket – a piece of meat for his commander, shea nut oil which was supposed to protect him from the bullets – and thrown it into the fire, realising that he no longer needed it. Girls who stayed a long time in capitivity would resist this ceremony the most, by refusing to hand over things that had been given to them by their ‘husbands’.

The burning of the clothes was an emotionally powerful ceremony

Trauma counselling
Almost all children came back severely traumatised and psychologically torn apart. Confusion, fear and distrust could be read in their eyes. Most were withdrawn; some were unable to speak for weeks. Suspicion and distrust ran so deep that some refused to eat food and swallow tablets, while others resisted an injection. It was later discovered that this was part of the indoctrination of the LRA. They were told that they would be killed or poisoned by the UPDF and the civilian population when they would escape. A few were aggressive and destructive, cutting their friends’ bags, stealing, fighting or threatening to commit suicide, while others displayed a military mentality, standing for parade or calling everybody out early in the morning. Depression and a sense of meaninglessness were characteristic for the majority of children returning from captivity. A strict activity schedule was therefore observed in the centre in an

attempt to re-establish a routine in their lives, keep their minds busy and give them a sense of orientation. Activities were grouped in counselling sessions in the morning - both individual and in group –, educational activities in the afternoon, while the evenings were reserved for sports, games, music and dance. It is important to note that all the children had to contribute to the communal activities: they had to help with cooking, cleaning, tidying and making their beds. ACTIVITY SCHEDULE
7 am - 8 am 8 am - 9 am 9 am - 9.30 am 9.30 am - 10 am 10 am - 12 am Wake up + bathing Cleaning + washing Breakfast Weekly meeting Group counselling: drawing Individual counseling Medical check-up Free Lunch Catch-up classes (English) Documentation Boys: athletics & running Girls: baking course Medical treatment Dinner Radio talkshow

Wake up + bathing Cleaning + washing Breakfast Day meeting Role Play Individual counseling Medical check-up Free Lunch Catch-up classes (mathematics) Documentation Boys: music and dance Girls: tailoring course Medical treatment Dinner Music entertainment

Wake up + bathing Cleaning + washing Breakfast Day meeting Debate/News analysis Individual counselling Medical check-up Free Lunch Health education Documentation Boys: games Girls: baking course Medical treatment Dinner Radio talkshow

Wake up + bathing Cleaning + washing Breakfast Day meeting Group counselling Individual counselling Medical check-up Free Lunch Informative video Documentation Boys: athletics & running Girls: tailoring course Medical treatment Dinner Music entertainment

12am - 1pm 1 pm - 2 pm 2 pm - 4 pm 4 pm - 5.30 pm

6 pm - 7 pm 7 pm - 9 pm

7 am - 8 am 8 am - 9 am 9 am - 9.30 am 9.30 am - 10 am 10 am - 12 am Wake up + bathing Cleaning + washing Breakfast Day meeting Guest speaker Individual counseling Medical check-up Free Lunch Social studies/agriculture Documentation Boys: sports Girls: baking course Medical treatment Dinner Radio talkshow

Wake up + bathing Cleaning + washing Breakfast Day meeting Story telling Individual counseling Free Lunch Religious education Boys: games Girls: tailoring course Medical treatment Dinner Musical entertainment

Wake up + bathing Cleaning + washing Breakfast Day meeting Prayers

12am - 1pm 1 pm - 2 pm 2 pm - 4 pm 4 pm - 5.30 pm

Free Lunch Entertainment video Free

6 pm - 7 pm 7 pm - 9 pm

Dinner Musical entertainment

Individual counselling Shortly after arrival, the newcomer was allocated to a counsellor, who assessed the child’s physical and psychological condition using the assessment form. The counsellor then tried to establish a rapport with the child. The process of confidence-building was slow and difficult. The social worker had to observe basic principles of empathy, confidentiality, non-judgment

and tactfulness in asking questions. When he or she failed to establish a basic rapport, the child would be passed on to another counsellor.

Individual counselling

The best way was to sit next to the child and start a casual conversation, not taking any notes, not even holding a pen or paper. Sitting arrangements were important during the first counselling sessions. The social worker had to put himself at the same level as the child, at best side by side but not too close, and avoid eye contact.
Case study: Eunice Eunice had not opened up for one month. Each time the social worker tried to establish contact, she would hide her fact in her hands and keep quiet. One day, the social worker asked her when going home: “What do you want me to bring for you?” The girl said she wanted maize. The next day, she brought maize. Before leaving, she asked her again: “What do you want me to bring for you?” This time, the girl said beans. “Let’s go and buy them together”, the social worker proposed. They walked up to the market. On the way, the girl suddenly opened up. She told the social worker for the first time that her parents had died and that she had been beaten so badly on the side that her body was swollen. Upon return, the social worker took her to the nurse. That was the moment a close rapport was struck between the social worker and the girl.

For individual counselling, the social workers followed the method of Australian specialist Dr. Sonderegger. “Emotional memory files need to be reprogrammed in the brain”, he teaches. “This is best achieved via a process called exposure: the act of reintroducing traumatic events to a child’s mind in gentle ways, and allowing them to process the trauma in a more positive way. This exposure should start with the easiest traumatic event, and slowly work up the list to the more traumatic experiences. The definition of success is being able to recall the traumatic event and communicate it in detail without the negative emotions and destructive thoughts attached to it.”

During the sessions – usually one a week – the child was encouraged to talk about his experience in captivity, starting with the easier parts, building on his resilience and courage, and gradually moving to the most traumatic experiences. As one social worker put it: “It is like helping the child vomit: the worst details, the memories he cannot digest and which block him from functioning, have to come out.” Two considerations had to be taken into account during individual counselling. One, it was important for the social worker to enter into the ‘language of the bush’, the slang used in captivity. ‘Lamego’, for example, Luo for ‘sister’, meant ‘wife’ or ‘sex slave’. ‘Lafwony’ (teacher) was the title used for a commander. ‘Ting ting’ (baby sitter) meant a girl not yet sexually approved, while ‘imito ywego’ (Do you want to rest?) meant being killed. Two, it was common for children to attribute to others what they did themselves. A person would say: ‘I saw a child kill his own brother”, when he was the one who had to kill his brother. In the same way, when asked if they participated in killings, most children would say ‘no’, but when asked if they had been forced to participate in killings, they would respond positively. By not directly assuming responsibility for the atrocities committed, it became easier to talk about them.
Case study: Morris (10) Morris arrived in the centre on February 26, 2004. He was depressed, highly sensitive and emotional, restless and full of bitterness and hatred. He also complained of stomach ache. Morris’s story was confusing. He said he had been abducted from a displaced camp which he could not name, he was tied with a rope, forced to carry heavy loads and denied food and water. He also mentioned that he saw his parents and siblings be burned inside the house but it was not clear when this happened. He remained depressed and withdrawn. He was passed on to another social worker but failed to open up. It was only the third counsellor who was able to get out the full story. Morris suffered from profound feelings of guilt because he had been forced to light the fire to the house where his family was locked up. Asked about his worst experience in captivity, he said: ‘hearing my family cry to death in a ball of fire”.

Group counselling When individual counselling focussed on the healing process of individual children, group counselling helped them develop life skills and deal with the society around them.

Group counselling was carried out in the Parliament

The LRA used special methods to heighten subservience, suspend individuality or critical judgment and promote total dependency on the group. As a result, many returnees suffered from indecisiveness and an inability to evaluate and judge. The life skills that needed to be restored were assertiveness, problem-solving, decision-making, creativity, critical thinking, communication and empathy. Group counselling, which took place four times a week, was carried out through debate, drawing, role play and news analysis. Debate Debate was conducted in the ‘parliament’ once a week. Topics included life at home before abduction, experiences in captivity, escape story, conflict management in the village, how to react when called rebels, children’s rights and responsibilities, origin of the conflict and possible solutions to the war. The most popular sessions were those when the children were divided into two and had to prepare and defend different positions on a resolution, after which a vote was organised. Resolutions included: - Peace talks should continue - Kony is better than Museveni - Few children is better than larger families - An educated woman is better than an uneducated woman - Town life if better than village life - Monogamy is better than polygamy - Home life is better than camp life Special group sessions were conducted for girls. They were invited to express their concerns, briefed about their rights and the legal status of their ‘marriage’ and their children, taught about family planning, home management and ways of looking after their children. Drawing Drawing was another way of ‘exposure’. Children were invited to draw their experiences in captivity, their present situation as well as their dreams and hopes for the future. Then, they were asked to explain what was in the picture. Drawings were used as a basis to communicate. It was also a more indirect way of opening up: children could talk about people in the drawings, not about themselves.

Drawing their experiences in captivity was a way to extenalise what they had gone through

Drawings were also a useful tool for the social workers to know what was happening. At times, the drawings would show a lot of helicopters firing at people, suggesting that the UPDF was launching a big offensive. When the army changed its tactics to ‘shoot to rescue and not to kill’ this change was again reflected in the pictures. Role play Those who were unable to talk about their experience in captivity expressed themselves through role play. Re-enacting their own abduction and life at the battle-field, using toy guns, improvised bombs made of plastic bags filled with water, and armoured vehicles in the form of wheelbarrows, was both releasing for the actors and confrontational for the spectators. De-briefing after the role-play was crucial as not to reinforce the experiences. This would always include evoking international laws banning the use of child soldiers and explaining about the dangers of guns. Other topics acted were family reunion, life in the camp, traditional marriage and life in the village.

Re-enacting their abduction and the activities in the LRA: confrontational

News analysis Isolation and information management were some of the techniques used by the LRA to persuade, manipulate and control its members. Abductees said they were not allowed to listen to the radio or have any contact with their relatives. Some lived cut off from the outside world for ten years or more. Breaking open their world and exposing them to what was happening, not only in the North but also in the rest of Uganda, Africa and the world was another important part of group counselling. Every dormitory was given a radio. A reporter was allocated who had to listen to the news and report the main items to the rest of the group on Wednesday morning. Important events,

ranging from attempts of peace talks, Ugandan elections, the first African female president, the Asian tsunami or the war in Iraq, were then analysed and debated. Guest speaker In the same bid to open up their scope and expose them to different opinions and people, a guest speaker was invited to the centre every Friday morning. Guest speakers could be visitors from abroad, traditional leaders, local politicians, the headmaster of a school, a UPDF officer, the director of prisons or the district probation officer. This always generated interesting debate as the children were eager to know about the way young people lived in other countries, their education system, their wars, their food, their hobbies and professions. The guest speaker was one of the most successful activities in the centre.

Catch-up classes Catch-up classes were carried out three afternoons a week. English was taught on Mondays, Mathematics on Tuesdays, and social studies and agriculture on Fridays. All these were based on the Uganda curriculum and the text books used in Ugandan primary schools. The children were divided into two groups: the lower primary classes (the level of P1 to P4) and the upper primary classes (P5 and above). After the lecture, the children were given exercises as home work. Exams were conducted at the end of the term and rewards given to the best students.

The catch-up classes were among the most popular activities in the centre

The catch-up classes were meant to bridge the education gap between the time before abduction and the re-entry into the formal school system. The objective was to encourage returnees to go back to school, help them catch-up with knowledge acquired before abduction, develop skills of listening, concentrating, reading, writing and counting, instil some degree of discipline into them, teach them to associate and share with others in the class. But above all, the catch-up classes were meant to encourage interest in education, even for those who had never gone to school, by lowering the threshold and building confidence in their learning capacity. For those who had spent a long time in captivity, always alert, always

on the move, the mere fact of sitting in a class room for an hour, trying to be attentive, was a real challenge. The catch-up classes were among the most successful activities in the centre. Attendance was high, also among the child mothers who were allowed to carry their babies along in the class room. Above all, the classes helped to keep their mind busy in a positive, constructive way and prevented them from pondering about the past. In that way, they played an important role in their emotional and psychological recovery. Vocational training In addition to catch-up classes, vocational training was organised for those who were unlikely to make it back to school – the older returnees and child mothers. They were taught tailoring, baking bread and hairdressing, skills which could give them a source of income after their return home. The tailoring lessons, three times a week, covered a variety of areas, ranging from threading and learning how to use the sewing machine, doing minor repairs, measuring and garment cutting. Some of the items they made included different types of skirts (box plate skirts, inverted, gathered, straight and pleated skirts). The students were also taught how to make baby dresses, baby pants, shorts, adult blouses and dresses.

Those unlikely to go back to school were taught skills which could give them a source of income

The baking course, three times a week, taught the girls how to make ‘mandazi’, small local breads which sell easily in the IDP camps. The girls who participated were given baking materials as part of their resettlement package, consisting of 5 litres of cooking oil, a carton of baking flour, half a dozen of baking powder, 5 kg of sugar, a baking pan, a rolling board and a pin. In addition, a two months hairdressing course was organised in 2005 by a professional hairdresser from Lira. The course included washing, treating, cutting and plaiting hair. The girls were able to practice in a hairdressing saloon in town for two weeks, which exposed them to a real working environment. At the end of the course, they received a degree and were given an assortment of shampoos to take home.

Health education Health education was carried out by the nurses once a week. It was aimed at teaching the returnees how to live healthy lives and protect themselves against contagious diseases. The lessons focussed on issues related to reproductive health, personal hygiene and preventive care against the main killing diseases: malaria, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, diarrhoea, worms and meningitis. Other issues tackled were depression, nutrition and a balanced diet, the need for immunisation, alcoholism and first aid in case of accidents, electricity shocks, snake bites and nose bleeding. There were special sessions for the girls on mother and child care, signs and symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS. A lot of emphasis was put on family planning.

There were special health education sessions for the girls

In addition, two workshops ‘reproductive health’ were held at Lira Hotel, facilitated by two district health officers and the district probation and social welfare officer. Both boys and girls were taught about body changes when growing up, signs and symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, family planning, child rights, child abuse, child responsibility and talent skills. There were also several information workshops given by the AIDS Information Centre. The results of health education were seen immediately. The centre’s residents would start bathing more, clean and wash their clothes more vigorously, cut their hair and nails and sleep under mosquito nets. Others went for voluntary testing on HIV and other STDs, while mothers would take their children for immunisation. It is important here to mention that, contrary to the general belief, very few returnees had AIDS. In fact, of the 129 returnees at Rachele centre who tested voluntarily, only one was found HIV positive. According to many testimonies from former abductees, Kony observed a strict policy of AIDS control. LRA commanders took girls as ‘wives’ at a very young age,

assuring they are not infected with HIV/AIDS. In the past ‘wives’ of LRA commanders who died of AIDS were tested at Juba Hospital. When found positive, they were not distributed to other commanders in order to contain the spread of the disease. Sports and games After 4 p.m. every day, there was time for sports and games. Football, table tennis, volleyball and badminton were popular among the boys, while netball was popular among the girls. Gymnastics and athletics were also encouraged. Football contests would be organised with the neighbouring Railways Primary School, or between the children and the staff, which would attract a lot of spectators, including from the district authorities, foster integration and break stigmatisation.

Every day after 4pm there was time for sports and games

Music and dance Music and dance are embedded in African culture. They create a feeling of togetherness and happiness and are a way of setting free even the most withdrawn and depressed. Every night after dinner, the children would organise their own disco, with the DJ on duty playing popular Ugandan and African songs, and the children and staff at the centre, including those born in captivity, dance until bed time – 9 pm. One afternoon a week, there was time for practicing traditional dances, which would then be performed for the next group of visitors. At holidays like New Year and Easter, the children

would prepare a four-hour show with their dances and songs. Twice, the centre hosted famous singer Roslyn Otim and her cousin, Bosmik Otim, who entertained the children at the centre and the neighbouring camp for hours.

Traditional dance and music was an important part of the counselling

Religious education As prayers were considered an important source of comfort, religious education was held on Saturday afternoons. A priest would come to the centre to hear confessions of those who wanted to confess, to prepare the child mothers for the baptism of their children, or to prepare mass of the next day. As the centre did not want to impose any religion, two masses were organised on Sunday mornings: a catholic mass and a protestant mass. On holidays like Easter or Christmas, mass baptisms were carried out, both of children born in captivity and from children at the centre who wanted to take on a new name and start a new life. Problems encountered The majority of the returnees opened up and turned into cheerful, disciplined and helpful children who could not be distinguished from any other kids. They would play, dance, sing, attend classes, ask questions and freely talk about their time in captivity and what they wanted to be in future. For a minority of child mothers, however, the bond with their captor could not be broken. They kept an ambiguous relationship with the man who raped and abused them. They were torn between the abuses they suffered, the attachment to the father of their children, and the

consideration that no other man would marry them and they would be unable to sustain their children. Moreover, girls who had served as wives to senior LRA commanders not only suffered loss of standing and esteem, they found themselves in a society where they were castigated as loathed as ‘wives of Kony’.
Case study: Cecilia (28) Cecilia had been abducted for 16 years and returned with four children from LRA leader Joseph Kony. She had been rescued a first time in 1996 but ran back to the LRA. When she arrived at Rachele Centre in December 2004, she was sturdy and angry with her rescuers, whom she blamed for her present situation. She would refuse to do any work in the centre and shout orders at the other girls. She did not participate in most of the activities. As she had been Kony’s second most important wife and a commander, she was feared by the other children. In individual counselling sessions, she called Kony a “good man” and defended his actions. Up to the end, she declined to say a bad word about the LRA leader and stopped others from talking badly about him. When asked about her future, she refused all the options given to her to make a living for her and her children. She refused to go back to school, did not want to go for vocational training and was not interested in an income generating activity. After she was reunited with her family in Gulu, Cecilia joined a peace delegation to Garamba National Park. Today, she is back with Kony. Her oldest child of 14, called Saleh, is one of Kony’s bodyguards.

Though a lot of literature exists about the Stockholm Syndrome, there is very little information available on how to handle these kind of cases and how to break the bond, provided this was the recommended course of action. Presuming that 66,000 children were abducted over the years, 37% of them females and 18% of those child mothers - 90% of whom spent four years and more in captivity -, almost 5,000 girls in Northern Uganda might be struggling with the Stockholm Syndrome, arguably the highest number in the world.

Family Tracing and Reunion
Family tracing started the moment the children arrived at the centre. Most parents from Lira and Apac spontaneously came to the centre to check if their children had arrived when the hand-over of new returnees was announced over the radio. Thus the centre received a constant stream of visiting relatives. During the three years of the project, a total of 1,800 parents visited the centre. They could be categorised in two groups: those who found their children at the centre and were overwhelmed with joy, and those who did not find their children and had to be consoled. Both groups needed support as it was always an emotional moment. Parents would be shocked to find their children in such a pathetic state, or fear their children who had been rebels, while children would reject their parents, blaming them silently for failing to protect them.

Rachele centre witnessed some very emotional reunion scenes

More difficult was the family tracing in other districts. The names of the parents had to be read on the local radio stations, informing them in a subtle way that their children had returned as not to make them a target for rebel reprisals. Most children stayed an average of one to two months at Rachele Rehabilitation Centre. The seriously wounded, sick or malnourished stayed until they had fully recovered. Pregnant girls were generally kept until after giving birth. The centre adopted this policy after it experienced that many girls suffered from depression and distress during labour and delivery time, as shown by the case study below: The counsellors, in consultation with the nurses, decided when the child was ready for reunion. Children were considered ready to go home when they showed no more signs of trauma, had started to build relationships with other children at the centre, were physically healthy and were making plans for the future. A reunion letter was then issued for each child, signed by the Resident District Commissioner of Lira, which served as a document to obtain the amnesty card. As some children were fearful to go home, especially those who were forced to commit atrocities in their villages, family visits were organised prior to reunion. For example, a total of 129 visits were conducted between September 2004 and September 2005. As some children had been abducted from home, after which the parents fled, visiting an IDP camp was another way of accustoming them with the new reality of the family. Children from Pader, Lira, Apac, Gulu and Teso were taken home by road. UPDF provided escorts for Pader district and some areas of Gulu, Apac and Lira. Children from Kalongo

(Pader-East) and Kitgum were taken home by charter planes because of the availability or airstrips and the insecurity on the road. As the project had no budget for chartering planes, UNICEF and Samaritans Purse funded the flights. A report was written on each reunion by the social worker accompanying the child home.

Children from Kitgum were taken home by plane.

Reunion scenes could be heartbreaking

Problems encountered Though a time-consuming exercise, tracing relatives and reunion seldom failed, thanks to the African extended family system. Even when the parents had died, there were always grandparents, aunts or uncles ready to take up the child. This was, however, less obvious with children born in captivity who came back on their own. According to the Ugandan law, a child born to an unmarried mother belongs to the mother’s family. When a child born in captivity returned unaccompanied, because the mother had either died or stayed behind, the centre had to look for the maternal grandparents and convince them to accept the child. Thus the centre was ‘stuck’ for almost two years with two unaccompanied children: Lukwiya (6), whose mother, one of the Aboke girls, had been killed during fighting, and Okwera (5), who had escaped without the mother. Both boys had the same father, LRA commander Raska Lukwiya.
Case study: Lukwiya Lukwiya’s grandparents at first refused to adopt the boy because he reminded them in a painful way of their daughter who had been abducted and raped by one of the LRA top commanders. Moreover, the family had been accused by neighbours of collaboration with the rebels. The centre had to organise several family meetings before the grandfather finally gave up his resistance and accepted to take the child. The condition, however, was that the child’s name be changed to Ojek Peter and the community be sensitised. Rachele Centre then organised a show of its sensitisation drama ‘Kidi ame ogedo okwero’ in the area (see later), which helped in having the child accepted by the community.

Lukwiya (left) and Okwera

Okwera is no longer alone in the world

Case study: Okwera The second boy, Okwera, was too small to even remember the name of his mother. When the helicopter bombed them, he ran in a different direction of his mother and walked for 10 km on his own to the nearest army detachment. He was brought to the centre on March 1, 2004. With the help of other girls in the centre, the mother was identified as ‘Nighty’ from Koch Goma in Gulu. The social worker hired a motor cycle and drove around the area but failed to trace the relatives. On his way back, he stopped at a bar where people told him Nighty’s brother, called Ocayotoo, worked at a garage in Gulu town. But upon reaching the place, the man concerned got scared and told the social worker Ocayotoo had just left. The social worker left his telephone number and told the man: “When he returns, ask him to call me. We are having his sister’s son in our centre.” The next day his grandmother travelled all the way to Lira to see her grandson. The reunion was moving. After two years, Okwera was no longer alone in the world

2.2. Community Follow-up
Monitoring As the number of returnees received at the centre went down and larger areas in northern Uganda became accessible, more focus, staff and resources were put in the second pillar of the project: community follow-up, reintegration and long-term socio-economic recovery through skills training, income generating activities and education. Though most children had been visited at least once in the course of the project, a more comprehensive evaluation was carried out between September and December 2006. A total of 1032 children were visited during this final round and checked on health, social status, economic situation and psychological condition (see list in annex 3). An interview guide was designed with the help of a Masters’ student Psychology of the Catholic University of Louvain. Radio announcements were made to mobilise the children to be at home (see form below). For those who were at school, their families were interviewed and the information was later cross-checked with the children. The survey covered the districts of Lira, Apac, Oyam, Pader, Soroti, Katakwi and Amuria Districts. The results were analysed and graded in good (less than 2 symptoms), fair (2 to 3 symptoms) and poor (more than 3 symptoms).

Psychologically, three quarter of the children were doing fine, one fifth could be categorized as fair while 6% still had serious psychological problem. The most common complaints were nightmares, fear of anything in particular of re-abduction, and being vigilant all the time.
Psychological status of children visited

Poor 6%

Fair 20%

Good 74%

Socially most children felt accepted. A majority (90%) said they were going to school, were playing with their friends, felt accepted by their peers and were treated well by the community. Only 1% was found in a bad situation, while 9% were fair. However, quite a number said they were called names, such as Kony rebel, child of tong tong (hacker), Vincent Otti or wife of Kony. Some complained that even their parents called them rebels.
Social status of children visited

P oor 1%

Fair 9%

Good 90%

Health-wise, three quarters had less than two complaints and were categorised as good, while 4% had serious health problems. The majority of the children complained of frequent or occasional chest pain as a result of carrying heavy loads. Others still feel pain from the wounds sustained in captivity or have bomb splinters still embedded in their bodies. Common health problems, though not always related to the bush, are headache, malaria, cough, eye problems and diarrhea.
Health status of children visited

Poor 4%

Fair 19%

Good 77%

Economically, the returnee children scored the lowest: 31% was categorised as good, 34% fair and 35% poor. More than 75% of all those surveyed said they were surviving on one meal a day and over 95% said they did not have cattle, goats, chicken or bicycles, which are wealth indicators in the region. The majority said they were living on handouts from World Food Programme. These observations were made everywhere the children were visited and are connected with the massive displacement and destruction of property and livelihoods as a result of the war. The formerly abducted children have been particularly affected as their homes were attacked, looted and often burned down by the rebels, relatives were beaten up or killed and survivors fled to IDP camps.
Economic status of children visite d

P oor 35%

Fair 34%

Good 31%

During the community follow-up visits, there was close cooperation with the Community Volunteer Counsellors, trained by Unicef and Save the Children, who carry out recreational activities and additional counselling in the IDP camps. The CVCs would mobilise formerly abducted children in the camp, brief the team on problems with specific children and help in recommending solutions, which could sometimes be referring the child back to the centre.
Case study: Christine Christine (then 14) tried to run away when the LRA attacked her home on October 28, 2003. Unfortunately, the rebels caught up with her and abducted her and her brother. They made her lie down, beat her seriously and stepped on her with gumboots. Then, they covered her with dry grass of the root of a hut and set her ablaze. She pretended she was dead. In excruciating pain, she then walked to a nearby homestead where she found an old woman who had also been tortured and burned by the LRA. A relative later found her and took her to Lira Hospital. As the hospital had no facilities to treat her, the nurse of Rachele Centre took her to Kampala International Hospital, where she stayed for five weeks. When Christine arrived in the centre on December 6, 2003, she was weak, fearful, suffered lack of concentration and low self-esteem. It took her several months to recover, both physically and psychologically. She was eventually reunited with her family on May 5, 2004. As Christine was not interested in going back to school, she was given assorted goods as an income-generating activity. When visited on October 11, 2006, the girl appeared well integrated in the community and able to make a living for herself with the profit of her little shop. The value of her stock was estimated at sh410,000. Psychologically, however, she is still fearful and sensitive to loud noises. She also feels guilty over the abduction of her brother.

Case study: Paul It is almost a miracle that Paul is alive. Abducted from his home in Katakwi in June 2003, at the age of 11, he was tied and forced to walk long distances. He witnessed several captives being killed for trying to escape or walking too slowly. Paul had to participate three times in killing another child, by beating them to death with a stick. He received a basic military training in one of the rebels’ hide-outs in Gulu. He was taught how to parade and assemble and dismantle a gun. Then he was sent into the battlefield to confront the UPDF. He suffered severe hunger and thirst. At one point, in February 2004, he was so malnourished and weak that he could no longer walk. The rebels abandoned him. He was found by UPDF soldiers and brought to Rachele Centre. By the time Paul arrived, his survival chances were considered slim. He had to be put on a drip and monitored day and night. Later, he had to be given special feeding to regain strength. It took four weeks before he was able to walk. He was reunited with his family on March 29, 2004. During the community follow-up in November 2006, Paul said he was physically healthy and felt accepted by the community. He is schooling in Madera Boys Primary School, where he is considered an outstanding student: well behaved, disciplined and performing well. He plays with his pals and feels accepted by his friends. He only complains of lack of sleep, being on guard all the time and sensitive to loud noises.

Income generating Activities
The majority of children were abducted from rural areas. Their families lived on subsistence farming and were poor. After their return from captivity, most children were reunited in IDP camps, where conditions are deplorable. Families cannot afford a meal twice a day or meet basis needs in terms of soap, clothes, school requirements and medical care. Many returnees were unable or unwilling to go back to school for various reasons. Some had spent many years in captivity and they found themselves too old to go back to primary school. Others discovered their parents had died and they had to take over as household heads. Others returned with children born in captivity and had to find a source of income to look after them. Rachele Centre, therefore, provided goods for income-generating-activities (IGA) to help them earn a living and look after their children or other family members. Selection criteria for the IGA programme were: • there was no clear source of income in the family • they were not assisted by any other organisation • they were living in an IDP camp • they were orphans • they were not in the sponsorship programme • they lived in a child headed family

Based on the first community follow-up round, a total of 1,363 returnees were identified for IGA in Lira, Apac and Pader. In addition, a total of 158 children who finished vocational training courses under the sponsorship programme received tools for tailoring, carpentry, construction and mechanics to help them set up a small business. (see total list annex 4). As it would have been discriminatory to admit only children from Rachele Centre into the IGA programme, returnees from other centres were also included provided they had valid amnesty cards and letters from centres. Thus, of the total of 1521 beneficiaries, only one third, or 475, passed through Rachele Centre while two thirds or 1,046 passed through other centres.

Beneficiaries IGA according to centre

Rachele Centre 31%

Other centres 69%

Restaurant items given as IGA

Items given for IGA included: • Assorted goods to start up a small shop: 1 bag of salt, 1 bag of sugar, 1 jerry can of cooking oil, 1 jerry can of paraffin and 1 box of washing soap. • Charcoal: 5 bags per child/family • Silver fish: 2 bags per child/family • Bicycle: 1 bicycle per child/family • Bicycle + bag of posho • Sewing machine • Toolbox for auto mechanics • Carpentry kit • Building tools • Assorted goods to start a small restaurant: 5 kg of posho, 5 kg of beans, 5 kg of sugar, 1 set of plastic plates, 1 set of plastic dishes, 2 metallic trays, 1 set of plastic cups, 2 serving spoons, 2 washing dishes, 2 buckets for keeping water, 2 tables, 2 benches and 5 litres of cooking oil • Baking kit: 1 carton of baking floor, 15 packets of baking powder, 5 kg of sugar, 1 baking pan, 2 baking ladles, 1 rolling board, 1 rolling pin,10 litres of cooking oil, 2 trays and 2 buckets

Three training workshops in Business Management, each lasting two weeks, were held at Rachele Rehabilitation Centre. A total of 946 IGA beneficiaries from the districts of Lira, Apac and Pader attended the training. The first business management training took place from April 24 to May 7, 2006, with a total of 350 participants from Apac. The second workshop was organised from August 21 to September 3, 2006 for 336 returnees from Pader district. The third training took place from December 11-22, 2006 with a total of 262 participants from Lira district. The aim of the training was to equip the returnees with knowledge and skills to start up, manage and market a small enterprise. One lecture focused on the value and importance of work. Others focused on how to do a market study, draw up a basic business plan, keep records of stock and sales, manage, re-invest and expand the business. Yet, other lectures were about basic accountancy, opening a bank account, developing a culture or saving and assess indicators of success. In order to diversify the income-generating activities and spread the risks, the beneficiaries were trained on farming (nutritional food, commercially viable crops and pest control), poultry keeping, including brooding and disease treatment of chickens, turkeys and ducks, baking bread and bee-keeping to produce honey. A day of art and handicraft (clay work, mats, candle holders, baskets, winnower and decoration) was added for those talented enough to make a living out of art. Besides, there were lectures on children’s rights and responsibilities, social coping skills, adolescent reproductive health, family planning, HIV/AIDS, prevention of mother to child transmission, and promotion of safe infant feeding. Girls were taught how to say no to sugar daddies and free gifts from men, while boys were advised to resist peer pressure to have early sex, avoid alcohol and early marriages. A last component of the course was how to set up a cooperative: the election, duties and responsibilities of each member of the community group, such as the chairman, the vicechairman, the secretary, the treasurer and the other members. At the end of the course, the participants received a certificate (details business management course – annex 5).

Participants are taught how to bake bread

At the end the participants received a certificate

Implementation of the IGA programme took place at the IDP camp or the village where the child was reunited. The hand-over of the items was accompanied by a basic training on business management and, in the case of the delivery of baking materials, a two days baking course. Below is the break-down of IGA per item given:
Income-generating-activities per item given
700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0
go od s



158 155 128







go at s


In the second half of 2006, the social workers of Rachele Centre carried out an assessment of the IGA programme. A total of 985 beneficiaries – or 65% of the total number – were visited, their stock was valued and their cash counted. Those who had made a profit were graded as ‘good’, break-even was graded as ‘fair’, while those who had made a loss were graded as ‘poor’ (see list IGA beneficiaries monitored – annex 6). Over-all 24% had made a loss. The main reasons cited were theft, destruction of their goods due to fire (particularly in Acholibur IDP camp) and sickness of a relative which forced them to sell off the goods to cater for the hospital bill. Over half of all beneficiaries had made a profit, some in a spectacular way, while 22% had neither made a profit nor a loss.
Pe rforma nce income -ge ne ra ting-a ctivitie s

P OOR (loss ) 24%

FA I R (breakev en) 22%

is h bi cy cl e se ba ki w ng in g m kit ac hi ne re bi sta ur cy a cl e+ nt bu po sh ild o in g to ol s ch ar ca co rp en al try to be ki e ol bo ke t e x m pin ec g ha ni cs

as so rte d

si lv er f

GOOD (prof it) 54%

Case study: Kenneth Kenneth received assorted goods as an income-generating activity. He got 50 kg of sugar, 50 kg of salt, 20 liters of paraffin, 20 liters of cooking oil and 1 box of washing soap, amounting to sh180,000. He sold the goods with a profit and got sh300,000. As he found the market saturated with too many of the same goods, he decided to switch to medicines. When visited in August 2006, his stock comprised of Panadol, Dicrofanac, cough syrups, vitamins, Flufed and Paracetamol was valued at sh795,000. Besides, Kenneth had been able to raise the dowry and married the girl he loved. He is also supporting his younger brother at school.

Tonny received one beehive, he now has 30

Florence multiplied the goods she was given

Case study: Patrick Patrick was abducted in August 2002, at the age of 17. His father was killed at the time of his abduction. He escaped in May 2004 and was reunited with his family in Acholibur IDP camp in July 2004. Being the eldest boy in the family, Patrick could not go back to school because he had to look after his sister, brothers and mother. He got three bags of silverfish as an income-generating-activity, amounting to sh180,000. He sold them with a profit and made sh320,000, which he re-invested in his shop. Things were going well until his mother became sick. She was admitted in Kitgum Hospital. But because of poor medical services at the government hospital, he transferred her to St. Joseph Hospital, a missionary hospital. He had to spend both his basic capital and the profit he had made on meeting his mother’s medical bill. That is how his business collapsed.

When analysing the performance per item given, the bicycle and bag of posho was the most successful with 84% making a profit, followed by bicycle (70% profit) and assorted goods (63%). Restaurant performed the poorest, 64% registered a loss. The reason given was that most could not afford the money for rent of a stall. Second worst was charcoal because of over-saturation of the market. The baking kit also performed below average. The reason given was that they could not afford the transport to go and buy flour in the town.

Most successful actvities (fair and good)
100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%
M ac






70% 53% 50% 36%





hi ve




Bi cy c

go o

kin g


ha r


Si lv er

rte d





wi n



When breaking up the findings per location, there are huge differences from district to district. Apac had the highest success rate with 78% of all IGA beneficiaries making a profit, followed by Lira (51%) and Pader (44%). This reflects the reality of the war-situation and the purchasing power of the people. Whereas the majority of the population had returned to their villages in Apac and about half in Lira, where they can get some income from agriculture, the majority of the people in Pader were still living in IDP camps, where most have no source of income.
IGA performance Apac
IGA performance Lira

Bi cy

cl e





IGA performance Pader

fair 5%

poor 17%

poor 22%

poor 28%
good 51%


es ta



ur an
good 44%



good 78%

fair 27%




fair 28%


Sponsorship programme
Education and skills training is one of the most effective ways to foster rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers: the children return to a structured and disciplined environment, they socialise with peers and are able regain self-esteem and self-confidence. Moreover, they are given a perspective in life and an alternative to the army. The sponsorship programme is the contribution of Sponsoring Children Uganda to the project. It is financed with the revenues of the book ‘Aboke Girls’, lectures given by the author and private donations from sponsors, mainly in Belgium, Holland and Italy. It started in the year 2000 with 25 students. By 2006, a cumulative total of 3,187 children from Gulu, Lira, Kitgum, Apac, Pader and Teso were enrolled in the programme, including 400 children born in captivity (see list annex 7). The selection criteria for the beneficiaries of the sponsorship programme are: • Children who took long in captivity (six months and above) • Children who got wounded and disabled in captivity • Child mothers • Children born in captivity. • Children who were abducted for two months and above and are orphans Before 2004, the school fees were paid through three partner organisations, World Vision, GUSCO and Concerned Parents’ Association (CPA). However, there was inadequate monitoring of students’ presence in the schools. Some students only collected the money from the partner organisation but never went to school. Another problem was that the students were scattered in over 200 schools in Gulu district, and over 60 schools in Lira and Apac districts. Some were located in insecure areas in the country-side. This made monitoring and payment of school fees both difficult and dangerous. In 2004, the sponsorship programme was therefore restructured. Cash payment to students was stopped and school fees were paid directly to the schools by cheque or bank transfer. In addition, a scholastic package was given to each student (see below). Before payment, the education officer of Sponsoring Children Uganda visited all the schools and checked if the students were at school. The number of schools was reduced in order to ensure better monitoring. A total of 76 schools were selected in the districts of Lira, Apac, Gulu, Pader, Kitgum, Soroti and Katakwi. Criteria used were: • Schools with good academic record, performance and discipline • Schools that were easily accessible and with adequate facilities in terms of structures and recreational grounds • Schools with adequate security to minimise the risk of re-abduction • Schools that fell within the organisation’s budget limitations

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47

District Apac Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Gulu Jinja Kampala Kampala Kampala Kampala Kitgum Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira

School Lore Core PTC Alliance High School Awere Senior Secondary School Gulu Bishop Angelo Negri College Flora Day Care and Nursery School Gateway Nursery School Gulu Central High School Gulu College Gulu Core Primary Teachers College Gulu High School Gulu Parents Comprehensive College Gulu Police Primary School Gulu Prison P.7 School Gulu Public Primary School Gulu Senior Secondary School Highland Primary School Holy Rosary Nursery School Holy Rosary Primary School Kasubi Central Primary School Keyo Secondary School Gulu Koch Goma Secondary School Lacor Seminary Lwani Memorial College, Atiak Mary Immaculate Primary School Negri Primary School Pece Primary School Sacred Heart Secondary School Sir Samuel Baker School Gulu St. Joseph's College Layibi St.Joseph's Technical School Unifat Primary and Nursery School Unity Vocational Training School Universal Standard College Lord's Meade Comprehensive College Jinja Bishop Kihangire SS Namiryango SSS Kampala (Lillian Adokorach) Seroma Christian High School St. Kizito Bugolobi SS Kitgum Comprehensive College Aduku Secondary School Adwari Secondary School Adwoki Technical School Amuca SDA Secondary School Apala Secondary School Ave Maria Vocational Training Centre Bright Light College Comboni College

48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76

Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Lira Mbale Pader Pader Pader Pader Soroti Teso Teso Teso Teso Teso Teso

Dr.Obote College Fountain Boarding Primary school Human Technical Development School Lango College Lira Integrated School Lira Parents School Nancy Primary School of Deaf (Apio Proscy) Okwang Secondary School Rachele Comprehensive Secondary School Railways Primary School St Mary's Primary School St. Francis Primary School St. Katherine Girls SS St. Kizito Nursery School St. Mary's College Aboke Uganda College of Commerce Uganda Technical College Hamdan Girls SS Mbale Oret Technical School Pajule College Rackoko ABC School St. Charles Lwanga´s College, Kalongo Teso College Halcyon High School Katakwi Primary School Madera Boys Boarding Primary School Soroti Demonstration Boarding School St Mary's Girls' SSS Madera Uganda Martyrs' Vocational Institute Aminit

Teachers from the above schools were given skills on how to handle traumatised children, in particular formerly abducted children. Three workshops for a total of 250 teachers were organised on: ‘Enhancing school-based psychosocial support and care for war affected children’. The school masters were invited for the opening session, in which the sponsorship programme was explained in detail. The two-day workshops were organised on August 2425, 2004 at Lira Hotel (for the teachers of Lira and Apac), on August 26-27, 2004 at Acholi Inn (for the teachers of Gulu) and on August 18-19, 2006 in Lira Hotel for the teachers of Rachele Comprehensive Secondary School. Apart from school fees, boarding fees and examination fees, the organisation provides each term a scholastic package to the children in the sponsorship programme, consisting of: • One dozen of 96 pages exercise books • Five pens and two pencils • Three rolls of toilet paper • Mathematical set and ruler (first term only) • School bag (first term only) • Two school uniforms (first term only)

Distribution of school packages in Lira

Teachers from Lira visit Rachele Centre as part of the training

Because of the overwhelming needs in the IDP camps in Pader district, the organisation provided a scholastic package to an additional 456 formerly abducted children in Rackoko, Puranga, Patongo, Pajule, Lapul, Lukole, Lapul, Pader Town, Lira Palwo, Kalongo and Adilang IDP camps. The package consisted of a school bag, 12 exercise books, 5 pens, 3 pencils and a T-shirt (see list beneficiaries school package - annex 8). Monitoring The children are visited at their schools every term. They have to write to their sponsors in Europe two times a year and communicate to them their future plans in drawings. The school has to submit copies of the report cards to the organisation. In addition, they have to fill in a monitoring tool, assessing each student’s attendance, behaviour and performance. The data are then entered into a database and analysed. Data compiled in 2005 found that 87% of the children in the sponsorship programme attended classes regularly, 11% attended fairly, while for 2% the attendance was poor. This went up in 2006: attendance was good for 92% of the children, fair for 7% and poor for 1%. The improved attendance was a result of the fact that most children opted for boarding schools, thus relieving them of the social and economic pressures at home, the problem of daily transport and the fear of being re-abducted on the way. The improved figures are also a result of intense sensitisation on the importance of early reporting and attending classes regularly.

Atte ndance 2005

Attendance 2006

Poor 2%

Fair 11%

Poor Fair 1% 7%

Good 87%

Good 92%

In terms of behaviour, 85% did well in 2005, 14% fairly and 1% poorly. This dropped slightly in 2006: 82% showed good behaviour, 16% fair and 2% poor. Nevertheless, the high figures contradict the general belief that formerly abducted children are unruly, aggressive and difficult to handle. In fact, the children in the sponsorship programme were found so well behaved that headmasters in 2006 asked the organisation to send more children to their schools.
Be haviour 2005

Be haviour 2006

Poor 1%

Fair 14%

Poor 2%

Fair 16%

Good 85%

Good 82%

As to performance, 44% scored well in 2005, 44% fairly, while 12% performed poorly. These figures were more or less the same in 2006, with 43% performing well, 45% fairly and 12% poorly. They reflect the normal learning capacity and intelligence of children in an average school in Uganda.
Performance 2005
Pe rform ance 2006

Poor 12% Fair 44% Good 44%
Good 43%

Poor 12% Fair 45%

Case study: Joe Joe was with his father alone at home when the rebels attacked on New Year’s Day 2001. His father pleaded. ‘Please, do not take my son away. He is the only one I have’. But the rebels beat him up and tied his hands behind his back. They marched them into the village square. Joe stayed close to his father. “He kept telling me not be afraid, that the rebels would not harm us”, Joe recalled. They started marching into the bushes. His father was in great pain. “Every time he tried to tell me something, he was beaten. He was bleeding from his head and mouth.” After some kilometres, the commander stopped the convoy. His father was tied against a tree. The commander came to Joe and said: ‘You must decide who of you will live’. Joe started crying. “He gave me a gun, pointed it at my father and told me to shoot him”, the boy said. “I refused. I was trembling all over my body. The commander then ordered my father to be untied and to kill me instead. At that point, I screamed and said I would kill my father. I was given the gun, aimed it at my father and shot him.” Joe escaped in December 2002. He was enrolled into the sponsorship programme in 2003 and went to All Saints College in Gulu. But in 2004 he disappeared. He was traced back through relatives in early 2006. He had dropped out of school because fellow students knew he had killed his father. He was admitted into a good school in Kampala under a false name. He is now in S3 and performing well.

University programme The five best performers in S6 every year are selected for the university scholarship programme, financed with the revenues of the book of Jef Vermassen. Fifteen formerly abducted children have benefited so far. Of those, five have already graduated. Another five have been selected to start in August 2007. Below is the list of beneficiaries of the sponsorship programme.

Beneficiaries of the university programme

University students
Akallo Grace Ochitti Agnes

Mukono University Makerere University

Mass Communication Law

Duration Remarks
3 years 4 years Graduated, went for furter studies to US Graduated, went for practicum at ICC in The Hague, got a job with AVSI (Italian NGO) Graduated, got a job at State House Graduated, got a job at Entebbe Zoo Graduated, worked at Rachele School, went for further studies in Zimbabwe Started in Sept. 2005 Started in Sept. 2005 Started in Sept. 2005 Started in Sept. 2005 Started in Sept. 2005

Lolem Josephine Alopo Barbara Acio Esther

Makerere University Makerere University Nkozi University Gulu University Gulu University Gulu University Gulu University Gulu University Gulu University Gulu University Gulu University Gulu University Gulu University Gulu University Gulu University Gulu University Gulu University Gulu University

Development Studies Wildlife Management Development Studies

3 years 3 years 3 years

Okumu Charles Arop Julius Odong Kenneth Oyet Komakech Nyeko Morris Ongany Joel

Public Administration Education Public Administration Education Secretarial & Information Management Education Computer Science Public Administration Public Administration Development Studies

3 years 3 years 3 years 3 years 2 years

Onek Patrick Sam Oryema Welbone Denis Odong Wilbert Lapyem Walter Adyero Monica Arach Janet Okwera Joe Achora Proscovia Bongomin David Komakech Robert

3 years 3 years 3 years 3 years 3 years 3 years 3 years 3 years 3 years 3 years

Started in Sept. 2006 Started in Sept. 2006 Started in Sept. 2006 Started in Sept. 2006 Started in Sept. 2006 To start in August 2007 To start in August 2007 To start in August 2007 To start in August 2007 To start in August 2007

Case study: Patrick Patrick was abducted in Gulu in 1995. When the rebels came, he got hold of his 13-year-old brother, Joseph, and tried to escape. But other rebels on the lookout grabbed them. They were tied up and ordered to march. His brother tried to run away but he was captured. A rebel commander called Okuti was ordered to carry out his execution. “Okuti called me. He gave me an axe and ordered me to kill my brother”, said Patrick. “I couldn’t move. I just stared at my little brother lying in front of me, his hands tied behind his back. He was begging God for mercy.” The rebels urged him to hurry up. “If I refused, they would kill both of us”, Patrick continued. “They pointed the bayonets at the end of their guns at me and wanted to pierce me. Tears rolled down my face when I killed my little brother. I hit him three times on the back of his head with an axe.” At that moment, Patrick just wanted to die. “I stood still, hoping that the rebels would kill me. But then, as if somebody else took control of my body, I walked aside when the rebels told me to do so.” Patrick was taken into the sponsorship programme in 2002. He struggled to get through secondary school. He failed S6 in Gulu College and had to repeat the year in Koch Goma. But eventually he succeeded. He passed with two principal passes for A’levels in 2005 and qualified for the university sponsorship. Patrick is now studying Bachelor’s in Education at Gulu University.

Problems encountered One major challenge faced in previous years was the high drop-out rate. Reasons for children dropping out varied. Some girls became pregnant and were sent away from school. Some children became orphans and were forced to stay at home to look after brothers and sisters. Others simply migrated to other parts of Uganda and did not inform the organisation of their whereabouts. Yet, others faced social problems at home (lack of food, electricity, space to study) and security problems on the way to school (risk of being re-abducted or killed). Stigmatisation by peers at school was another reason for some to stop schooling. Poverty as well played a role. Boys were force by their parents to sell charcoal, ride boda boda (bicycle taxi) or look after cattle to supplement the family’s income, while girls were encouraged to marry early because the family could not feed them and wanted the dowry. Lastly, lack of motivation made some lose interest in studying. Many schools in the waraffected areas were displaced. They lacked basic requirements such as chairs and text books, and the teachers were themselves displaced and struggling to survive. Most students in Pajule Technical School, for example, lost interest because the teachers and the headmaster preferred to stay in the relative comfort of the towns of Lira and Kitgum than in the sprawling IDP camp of Pajule.

The decision to channel all students to a limited number of good boarding schools, and the teachers’ training workshops on how to support war-affected children, helped a lot in providing additional counselling and considerably lowered the drop-out rate. In 2005, only 58 students dropped out, or 3.5 percent of the total.

2.3. Advocacy
Advocacy made out the third pillar of the project. The objective was to sensitise the local and international community about the plight of the abducted children, urge them to accept them back into society and advocate for justice, forgiveness and reconciliation. Karibu Radio Programme The radio programme ‘Karibu’, Kiswahili for ‘welcome’, on Radio Wa started in March 2004. It was hosted by Radio Wa presenter J.J. Kakaba and broadcasted live every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30pm to 10:30pm. In this programme, formerly abducted children from Rachele Rehabilitation Centre appeared live on the radio to tell the listeners about their abduction, life in captivity and their escape. Karibu became the most popular radio programme in Lira. Fr. John Fraser, Director of Radio Wa, estimated that up to 80 percent of the population of Lira District of 350,000 people were regular listeners of the programme.

Returnees convince their colleagues and former commanders to come out of the bush

It thus became a powerful tool to sensitise the community about the plight of abducted children, replacing hatred, rejection and fear towards the returnees with understanding and compassion, and to diffuse tribal tensions by showing that children from all tribes constituted the so-called ‘rebels’.

The main aim of the programme was to contribute to bringing about peace by convincing the rebels to lay down their arms, take advantage of the government’s amnesty act and come back home. Over one hundred LRA commanders, ranking from Second Lieutenant to Brigadier, surrendered between May 2004 and September 2005 bringing with them over 2,000 abducted children. The defected commanders were in turn hosted at the Karibu programme, calling for their colleagues to follow their example. Thus, powerful commanders like Sam Kolo, Keneth Banya and Onen Kamdule came out as a result of the convincing messages on Radio Wa and asked forgiveness to the children at Rachele Centre.

The first commanders return from the LRA and show up at Rachele Centre

The radio also proved to be an effective instrument in communicating to the parents that their children had returned, which was of great help in the family tracing. Finally, the programme was used to publicise the activities of Sponsoring Children Uganda, calling upon the students in the sponsorship programme to report to school, informing the returnees about upcoming community follow-up visits and advertising the sensitisation drama ‘Kidi Ame Igedi Okwero’ (see below). In order to sensitise the LRA commanders in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, several pre-recorded programmes were also broadcasted on Radio Paidha in Nebbi in 2005, which could reach areas up to Juba and Garamba National Park.

In 2006, the situation in Northern Uganda had changed dramatically. The number of LRA in the area, for whom the amnesty message was meant, had decreased. Indeed, it was not certain if any of the rebels were still listening to the Karibu programme. The programme was therefore revised. One programme a week still focused on the message of amnesty, reconciliation and conflict management, while the other two programmes focussed on issues of resettlement and reconstruction. New radio guests were introduced, such as the Amnesty Commission, the camp leaders, the District Disaster Management Coordinator, the Regional District Commissioner and ex-LRA commanders. The timing of the programme was also brought forward to target the community at large. At the end of the programme, an assessment on its impact was carried out among 16 camp leaders in Lira district. They included the following leaders: Name
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Oryem Salim Ocato Tom Omuge Martin Okello Polino Okello Lujino Ojap Peter Obua Sam Jaspine Opio Ayo Severino Opio Augustine Ojok Albino Akullu Hellen Ogwang Ismael Adinga Yoventino Odongo Buruno Okello Charles

camp leader camp leader camp leader LC1 chairman camp leader camp leader camp leader camp leader camp leader block leader block leader block leader camp leader camp leader camp leader camp leader

Aloi Camp Apala Camp Abia Camp Ngetta Bala Stock Farm Cultural Centre PCU camp Bar camp Starch Factory Ogure Camp Aller Camp Corner Dakatal Camp Lango PAG camp Railways Camp Orute camp

Asked if they knew the Karibu radio programme and listened to it regularly, all respondents answered ‘yes’. There also unanimous responded positively to the following questions: Do you think it contributed to: - a better understanding of what formerly abducted children went through - spreading the amnesty message - convincing LRA commanders to come out of the bush - giving information to parents about their missing children - more sympathy for formerly abducted children - a general spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation When asked what other effects the programme had, three replied that it had helped the authorities to spread the message of peace, eight said it had given hope to parents whose children were still abducted while four said it had contributed to unity between the Acholi and the Langi tribes.

Sensitisation and Advocacy Drama Problems of stigmatisation and rejection of formerly abducted children in the community, especially in the districts of Lira and Apac, prompted Sponsoring Children Uganda to do more than the Karibu radio programme. The immediate cause for starting a sensitisation play was an incident in May 2005, where a boy who was reunited in an IDP camp bit off the ear of a neighbouring woman because she had called him a ‘rebel’. The four hour play ‘Kidi Ame Igedi Okwero’ (literally: ‘The stone that was rejected by the builder’) was the result of numerous discussions between renown northern Ugandan actor and script writer, Laury Ocen, and the staff and children of Rachele Rehabilitation Centre. The play was about an abducted girl, Monica, who upon return from captivity was rejected by her boyfriend and the rest of the village. The area MP agreed to sponsor her studies. Monica eventually became a medical doctor and the pillar of development in the community, in the end marrying the son of the minister.

Monica is rejected by her boyfriend upon return from captivity The rebels attack Monica’s home

Key messages of the play were: • The need to care for formerly abducted children and accept them back into the community • The need for parents and teachers to be understanding and encourage children to study • The importance of the Amnesty Law to bring about peace in northern Uganda • The need to forgive each other and to continue working and living together • The disastrous affects of alcoholism, prostitution, forced marriage and theft • An appeal to the people to be alert and to the collaborators to change their mind • The need to preserve local culture and traditional values as a form of identity Over twenty amateur actors from Lira were contracted. After two months of rehearsals, the play was launched on September 9, 2005 in the Stadium of Lira by area MP Cecilia Ogwal, attended by an estimated 10,000 people. Speeches were also given by the LCV Chairman, the Deputy LCV and the Mayor of Lira.

The play was performed in 27 IDP camps in Lira district, attracting over 300,000 spectators. It was so successful that people traveled from far to view it and internally displaced people let the food distribution of WFP wait until after the show. Below is a table of performances. DRAMA PERFORMANCES
Date Place N° of Spectators

9 Sept. 2005 12 Sept. 2005 13 Sept. 2005 14 Sept. 2005 16 Sept. 2005 17 Sept. 2005 19 Sept. 2005 20 Sept. 2005 22 Sept. 2005 23 Sept. 2005 3 Oct. 2005 4 Oct. 2005 5 Oct. 2005 6 Oct. 2005 7 Oct. 2005 10 Oct. 2005 11 Oct. 2005 12 Oct. 2005 13 Oct. 2005 15 Oct. 2005 7 Nov. 2005 8 Nov. 2005 9 Nov. 2005 10 Nov. 2005 14 Nov. 2005 15 Nov. 2005 16 Nov. 2006

Akii Bua Stadium Orum IDP Camp Amugo IDP Camp Aloi IDP Camp Aromo IDP Camp Agweng IDP Camp Ogur IDP Camp Apala IDP camp Barr IDP Camp Bala IDP Camp Amolatar Dokolo Batta Omoro Alebtong IDP Camp Abia IDP Camp Amac Boroboro Ngetta Lira town (Mayor's garden) Aputi Kangai Agwata Adwari training centre Abako IDP camp Aler Lira Integrated School

9,000 8,000 10,000 12,000 10,000 10,000 15,000 9,000 20,000 12,000 7,000 11,000 5,000 6,000 8,000 13,000 8,000 10,000 3,000 35,000 4,000 20,000 8,000 7,000 15,000 15,000 16,000 306,000

Over 10,000 people attended the launch in Lira Stadium

The play evoked intense emotions

An assessment on the impact of the drama was carried out among the same camp leaders. Of the 16 respondents, two had not watched the play and said they could not comment, while one had not seen it but heard about it. Asked if it had contributed to a better understanding of what formerly abducted children went through, twelve of those who watched the play said ‘yes’, while one said ‘no’. All 13 concurred that the play had contributed to a better acceptance of former abductees in the community, a general spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation and the spreading of the amnesty message. When asked about any other effects, seven said it had reduced or stopped the stigmatisation of formerly abducted children while one said it had encouraged formerly abducted children to have hope in the future irrespective of what they had gone through. Visitors and Media The centre attracted visitors from all over the world, including from Denmark, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, US, UK, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Sierra Leone. A total of 1,805 people visited the centre between October 2003 and December 2006. These included well-wishers, diplomats, religious leaders, journalists, ministers, the President of Uganda, district officials, UN officials, students, former rebel commanders, teachers and children from the neighbouring Railways Primary School and volunteers. They all signed the centre’s visitors book. Below is the breakdown per category.
Visitors per category
1,600 1,500 1,400 1,200 1,000 800 600 400 90 200 0










Though the high number of visitors sometimes disrupted the activities, the centre’s policy was to welcome all visitors and regard them as a vehicle to expose the suffering of the children in northern Uganda and advocate for an end to the abductions and the conflict. Therefore, besides a tour of the centre and an address to the children, the visitors also had an opportunity to interact with individual children and listen to their stories. The presence of foreign visitors was also encouraging and reassuring for the children, who felt supported and liked, while it exposed them to other cultures. At the same time, it helped to get more sponsors for their studies.

w e di ll- w st ne r ic ish e ig t bo off rs ur ici al in s g sc ho st o ud l en ts na tio p na re l l ss ea re be vo der l c lun s om te m er s an d re sp ers lig on io us sor le s a m d er us s ici an s

Art workshop To develop the art skills among talented returnees, a two weeks art class was organised for 44 formerly abducted children in the sponsorship programme. They were selected on the basis of a drawing they had made for their sponsors in Belgium. The art class was both theoretical and practical and included the use of oil paint, the use of water paint and drawing on canvas. By the end of the course, the students had to be able to produce a good piece of art. The best art pieces were used so far in four art exhibitions, three in Belgium and one in Tanzania. The exhibitions aim at sensitising the international community about the reality and fate of child soldiers in Africa and advocate for a ban on the use of minors as soldiers in wars.

The art course served two purposes: to develop art skills in ex-child soldiers and sensitise the international community

Awareness-raising trip to Belgium In an effort to raise awareness about the situation of children in Northern Uganda, Sponsoring Children Uganda facilitated a trip to Belgium for a formerly abducted girl. Betty Ejang, who benefited from the sponsorship programme and is employed as a night nurse at Rachele Comprehensive Secondary School, was abducted from 1996 to 1998, turned into a soldier and a sexual slave of Joseph Kony. She featured in a documentary made by Goedele Liekens in the series ‘Strong Women’. During her stay in Belgium, Betty gave numerous interviews in newspapers and magazines. Amnesty Commission Sponsoring Children Uganda has been working closely together with the Amnesty Commission. A team of the Amnesty Commission visited the centre on a regular basis, registering the returnee children and issuing amnesty cards, while briefing them on the terms of the Amnesty Act and the Children’s Rights Statute. Participation in Peace Conferences and Workshops Every opportunity was seized to have social workers and formerly abducted children testify at conferences, donor meetings, workshops or radio programmes on peace and reconciliation in northern Uganda. The workshops and conferences attended included:

Review of Good Practice Principles for Reception Centres, organised by the Amnesty Commission/UNICEF, held in Gulu on April 29-30, 2005. Attended by director Okello Daniel and senior social worker Aja Joan. Media Skills for Reception Centre Staff, organised by the Department of Information of the American Embassy in Kampala, held in Lira on August 4-5, 2005. Attended by director Okello Daniel. Sexual and Gender Based Violence in IDP Camps, organised in Lira by CCF on September 8-9, 2005. Attended by Aja Joan. Sensitisation workshop organised by the Amnesty commission for district leaders of Lira and Apac on October 12, 2005. Attended by Aja Joan. Visit to Europe of Lira LCV Chairman, Mr. Ojur Franco, and Lira Deputy LCV Chairperson, Mrs. Otengo Rebecca. The programme included a meeting with officials at the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, a meeting with the Belgian sponsors, a visit to the International Criminal Court at The Hague and a meeting with the local authorities in Gent in view of a twinning arrangement between the district of Lira and the Province of East Flanders.

• • •

• • •

Sexual and gender based violence, organised by Unicef in Lira Hotel on April 14-20, 2006. Attended by social worker Christine Awor Ways of handling child mothers, organised by Save the Children in Gulu on August 20-23, 2006. Attended by Aja Joan. Tracing and Reintegration process for formerly abducted children, organised by the Ugandan Red Cross Society in Lira on November 27-28. Attended by Awor Christine

2.4. Rachele Comprehensive Secondary School
The objective of the project was to turn the centre into a school for war affected children once the need for a rehabilitation centre ceased to exist. In this way, the centre got a future destination and the facilities were not lost or abandoned. With the departure to Congo of the top LRA leaders, the start of the peace talks in July 2006 and the subsequent signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, the return of abducted children from captivity had reduced considerably. The last child arrived at the centre on September 12, 2006. In view of the altered political situation, it was found necessary to review the budget for the third year of the project so that, at the one hand, it continued offering the services of the rehabilitation centre, though in a reduced way, at the other hand it was meeting the longer term needs of war affected children in terms of education. At the same time, the organisation wanted to prepare the project for its future destination: a secondary boarding school with a capacity of 700 students. It therefore decided to open the school already at the beginning of 2006. In the transition period, the centre’s dormitories, kitchen, dining hall, clinic, conference hall, offices and entertainment facilities were to be shared between the children of the centre and the students of the school. Both the authorities of Lira District and of Lira Municipality insisted that the school be a comprehensive school, including also vocational courses, as to cater for the special needs of war affected and formerly abducted children. Thus, it was decided to also include courses like tailoring, carpentry, construction and technical drawing. The authorities also insisted that the school be mixed, with both private students and war affected children in order to enhance the integration of the latter group. Sponsoring Children Uganda had earlier received a budget from the Belgian government under the budget line ‘Peace Building’ for the construction of eight class rooms and an administrative building. The completed part of the school included: one administration building, containing two classrooms, two offices, two stores and six water closets toilets for staff two school blocks containing each two class rooms two school blocks containing each one class room one front gate with gatekeeper’s quarter one back gate one chain link fence surrounding the complete compound In order to meet the basic requirements for a secondary school, the following structures needed to be built: One library Two laboratories (one for chemistry and one for biology/physics) Workshop for vocational training Latrines for boys and girls Four more class rooms Energy saving stoves

As its own contribution, Sponsoring Children Uganda met the cost of the four additional class rooms. A revised budget for the third year was therefore handed in to the Belgian Government – and approved – to cover the cost of the additional structures, as well as other requirements for the school such as books, furniture, tools, basic carpentry equipment and wood, laboratory equipment and chemicals, computers, materials for construction, welding and grinding machines, sewing machines and textile materials, and music instruments.

Rachele Comprehensive Secondary School after completion

The senior social counseller at Rachele Rehabilitation Centre was appointed headmistress of the school by the Board of Sponsoring Children Uganda, while the deputy director of the centre was appointed the deputy director of the school. In preparation of the opening of the school, an advertisement was run in the local newspapers and on the local FM radio stations for vacancies to be filled for both teaching staffs and non-teaching staffs. Hundreds of applicants responded. Oral, written and practical interviews were conducted and a total of 19 teachers were selected. They include: - 2 teachers geography - 1 teacher history - 1 teacher history and religious education - 1 teacher mathematics - 1 teacher mathematics/physics - 1 teacher woodwork - 1 teacher fine art - 1 teacher music - 1 teacher English - 2 teachers accounts/commerce/entrepreneurship - 1 teacher biology/chemistry - 1 teacher political education - 1 teacher tailoring - 1 teacher agriculture - 1 teacher computer - 1 teacher chemistry/physics - 1 teacher home economics

Besides, 8 non-teaching staff members were taken on. They included: - 1 security guard - 1 secretary - 1 office assistant - 1 librarian - 1 laboratory assistant - 1 cleaner - 2 cooks Rachele Comprehensive Secondary School was inaugurated by President Yoweri Museveni on July 24, 2005. The school opened its doors on February 13, 2006 with an initial number of 225 students in Senior 1 and Senior 2. Of those, 74 or one third were private students and 151 or two thirds were formerly abducted children in the sponsorship programme (see list students per class – annex 9). CLASS S.1 A SEX Boys Girls Total Boys Girls Total Boys Girls Total Boys Girls Total PRIVATE STUDENTS 13 15 28 15 16 34 2 3 5 5 3 7 74 SPONSORED STUDENTS 45 9 54 45 3 48 20 3 23 20 5 26 151 TOTAL


S.1 B


S. 2 A


S. 2 B


33 225

Students at Rachele Comprehensive SS

Private 33%

Sponsored 67%

Rachele Comprehensive Secondary School adheres to the official Ugandan syllabus as laid out by the Uganda National Examinations Board. The students get the Uganda Certificate of Education after completing 0’level examinations (after four years), and the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education after completing A’level examinations (after six years). In the Ugandan school system, which follows the British system, there are six compulsory subjects: English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Geography. Besides, every student has to choose a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 4 optional subjects in order to meet the requirements of the Uganda Certificate of Examination. The optional subjects offered by Rachele Comprehensive Secondary School are History, Political education, Religious Education, Fine Art, Music and Agriculture. In addition, Rachele Comprehensive Secondary School also has a range of technical and business subjects in order to meet the specific needs of war affected children and guarantee them better opportunities for (self) employment. These subjects include: Tailoring, Home Economics, Woodwork, Technical Drawing, Commerce, Principles of Accounts, Computer Studies and Entrepreneurship skills.

Two thirds of the students at Rachele Comprehensive SS are former abductees

A number of committees were formed in the school. Among them were the disciplinary committee, responsible for handling cases of indiscipline among the students and give recommendations to the school management, the staff welfare committee, in charge of wellbeing of the staff, and the library committee, in charge of the use and maintenance of the library. There was a head of vocational subjects, a head of science and a head of art subjects. Their task was to check, maintain and improve the performances of each subject. Other responsibilities included the games and sports master, the career master, the examination and time-table master and the senior woman teacher. In addition, there were dorm masters, class teachers and stream teachers.

Students were not only encouraged to excel in academics but also to take part in extracurricular activities. To this effect, the following clubs and societies were established: CLUBS AND SOCIETIES
Time Thursday 4:30pm – 5:00pm Saturday 4:40pm – 5:00pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 5:00pm - 6:00pm Monday 4:40pm - 5:30pm Tuesday 4:40pm - 5:00pm Friday 4:40pm - 5:00pm Friday 4:40pm - 5:00pm Tuesday 4:40pm - 5:00pm Tuesday 4:40pm - 5:00pm Wednesday 4:40pm - 5:00pm Clubs/Societies Debating MDD/Entertainment Games and Sports Straight talk Wild life Scripture Union Guidance and counseling Environment Writers/Press Peace

The school year ran from February 13 to April 21 (1st term), May 22 – August 18 (2nd term) and September 18 – December 8 (3rd term). The school had two visitation days per term, one ‘ordinary’ visitation day and one ‘academic’ visitation day. During the latter, parents/guardians had the opportunity to discuss their child’s performance and behaviour in the presence of the class teacher. Though the school did not participate in the central government’s O’level and A’level examinations because it was only running S1 and S1, class examinations were organised five times in the school year: beginning of term exams, mid-term exams and end-of-term exams. During the holidays the students were given home work, which they had to present to the teachers on the day of arrival at the school (see teacher’s time-tables and evaluation reports per class – annex ). In January 2007, Rachele Comprehensive Secondary School was handed over to the diocese of Lira, which allocated the management to the Comboni Sisters. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the Bishop of Lira, including an inventory of all the assets of the school and items in the store. A copy of both the MOU and the inventory was sent to the Belgian embassy in Kampala and the Belgian Government. To support the running of the school in an initial stage, Sponsoring Children Uganda agreed to pay the salaries of the teachers for the first three months, up to the end of March 2007. The

organisation also handed over the school’s account, amounting to sh122,676,000 (approximately 55,000 euro), containing the school fees of the children in the sponsorship programme. Problems encountered One of the problems encountered was irregular electricity supply. Due to high voltage strikes, some of the wiring, computers and printers got damaged. Power cuts at night not only reduced the ability to study for the students, they also increased their fear and sense of insecurity. Before handing over the school, the wiring was therefore re-done to cater for the problem of voltage fluctuations. IV. Evaluation According to Unicef some 300,000 children are involved in armed conflicts worldwide. Hundreds of thousands more have been recruited and could be sent to the battle field any time. Half of the world’s child soldiers fight in Africa. Thousands of them have been forcibly recruited and/or abducted. Though the problem of child soldiers has been highlighted in recent years and a ban has been adopted in several UN conventions (i.e. the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Protocol on the Worst Forms of Child Labour), little research has been done on ‘good practices’ of the rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers. The project in northern Uganda will provide valuable information on attempts to rehabilitate and reintegrate both former child soldiers and girls victims of torture and sexual abuse in armed conflict. It could be used as a blueprint for rehabilitation initiatives in other conflict countries where children’s rights are massively violated – both in Africa (Sierra Leone, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi) and in other parts of the world (Palestine, Sri Lanka, Iran, Colombia). Publications and contributions in international congresses, workshops and seminars will be ways to disseminate this information to the wider public in Uganda and abroad. The project encountered serious problems due to the insecurity that persisted in parts of Lira and in Pader district. Some activities, such as reunion of returnees, assessment and implementation of income generating activities, had to be postponed or called off because of rebel activities in the area. At several occasions, the staff encountered groups of rebels on the way. The fact that the project only had a limited number of vehicles meant that pick-up jeeps had to be hired for the transport of escorts, which would at times break down in the middle of the war zone. The absence of a radio system in the cars meant that communication on the way – and in case of an attack – was impossible. It is almost a miracle that the project’s convoys and staff were never ambushed. Insecurity and lack of communication also made family tracing difficult, especially in Pader district. Some parents/relatives were not prepared to receive their children because they did not know that they had come back and the reunion took them by surprise.

In order to limit the risks, the project’s management made inquiries with the local UPDF intelligence officers and, where communication was possible, the sub-county chiefs and camp leaders, about the security on the way and at the place of destination prior to any mission. In areas where rebel activities were reported, it insisted on having enough soldiers, adequate armament and sometimes a ‘mamba’ (armoured vehicle). When the ICC warrants were issued, it requested – and received – more soldiers to guard the Rachele Rehabilitation Centre at night. Finally, Sponsoring Children Uganda has collected a treasury of information about child soldiers in Northern Uganda. The NGO has almost 6,000 files of detailed abduction stories of both the children who passed through the centre and those in the sponsorship programme. In addition, it has over 1,000 files of assessment forms, detailing the physical, psychological, social and economic condition of former child soldiers reintegrated in the community, almost 1,000 files of monitoring beneficiaries of income-generating activities, and over 10,000 assessment forms of former child soldiers in the sponsorship programme, detailing their performance, attendance and behaviour. Apart from publishing the findings of this report into a guide to be used by any NGO or government institution anywhere in the world dealing with child soldiers, more research is needed, preferably by a research institution or a university, assessing and analysing the extremely valuable information gathered over a period of seven years, contained in over 70 box files. In particular, more research is needed into ways of healing formerly abducted girls suffering from the Stockholm syndrome, in order to ‘break those real heavy bonds on the mind’. The social workers at Rachele Centre desperately wished an expert on the Stockholm syndrome had been within reach to advise them on how to handle the formerly abducted girls who returned with children from their rapists. Their numbers, the duration and depth of their ordeal are unprecedented in the world. This report ends on a positive note, with pictures ‘before and after’, showing the results of the children who passed through Rachele Rehabilitation Centre, and with drawings of former child soldiers on the theme: ‘What I want to be in life’. They are an indication that even children who have gone through the worst have hopes and dreams for the future. It is up to us, representatives of the affluent world, to help them realise those dreams.


Deborah upon arrival in the centre

Deborah when leaving the centre

Sam upon arrival in the centre

Sam when leaving the centre

Bosco upon arrival in the centre

Bosco when leaving the centre

Alex upon arrival in the centre

Alex when leaving the centre

Geoffrey upon arrival at the centre

Geoffrey when leaving the centre

Caston upon arrival at the centre

Caston when leaving the centre

Denis Opio when he arrived at the centre

Denis Opio when he left the centre

Kenneth when he arrived at the centre

Kenneth when he left the centre

Wilfred when he arrived at the centre

Wilfred when he left the centre

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