Footnotes from the British Underground

This blog began as venue for my stories as I traveled in Africa. 18 months later, I return to it as I travel to study as a Marshall Scholar in the United Kingdom. My hope is that this blog can be a conduit for you - my family, friends and secret/strange admirers - to track my movements, see a photo or two and get a glimpse of my days in the UK. Apologies once again to Dostoevsky for the blog's name...

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Location: Bradford, United Kingdom

After graduating from Notre Dame, I'm off to England for graduate study. I'll be studying for a M.A. in International Politics and Security Studies. When not studying, I'm continuing to coordinate Uganda-CAN's efforts to end the 20-year war in northern Uganda!


The Real Nightmares of Children Abducted by the LRA - A Cry for Help

Yesterday I visited the Rachele Rehabilitation Center, a center in Lira started in late 2003 to help rehabilitate escaped abductees of the Lord's Resistance Army. The kids at the center range from age 7-17, but there are also some older girls with babies that were born in the "bush" with the commanders of the LRA. Walking through the center, the children and teenagers seem like your average people - kicking around soccer balls, laughing at a movie and waving at the foreign visitors. The reality, however, is that these children have experienced, witnessed and participated in some of the most gruesome and horrific of human action.

When these children are abducted, they are immediately brainwashed and violent manipulated to turn them into vicious killing machines. Some of the children are forced to kill their own families or burn homes with tens of people inside as a start. When they get to the camp, they are forced to witness attempted escapees cut into pieces as a way to instill fear into them. In some cases, they have to participate in the cutting and killing. If they show any signs of thinking about running away, they are killed immediately.

After entrenching complex fear in them, the LRA commanders teach the boys how to use guns and then send them out on missions to loot, abduct more children and kill people in villages. Most of the boys at the center have killed tens of people in a number of complex gruesome fashions. The girls become the "wives" of the LRA commanders, subjected to all and the worst forms of sexual abuse and torture. These children, some as young as 7, see and experience and participate in things that you or I can only fathom in our worst nightmares.

And in the course of this 18-year old conflict, more than 25,000 children have been abducted and subjected to this.

At the center, I got to interview Richard, a 17-year old escaped abductee. As he recalled his abduction and life in the "bush," the pain was intensely apparent in his eyes and face and his twitching hand. It was overwhelming to just watch this poor boy wrestle with the ghosts that will haunt him for the rest of his life. How is such terror possible? And how can such terror continue on for so long with no action from the international bodies?

One of the scariest things that is difficult to understand is that people in the camps describe the children soldiers are the most vicious, deadly killers. This is a testament to the extent of brainwashing, manipulation and fearmongering that they are subjected to by the LRA commanders. Yet, it is also testament to the human capacity for evil that can be awakened in swamps of poverty, marginalisation, abuse and fear.

The stories of abducted children are many and unbearable. However, we have to hear these stories and these voices, because they are a witness to the horrors of war. And they amass a collective cry for the urgency of peace in northern Uganda.

As I write and you read this, more and more children are being subjected to the violence and horror that I have introduced above. Every second that this war continues, more suffering ensues. We have to act for the children of northern Uganda.


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