U.S. Efforts to Reunite Victims of LRA Violence with Their Families

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U.S. Efforts to Reunite Victims of LRA Violence with Their Families
U.S. Efforts to Reunite Victims of LRA Violence with Their Families

An article appeared in the Wall Street Journal recently which is worth highlighting on the Saint Kizito Foundation’s website.  The article, entitled “U.S. to Rebels: Listen to Mom”, was written by Michael M. Phillips in the Wall Street Journal (Saturday/Sunday, March 11-12, 2017).

The article details the rise of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) started by Joseph Kony, beginning as an ethnic war between various ethnic groups in Uganda, Africa.

The LRA lead by Joseph Kony became one of the most violent terrorist groups in this part of the world.  The article describes the LRA as a cult like group notorious for hacking innocents to death.  The LRA would go from village to village kidnapping children, often killing loved ones right in front of them.  The children were forced to go with the LRA – and become part of the LRA under threat of being maimed, dismembered, or killed.  Boys – some under 10 years old – were forced to be soldiers and partake in the pillaging and killing rampages of the LRA.  Girls were forced into “marriages” with LRA soldiers.

The LRA is still in existence – and is still a terrorist group responsible in the past year, according to this article, for 160 attacks, 14 murders, and 539 kidnappings.  However, in roads have made to dismantle the LRA.  Hunting for Mr. Kony and LRA members has always been difficult.  They are adept at being nomadic and moving from place to place.  They hide in an area, according to the article, roughly the size of California. So, a new tactic to eviscerate this group is being employed. 

Eloise, the name of a psychological operations officer in the United States army, convinced some of the families of the captured children – now adult LRA soldiers – to make recordings of messages begging their children to come home.  United States Helicopter pilots fly over areas where the LRA is believed to be hiding and blast the voice messages; the messages are also sent out over radio waves.  Literature drops showing pictures and messages from the families are dropped in these areas as well.  This method is making a difference.  One by one the LRA soldiers – who were captured as children and made to serve Joseph Kony’s terrorist organization - are escaping and finding their way home. 

Some of the LRA soldiers have been missing for fifteen to twenty years or more.  They were taken as children and made to do horrific deeds as LRA soldiers.  Beyond the fear that escaping would cost them their lives, they also feared that they would not be accepted back home because of the awful deeds they had forced to do.  The shame of their lives and fear of facing their families held/hold many paralyzed.  Hearing recordings from their families or seeing their families on literature has helped liberate many.  The soldiers who defect are given amnesty as many feel they were not responsible for the things they were made to do as the soldiers because they were kidnapped and forced into this life. 

The article highlights some of the individual stories very worth reading.  One in particle, Mr. Ocitti, was kidnapped by the LRA when he was fifteen years old.  He saw the LRA beat his father to death.  As he was taken away by the LRA, they used him like a human pack mule to carry stolen spoils.  What he saw was ghastly and horrific – but he ended up overcoming fear and escaping.  Upon reaching home his mother was afraid that Joseph Kony and his soldiers would come back – so Mr. Ocitti left home to move to Gulu – a city – on his own.  He is thirty years old now but has never forgotten his experience.  He founded Pathways to Peace and has helped locate more than thirty LRA families and has encouraged them to record messages to their children.  Eloise “gives me the names”, Mr. Ocetti said. “I give her the voices.”

The Saint Kizito Foundation has served and does serve some of the children who have been victims of Joseph Kony and the LRA.  The Saint Kizito Foundation has provided a path forward for these precious lives who have had so much taken from them – their youth, their innocence, their families, and their self respect. 

You are invited to learn more about the child victims by reading the Wall Street Journal article referred to herein. Or, by reading Fr. Donald Dunson’s book Child, Victim, Soldier: The Loss of Innocence in Uganda, available from Amazon.com.

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  • St. Kizito Foundation, Uganda, Africa