A SURVIVORS’ STORY
Imagine you are an 11 year old girl excited about your future. You are in your final year of primary school, full of life and dreams and then in an instant you world is changed! You keep hoping you will wake up and it will go way but then you realize that this is your new reality…..
Below is an extract from Aber Santa’s story. She is the War Victims and Survivors Network, the representive from Acholi Sub-region, Gulu district.
“I was abducted at 11 years in P7 in the year 1994. I was assigned to a Commander of the rebel forces from whom I got a child. While I was in captivity, we were always caught in the middle of air strikes and gun fire exchanges. We were required to carry heavy luggage together with our children. It was common to find ladies with all manner of disease.
When we returned some women abandoned their child and others are unable to conceive more children. One would think that parents’ love is unconditional but I realized it was not because my biological parents rejected me when I returned from captivity.
I have since managed to put up a small shop however, I am not making much from it and my family is living in deplorable conditions. Due to economic hardships, we cannot afford rent and we are forced to move from house to house every often. The trauma of landlords chasing us from house to house has also affected the performance of children in school. Whereas we have a lot of land, we have been ex-communicated from our ancestral land. Our ability to stay in marriage is also compromised because whenever men discover that we are former abductees, they lose interest in us.
We have been assisted to a certain extent by some organisations and the Gulu municipality Member of Parliament. The other MPs of the greater Northern region have now emphasised that victims should be the direct recipients of assistance because whereas money has been appropriated for Women victims, it has never been received by the former abductees and child mothers. We are now starting to lose interest in Organisations that come up with promises to assist us because they are not seeing tangible results.
My biggest pain is that my children do not belong. My family has not accepted them and they have no sense of belonging. They are growing and are now demanding to know their clans their father’s roots as would be expected in the African culture. They have all kinds of destructive thoughts that I am trying to discourage.”
As you can see we still have a long way to go. Aber is just one person representing so many others. Redress, Emerging Solutions Africa and Uganda Victims’ Foundation are working together to empower victims to advocate for their own change. Northern Uganda is peaceful but how are the victims coping? It might be impossible to go back to where we were before but we cannot pretend that things are alright just because the LRA is not there anymore.