LRA abuses have mounted in 2003, and its practice of mutilating civilians as a warning appears to be making a tragic comeback.
The numbers and rates of its other abuses in northern Uganda have increased from the late 2000-early 2002 period, in which the LRA stayed mostly in southern Sudan. According to the ARLPI, from June to December 2002 the LRA conducted 456 attacks and forty-three ambushes; killed 539 civilians and 122 UPDF soldiers; and seriously injured at least 114 civilians and twenty-five UPDF troops-in two of northern Uganda's three Acholi districts (Kitgum and Pader).35
The ARLPI reported that at least 2,611 civilians were abducted in 2002 from Kitgum and Pader, of whom three-quarters were children. At least 870 people escaped or were released within several weeks. One of every two returnees was an adult, leaving most of the children remaining with the LRA.36 These numbers do not include Gulu district and cover only six months.
In addition, the LRA burned at least 1,946 houses and 1,600 storage granaries, looted at least 1,327 houses, 116 villages, and 307 shops; stole or looted 991 goats, 1,335 chicken, and burned or looted at least 130 bicycles, and attacked eighteen schools and five clinics in those two districts. 37
A number of attacks, including abductions, in Kitgum and Gulu municipalities illustrated the fragility of safety, even in towns. A local NGO representative told Human Rights Watch about an LRA attack on Pece, in Gulu municipality, on New Year's Eve 2002.
The rebels abducted children from this neighborhood. Thirty people were abducted and the adults returned. People raised the alarm at the nearby army barracks but there was no action taken by the UPDF. The children did not return. 38
In most LRA attacks, the rebels did not appear to expect resistance or counterattacks by the UPDF, according to eyewitnesses from the Catholic Church of Uganda.39 This suggested to these eyewitnesses and other residents that the LRA attackers were not afraid of being intercepted by the UPDF. It heightened the residents' sense of insecurity.
Conservative estimates place the total number of children abducted by the LRA since the beginning of the conflict in 1986 at more than 20,000.42 The abducted children who survive deliberate killing and disease are brutalized, are forced to serve the LRA army as conscripts and sex slaves, and are forced to commit crimes themselves.
After the LRA's retreat to Sudan (and absence from northern Uganda) following the Ebola outbreak in Gulu in late 2000, abductions sharply decreased, but this was only temporary. The abductions increased dramatically when the LRA returned to Uganda in mid-2002 and since then have been at the highest rate ever.
An estimated 8,400 children have been abducted in the year of June 2002-May 2003- more than any previous year of the conflict and a sharp increase from the less than one hundred children abducted in 2001.43 For the entire period of 1990-2001, UNICEF says that 12,000 children were registered as abducted, making more than 20,000 child abductees.44 Based on reports from local volunteers, the ARLPI reports that in the period starting in 2002, children account for approximately three of every four abductions.45
UNICEF states that in the year 2002, 3,927 children between ages five and seventeen were registered as abducted in Pader alone, one of the three districts in northern Uganda. Children are most vulnerable to abduction at night, when the LRA carries out raids on villages and camps, looting, burning, and abducting.
Attacks on schools and boarding schools have increased. In June 2003 the LRA attacked a Catholic mission boarding school, the Rwala Girls Secondary School, outside of Soroti, the capital of Soroti district in eastern Sudan. It kidnapped twenty-nine girls, the youngest age twelve. The LRA chopped off the fingers and toes of one girl who tried to escape, but the others were not deterred.46 Most girls escaped but six were still missing as of June 25.47
There is a recognizable change in the system and consequences of abduction and abductees since the return of the LRA to Uganda in June 2002. The number of people abducted to carry loot is increasing, yet the majority of the adult abductees-some 2,000 from June 2002 to early 2003-are used as porters and released by the rebels.
More children manage to escape than before, due to the forced mobility of the rebels-a result of encounters with the UPDF. Frequent movements also meant that the new recruits received less military training. Most captives were not taken to now-abandoned camps in Sudan (where they were trained before), but were kept with LRA units in Uganda-and the familiar surroundings made it easier for abductees to escape. UNICEF estimated, based on interviews with escaped children, that some 500 abductees were taken to Sudan in 2002-a far smaller proportion of the abductees than previously.48
More boys than girls apparently have been abducted since June 2002, in a ratio of about two to one.
These abductions have a terrible impact even on those who are not abducted. Thousands of children still live at home, but fearing LRA abduction, travel into the towns, Gulu, Kitgum, and Pader, nightly from surrounding areas to sleep on verandas, in the bus park, on church grounds, and in local factories before returning home the next morning. These children are known locally as "night commuters." In early February 2003, more than 1,000 children were sleeping each night in Gulu town, and about 3,000 people, the vast majority unaccompanied children, sought safety at Lacor hospital outside of Gulu.51 By May 2003, the number had tripled, to 13,400 children staying in six buildings in and around Gulu, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Gulu.52
Adults usually stayed in their homes to protect their property during LRA raids. Adults abducted by the LRA are generally kept for short periods to help carry the looted goods, and then released. For children who are abducted, captivity can last for years.
Re-abduction is not uncommon, and the World Vision rehabilitation center for former LRA abducted child soldiers in Gulu reported that since 2000, at least eighteen children who passed through the center were re-abducted and escaped for a second time.53
Mark T., seventeen, from Pader district, has an older brother named Julius who had been abducted by the LRA several years ago. After Julius escaped in 1997, the LRA went to his village to look for him and when they failed to find him, killed his parents instead.54 Julius was re-abducted in August 2002.55
Preadolescent girls are among the favorite LRA abduction targets; the LRA believes these girls are free of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). They are subjected to continual beatings as servants of LRA officers and soldiers after capture. When they are deemed sexually mature, they are "given" to LRA officers as "wives." (See below)
Susan A. was abducted in October 2002 when she was twelve. She was returning from her grandmother's house with her older sister at about four in the afternoon when they met a group of eight LRA men. They beat her older sister badly and left her on the roadside. "They wanted to know where the gumboots (rubber boots) were, but she wouldn't tell them," Susan A. said.56 As they moved through the bush with Susan A., the LRA abducted more children, including an eleven-year old girl whom Susan A. knew. 57
Janet W. was also twelve when she was abducted in late November 2002 together with two of her sisters. At another house, the LRA abducted four boys, perhaps thirteen or fourteen years old, and then proceeded to the home of Janet W.'s uncle. There, Janet W. and her sisters found that their father had also been abducted. The LRA tied the young abductees together and gave them loot to carry.
Janet W. reported, "Thirty-two were abducted from the village, both children and adults. I was the youngest, at age twelve."
The following day the LRA beat the adult captives, among them Janet W.'s father, whom they left for dead. They "told the old people, including my father, to lie down on the ground. They started beating them with a machete. They cut him badly and left him there." Later, she heard that her father managed to survive and reach home. Of her two sisters, one was eventually released; the other is still in captivity.58
Children are often taken in large numbers. John W. reported that thirty-eight children, mostly boys and girls in primary school, were taken when he was abducted in July 2002.59 Martin P. was taken with twenty-eight boys from his village in February 2002.60 Grace T. said that in July 2002, she was abducted with seven other children, but soon joined a larger group of at least seventy new abductees.61
Children and adult abductees are repeatedly told they will be killed if they try to run away. When Edward T. was abducted from his home in July 2002, he was tied to other abductees and forced to carry a large bag of posho (maize meal) on his head. "I kept thinking that I would run away as soon as I could, but then I saw someone who tried to run, was captured and killed. He was shot. After I saw that, I was afraid and realized I may never be able to run away." 62
A day or two after their abduction, the adults and children not released or killed by the LRA are initiated. First they are beaten, purportedly to "harden" them to life as soldiers. Thirteen-year-old Martin P. was told by the LRA that "they were beating us to give us strength, so not to fear what would lie in store for us in the future." 63
Children were warned not to cry during the beatings or they would be killed. Sixteen-year-old John W. was beaten together with fourteen others; a fifteen-year-old boy in his group cried out. That boy was clubbed on the back of the head and killed.64
Seventeen-year-old Mark T. described how the LRA soldiers beat the group of twenty-three new recruits:
Grace T. told Human Rights Watch that after she was abducted in July 2002, the LRA told her and the other abductees, "Now we want to train you to be soldiers, but first we must harden you by beating you twenty strokes." This sixteen-year-old was abducted with two of her sisters and a younger brother, age fourteen. She said they were all stripped naked in preparation for beating.
One of Grace's sisters asked to put on her clothes before being beaten. The LRA threatened to kill her. Grace T. and her other sister and brother pleaded for her life, offering to serve as LRA soldiers willingly. All were then beaten on the back repeatedly (not just the twenty strokes promised), first with a stick, and then with a machete.66
After the beatings, a ritual usually took place. Children were smeared with shea nut oil. The oil was placed on each child's forehead, chest, back, hands, and feet in the sign of the cross. Brenda O. explained what this meant: after being smeared with oil, "then you are no longer with your mother and father, but for the LRA. If you leave, they will kill you."67 Some abductees were told or believed that the shea nut oil would make it easier for the LRA to find them should they try to escape. Samuel B. said that when he was anointed with shea nut oil, he was told "that it would make us not escape, for if we would try, this would help them track us down and find us."68
Many of the abducted children and adults interviewed for this report were forced to assist in the killing of others, often children and even relatives. Those made to participate in the beating or trampling of fellow abductees received a powerful message about their fate if they attempted escape.
The practice of using the recently abducted children and adults to collectively kill fosters guilt and fear among them and acts as a deterrent from attempting escape. These brutal and dehumanizing tactics-used to control the children especially-make their personal rehabilitation and reintegration into their home communities that much more difficult.
Many former captives interviewed by Human Rights Watch, if not forced to participate in crimes, were forced to watch helplessly the beatings, tying of abductees, killings, abductions, rape, and slaughtering of others, sometimes their closest relatives.
Robert O., a twelve-year-old boy from Opit camp-who was in early 2003 staying in Gulu town for safety-was abducted in July 2002 and forced to watch the LRA kill his mother in front of him. 70 A fourteen-year-old boy and his younger brother abducted on August 19, 2002 were forced to watch when the LRA killed their father. "We were forced to watch other captives to be killed with bayonets. You were not allowed to turn your head [away]."71
A twenty-year-old woman, abducted in March 1996 by the LRA from Pabbo in Kilak County, was held by -or "stayed with," as the ex-captives describe it-the LRA for more than six years. She was forced to kill four people with sticks, and was threatened that if she refused to kill them, she would be killed herself.72
Some of the children, while too afraid to refuse the orders of the LRA, nevertheless spoke later with difficulty about performing these killings. They feared the spirits of the dead children and possible revenge. They had recurring memories of the brutality they were forced to perform. James K. told Human Rights Watch:
According to seventeen-year-old Samuel B., he was spared from killing personally-but he was forced commit another reprehensible act: to mutilate the corpse of a boy beaten to death by other child abductees, because the boy had tried to escape. "One time I was ordered to cut up a dead body with a knife. I was then forced to pick up the pieces of flesh and throw them down on the ground to show my loyalty."74
Mark T., also seventeen years old, spoke of one death by trampling, also administered by new recruits under orders, which occurred when the abductees were marching towards Pajule in Pader district. The eighteen-year-old male victim had tried to escape. Mark T. said, "Soldiers laid him on the ground and told us to step on him. All the new recruits participated-we trampled him to death." 75
During his time with the LRA, other children escaped, and seven of these were caught. They were all killed, either by or in front of the other young abductees: "Two were hacked to death with machetes and five were clubbed or trampled. We were either made to participate or watch the killings. The youngest recruit killed was maybe nine or ten years old." 76
Edward T., age eighteen, was with the LRA for six months and during this time "many abductees escaped." Not all succeeded. One boy tried to escape and was caught, tied up, and marched back to camp, Edward T. remembered. All the recruits from the various companies were told that they were never going home, that they were fighting with the LRA, "so as a symbol of our pledge to fight on, this boy would be killed and we would help."
Murder was not the only crime the abducted children and adults were forced to commit. Alet O., a fourteen-year-old boy abducted in July 2001 with three other children from his household, was tortured and forced to show the rebels the way to other children to be abducted. He was forced to burn people in their houses in retaliation when the children of the area escaped from the rebels. The LRA suspected that residents reported them to the UPDF. 78
In addition to caning at the time of initiation, LRA commanders and soldiers beat the children, often severely, for minor infractions committed while under their orders. The LRA also beat children to encourage them to march faster, including those wounded in the fighting, and sometimes killed those who could not keep up the pace. Others also spoke of the long marches and the hunger, thirst, injuries, and punishment that they suffered during those marches.
Sondra O. said that children who could not continue to march, or who stopped to rest, were killed. Three children in her group tried to stop because their legs were swollen and they had difficulty walking. "The LRA tied the children's hands behind their backs and ordered the others to beat them to death with sticks as big as my arm," she said. Later the LRA soldiers removed the victims' clothing and threw their bodies into a swamp.79 This happened as well to weaker and older adults who could not keep up the pace set by the LRA.
Christopher W., age fifteen, marched on bare feet, got bad blisters and an infection from thorns embedded in the soles of his feet. In addition to that, he was beaten when he fell behind. "Eventually, I could no longer keep up and the commander who had initially abducted me told me I was `useless' as I could not walk," he said. "Two soldiers, in full uniform, approached and started beating me with the heavy end of their RPG's [rocket propelled grenade launchers]. I was repeatedly beaten on the head and body and left for dead. Two days later, a local farmer found me."80
John W. confirmed that the LRA soldiers themselves would sometimes kill children who got blisters and could no longer walk. "Other times, the leaders would make the new abductees come and help with the clubbing. Those who refused, risked death themselves," he said.81
In addition to killing those who attempted escape, abducted children and adults were also made to kill and beat civilians in the raided villages and displaced persons camps. Some expressed confusion as to why this was done and how some victims were chosen. James K. explained, "When we approached a village, some persons would be singled out. We were never told why these people and not others, we were simply told that this one had to be killed."82
Edward T. spent some of his time stealing from homes as well. When his LRA unit arrived at a village or camp, the soldiers would break into small groups. The officers would stay outside and send the recruits like eighteen-year-old year old Edward T. and fifteen-year-old Christopher into the houses to steal and bring the goods outside. "We would loot as much as we could carry and then move off together in a group." Sometimes LRA soldiers would attack the army detachments; if the attack was successful, "when the shooting abated, we recruits would be given the all-clear sign and then break into the houses and shops."83
According to children interviewed for this report, the weapons used for the beatings include sticks made from branches of trees, the butts of weapons, and other instruments. Sixteen-year-old John W. explained that in addition to the cane, a piece of wire normally used for locking a bicycle was the LRA instrument used to punish him. Other times, the wooden end or the blunt side of a machete was used to beat the buttocks of a child. Soldiers beat John with both during his seven months with the LRA.84
Bonifatius O., a seventeen-year-old boy from Koro Abili in Koro sub county, explained that he was kept tied with ropes to several other children after LRA Commander Opio's forces abducted them on September 4, 2002: "You have to do everything together, when one needs to pee, all need to go with him. They always tied five of us together. When we were attacked they told us to lie down."85
He was injured in a UPDF helicopter gunship attack on Lalogi on November 18, 2002. The LRA abandoned him in the bush because he could not walk any more. He managed to make himself known to villagers and was rescued.86
Children are often assigned as servants to individual commanders or soldiers and are charged with caring for their personal items. Any lost or broken personal effect can mean a caning.
Charles M., only thirteen years old, described the severe beating he received:
The boy ran into trouble, however, when an officer from a different company ordered him to hand over the stick. "I could not refuse an officer," he said.
Evidently, the commander felt that the caning was enough and the punishment stopped for the day.
Jules O., a sixteen-year-old boy from Pacong, was abducted by the LRA in June 2002, and was nearly killed after he accidentally got a tape wet in the river.
Susan A., age twelve
The LRA uses Joseph Kony's alleged spiritual power to keep its young captives in permanent fear. Kony, the LRA soldiers and officers say, is possessed by a strong spirit and his decisions are unpredictable. When he appears to switch personalities, it often has a traumatizing effect on abductees, who attribute this to his omnipotence.
An abducted boy who "stayed with the LRA" for several years, mostly in Joseph Kony's headquarters in Lubanga-tek, southern Sudan, recalled with awe and fear:
Another former LRA child soldier described his meeting with Kony and the LRA's promises: "We were told that the LRA will capture the country and Joseph Kony will become the president. We will by then be with him and become big people. I saw Kony once and we all knew that his spirit is very powerful, and we feared his power."91
Phillip Lutara, head of the Concerned Parents Association, told Human Rights Watch about a Sunday religious service in a local church in Gulu district that reflected the fear not only of children but also of adults in northern Uganda:
Children's main duties during their time in captivity are to perform menial tasks, often acting as servants. Children who were taken across the border to Sudan typically spent many months in one place and were ordered to fetch water, plant and harvest, and-especially for girls-perform domestic services for commanders' and soldiers' "wives" and children.
Christine A. spent several years at a camp in Sudan. It seemed that most of the time she spent looking for water:
Fifteen-year-old Josephine M. said that in Sudan, "we worked from six in the morning until sundown in the fields of the commanders. We weren't given food from those fields, it went to the commanders and their `wives.'"94
Abductees who were taken in 2002 or 2003 and remained in Uganda led a much more nomadic life than they would have in Sudan. The children held inside Uganda were tasked with portering goods, cooking, looting fields and homes, and abducting other children. Often moving to a new location daily, children described breaking into small groups during the day and often joining up with their larger units at night. Those interviewed for this report expressed their worry about being detected and attacked by Uganda government troops and complained about their exhausting, mobile lifestyle.
Sondra O. spent four months with the LRA in Uganda, marching many kilometers daily with a heavy load on her head: "I was given one and a half basins of beans to carry plus an empty water container, all on my head. It was very heavy and my neck caused me great pain, it still aches today."95
Christopher W., aged fifteen, explained that his main job with the LRA was cooking and watching the fires-and beating the women, girls and boys who let the fires grow too large. "The leaders would get very angry if too much smoke was coming from the fires as this could attract enemy aircraft," he explained. "If I didn't do my job well, I risked being beaten myself." 96
Thomas O., fourteen, was made to carry a crate of soda that belonged to the officer to whom he was assigned. He accidentally broke a soda bottle. "I was tired from the long marches with the heavy crate of drinks on my head and at one point I slipped," he said. "It was very hot, I was thirsty, and we had marched for many kilometers. I lost my balance and the crate fell to the ground." One of the bottles broke. The commander forced the fourteen-year-old to lie down, and caned him severely for the accident.97
The children serving in Uganda had the additional responsibility of abducting new recruits, often while looting villages and camps. Thomas O., who was with the LRA from August until December 2002, never went to Sudan but stayed in Uganda, mostly moving around Pader district. "During our time, we abducted more people, even girls were abducted in Lira district. We abducted them during a looting raid on a village there."98 He added that a few days later, three of these girls were released.
Fifteen-year-old Matthew A., who spent four years with the LRA, said while in Uganda he had to abduct children. In four months, he abducted four girls and seven boys during raids. When he was responsible for choosing new recruits, he would ask questions, he said. One time he released some children. "I didn't like to take two children from the same house, so one time, I took one sister and left the other."99
Antonio E., a fourteen-year-old boy, told Human Rights Watch, "There was promotion for killing in the LRA, if you killed somebody you would gain status." 101 To gain further status in the LRA children were encouraged to go to the frontline in exposed positions.
Like their other responsibilities, the nature and duration of the military tasks assigned to children changed once the LRA moved back into Uganda. Most children who were abducted before 2002 and spent time in Sudan were given a longer, more formalized training program and fought in the front lines, in Uganda against the Ugandan army and in Sudan against the Sudanese rebel movement, the SPLM/A.
Since mid-2002, training for new recruits has been more sporadic although the numbers of new recruits increased dramatically to 8,400 abductees in the year from the time when the LRA returned to Uganda, June 2002. Some of the youngest were not trained at all. Others were given minimal training but no weapons or uniforms.
While only a few of the former child soldiers interviewed admitted active participation in hostilities against the UPDF, the majority faced battle conditions and some were wounded due to their proximity to the fighting.
Matthew A. recalled that during his military training, the recruits/abductees were divided into groups of fifty children, both boys and girls, the youngest in the group being age eight or nine. In training lasting several weeks, they learned to march in formation and parade and were taught to shoot, clean, and assemble and disassemble sub machine guns that held a magazine of thirty rounds. These weapons were large, heavy to carry and not easy for the children to use at first. "If you made a mistake, you were severely beaten," he said. 102 Edward T., during his six months with the LRA in 2002, received hasty training while the troops were on the move inside Uganda. The training was in "foot drill" and "how to fire, but I never shot a weapon in the training," he said. "[W]e would get one lesson here and another at the next place we marched to. We were drilled to work faster to load and dismantle the guns as quickly as possible." 103
Stephen A., age ten, was shown how to load, assemble, and clean a wooden-handled gun that could shoot many bullets at a time. He carried the gun for an adult soldier but did not use it in battle himself. Nevertheless, he reported, "it felt nice to have the gun. I felt safe." 104
He was given a gun for purposes of looting, however. During a raid on a village, he was sent into one of the houses to loot. When he saw a man hiding inside, the youngster became confused and shot his gun in the air to warn the others. The LRA shot back at him before discovering the problem. "The LRA soldiers were angry and beat me with a machete."105
Although Sondra O. received neither a gun nor arms training, she was wounded in battle, as were so many LRA children. One morning, as the LRA with its captives crossed a road, the UPDF opened fire on them; they fought for several hours. "I saw seven people killed and I was shot in the leg. . . . Many LRA soldiers and captives alike were killed." 106
James K. was wounded by a UPDF helicopter gunship attack only a few weeks after his abduction in 2002. He was among the lucky survivors: "Many abductees were killed as well as LRA soldiers. We were a group of 500 before the attack, with 400 of those abducted children and adults. Hours later only 200 had survived."107
Most of those abducted prior to 2002 also were exposed to the dangers of battle inside Sudan-with the SPLM/A, the enemy of their patron the Sudanese government. Antonio E., who was abducted on January 20, 2000 with his brother and five other children, was based close to Nimule, Sudan, on the Nile near the Uganda border.108 "Our main problem in Sudan was fighting against the Dinkas [SPLM/A]," Antonio E. said. 109
Peter O., abducted in the 1990s from Amoro County, Gulu district, was taken to the LRA camp at Lubanga-tek inside Sudan, where "there were Arab soldiers of [Sudanese president Omar] Bashir. They came from Juba to help us." He was wounded in the leg when on December 24, 2000, the SPLA fired at the camp. He received medical care in the Sudanese government garrison town of Juba and in the capital, Khartoum. His treatment was "not so bad, but it was difficult since we were losing our friends and feared attacks by the SPLA, and they told us the UPDF would kill us if we would try to escape and run back to Uganda."110
When Uganda started Operation Iron Fist, "Kony told us that we are on our own now and that we should fear the UPDF since they came to finish us," sixteen-year-old Peter O. said. He was one of 1,000 LRA troops and soldiers crossing back into Uganda via Agar on the Sudan border in mid-2002. "We did not face any resistance on returning. Commander Odhiambo was crossing with us. We stayed in Kitgum district in Palukal at the border to Karamojong."
The 1,000 split into five groups, and he ended up in one of the two groups under Commander Odiombo which moved into Gulu district while the other three remained in Kitgum district. When he saw his chance, he escaped and surrendered to the UPDF.111
Angela was only ten when she was abducted by the LRA. At age fifteen, she was forced to become a "wife" to an LRA commander. She gave birth to two children in the bush. The first, a boy, she named Komakech, which means, "I am unfortunate." The second, a girl, she named Can-Oroma, meaning "I have suffered a lot."
Girls have been abducted in large numbers by the LRA, although fewer girls than boys have been taken overall. Some girls are given military training and forced to fight, to carry out raids on villages, and to help abduct other children. Most are virtual slaves, forced to work long hours carrying heavy loads, to walk long distances to fetch water and firewood, and to perform other tasks, including cooking and field work. At age fourteen or fifteen, many are sexually enslaved as "wives" of commanders and subjected to rape, unwanted pregnancies, and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. 112
After abduction, younger girls are assigned to commanders as ting ting (servants). They often begin work before dawn and continue until evening. Janet W. explained, "You must work all of the time. The moment you refuse to work, they will kill you or beat you to death." 113 She, like other girls, was forced to carry heavy loads, fetch water and firewood, cook, wash, "dig" (farm), and tend the commanders' children.
The LRA appears to have a practice of not raping the prepubescent girls. This practice reportedly "saves" the girls from exposure to STD's so that when they are assigned to their "husbands" they are not infected.
Age does not protect any girl from frequent beatings by LRA commanders or their "wives," however. Brenda O. was assigned to Commander Ochang. She said, in an understatement, "He didn't treat me very well." Daily he called her and two of the other ting ting to lie down and would say, "Do you know why I am beating you?" The girls never knew, so "the soldiers caned us, fifty strokes. This happened every day. They beat us on the buttocks, but if you cry, they will beat every part of your body and not count the strokes."114
Other girls described being mistreated by the commander's "wives," who are often abductees themselves who had been similarly brutalized. Charlotte W. told Human Rights Watch that Commander Okeny did not mistreat her, but that two of his six "wives" "would beat me every day for small mistakes, or for no reason. . . . Not a single day passed when I wasn't beaten."115
After reaching puberty, girls are forced to become "wives" to commanders, often subjected to rituals beforehand to underline their subservient status. Angela P. said, "When I became a `wife' I was smeared with shea nut butter and told my loyalty was to Commander Okello."116
Forced into sexual relationships, many girls become pregnant and give birth in the bush, with only other young girls to assist them. According to one child mother, by the late 1990's, more than 800 children had been born to LRA "wives," and were concentrated at Jebelain camp in southern Sudan where she stayed for a year and a half from April 1997 until late 1998.
Many "wives" contracted STDs. A nurse at World Vision rehabilitation center reported that of the children entering the Gulu center in 2002-03, about 50 percent had STDs, including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and pelvic infections. Two years earlier, when returnees were more likely to have been in captivity for longer periods, the rate was much higher - nearly 85 percent.117 Children (girls) who are in captivity for shorter periods (which is the case for many recent returnees) are less likely to have been made into "wives" of commanders, and therefore less likely to be infected with STDs.
The prevalence of HIV among abductees is unknown but can be estimated based on tests given in World Vision and Gulu Save Our Children Organisation (GUSCO) rehabilitation centers for former abductees that offer HIV testing to children in their centers. Former abductees are given HIV/AIDS education and counseling and then may choose to be tested or not.
At World Vision, eighty-three children have been tested, and thirteen-seven boys and six girls-were HIV positive. The youngest was thirteen. Three of the girls were child mothers. At least one has since died of AIDS.118 At GUSCO, of eleven children tested between June and December of 2002, two were HIV positive.119 It should be noted that those who choose to be tested are more likely to be at high risk of HIV infection than those who are not tested. Based on counseling they have received, most have assessed themselves to be at high risk, often because of repeated rapes by LRA commanders.120
For many girls, becoming a "wife" brings some privileges. "Wives" often work fewer hours and receive better food. Once they have children, they no longer participate in raids or fighting. Christine A. was given as a "wife" to Commander Okello when she was sixteen. She said that when she became pregnant, he was "very happy" and took good care of her. After he was killed in battle, however, life became more difficult. She said:
For Angela P., however, life was better as a ting ting or servant. She said, "As a `wife,' I was beaten and sexually abused. As a ting ting, I was beaten twice; as a `wife' I was beaten so many times I couldn't count."122
In June 2002, as the LRA was crossing over from its former safe haven in southern Sudan into Uganda to elude the UPDF, the LRA released more than one hundred persons, including "child mothers" with their children, the elderly, and the sick. Christine A., released then with her two children, was told by the LRA that it "was coming (to Uganda) for battle, for real war." Local NGOs believe that mothers were released because their young children hindered the LRA's movements.
When Christine A. learned that she was being released after nearly ten years of captivity, she said, "I was happy because I knew I would come back home and not suffer any more." 123
The child mothers were sent to rehabilitation centers in Gulu with the LRA message that they should be "well taken care of." At least twenty of the child mothers were "widows"; their commander "husbands" had been killed in battle or died from disease. Many commanders did not want to release their "wives," however. During Operation Iron Fist, the LRA sent many of these child mothers to Alar, an LRA camp southwest of Gulu, which also tended many of the sick and wounded LRA soldiers.
Christine A. heard from children who escaped the LRA later that the LRA leadership regretted the decision to release the child mothers, especially those with boy children. She was released with her two sons, who were ages three years and seven months at the time of interview, and was fearful that the LRA would come back for her. She had no relatives in "safe" towns so she felt she had no choice but to return to the village from which she was abducted.124
Although abduction is a traumatizing experience for all abductees, abducted women and girls suffer unique abuses and consequent problems. Whereas beating, torture, and maltreatment are the experiences for most people abducted by the LRA, rape and forced sexual slavery is inflicted on women and girls. While there seems to be a higher rate of acceptance back into the community for long-term female abductees as opposed to male returnees who spend several years with the LRA, the pattern is different for mothers who have LRA-born children.125
According to several Ugandan NGOs in Gulu working with returnees,126 the children born in captivity as a result of rape by one or several LRA soldiers are sometimes seen as unacceptable outsiders. According to the custom and kinship structure found amongst the Acholi people, the child belongs to the father and his family. Since the father in cases of gang rape is not known, or the father is an LRA rebel, the child may not be accepted by the mother's kin. Women who were married before being abducted are rarely accepted back by their husbands, who often fear their wives are infected with sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.
Another factor that makes it difficult for women to return from captivity is that they are expected to conform to certain stereotypes of female behavior. Women captive with the LRA for years have become used to war, fighting, rough bush life, harsh conditions, and living with other fighters. At times they may have difficulty adjusting to traditional expectations of women.
The twenty-two-year old former "wife" of LRA Commander Tabuley is one case in point, according to a woman responsible for following women's issues at Caritas: "She is a convinced LRA fighter and does not want to be here." Many women and girls find it hard to adjust to the life back home. "They know they are a burden for their relatives, they will not be able to go to school if they return with children, and they don't see any future for themselves here." 127
Despite the risk of death if they are caught, some children manage to escape from the LRA. Others surrender to the UPDF, or are rescued or captured during battle. Some are released or abandoned when they become sick or injured.
The number of children returning from the LRA has increased dramatically since early 2002. This is because the number of abductees was high during the period starting with June 2002, combined with the fact that the LRA stayed in Uganda where recent abductees have a better chance of escape; in Sudan the escape possibilities are limited.
In 2002, more than 1,700 returnees, mostly children, passed through the World Vision and GUSCO rehabilitation centers based in Gulu after escaping LRA captivity. More than 1,000 returnees (both adults and children) were assisted by the World Vision Children of War program in 2002, up from 263 returnees in 2001.129 GUSCO assisted 745 children between June and December of 2002, with the largest number of children -185- being brought to the center in December.130 Other children have undoubtedly gone directly home, without passing through the centers.
The ARLPI reported that 2,611 abductions were documented in Kitgum and Pader districts from June through December of 2002. At least 870, or one-third of those abducted, escaped or were released within several weeks of abduction. The ARLPI report also found that although children make up three-quarters of abductions, half of those returning are adults. It concluded, "A larger portion of children are remaining with the LRA."131
The children interviewed by Human Rights Watch escaped or were released from the LRA between May 2002 and February 2003. Half left captivity in December 2002 and January 2003. Some were released or abandoned after they were injured in battle or developed physical problems from the hardships of LRA life; the majority had to escape.
Children look for opportunities to escape when they may not be watched, or during the confusion of battle. Thirteen-year old Martin P. escaped in December 2002, when he and three others were looking for food.
Charles M., age thirteen, escaped during a battle with the UPDF. When a UPDF armored vehicle began firing, "the LRA fled in all directions. I fled then and fell into a swamp. I lay among the papyrus reeds. I could hear the fighting still going on, but I kept calm and didn't move at all."
He slept overnight in the bush and the next day went to the UPDF.133 Another young recruit said that his group returned from Sudan to Kitgum district in October 2002. He saw his chance and escaped: "When we were back in Uganda we killed daily, we attacked camps and villages all the time. Just after Christmas, they left me alone for a while and I recognized Guna Mountain, so I ran."134
Mark T., seventeen, decided to run after his unit carried out an ambush and killed the brother of an uncle with whom he had stayed in Kampala. "I realized that I had to get out. Killing all my relatives was bad. Better to try [and escape] and die than not try at all."135
Some children are "rescued" by the UPDF during military operations. Often these are children who surrender to the UPDF or who are wounded in battle and left behind by the LRA, according to local NGOs critical of the UPDF for the way it has reported its military operations during Operation Iron Fist. "Those killed are called terrorists or rebels, and those who survive are `rescued abductees,'" said one Ugandan NGO representative.136
Some injured children are simply abandoned or left for dead by the LRA. James K., seventeen, was injured in an UPDF air attack near Lira in which many new recruits were killed and many left for dead, including older LRA soldiers. James K's legs were hit and there was no medical aid. At first he was made to retreat with the LRA: This consisted in LRA soldiers beating him with a stick when he limped, and threatening to kill him if he did not move along. After they settled in one position, his swollen leg wounds began to ooze yellow pus. Still he received no medical aid. "I didn't know what to do and if I was going to live because my legs were hurting me so badly. . . Finally, my wounds got so bad that they abandoned me in the bush. I was left there to die."
He crawled on his knees until he came to a dirt road where a cyclist passed and gave him a lift. 137
Thirteen-year-old Janet M. developed swollen legs from walking and was left at a woman's house. The woman was told to take care of Janet and that the LRA would come back for her. "They told her not to allow me to go home. If they found that I was taken home, they said they would either kill the woman or her family." The woman nevertheless gave the girl food and medicine, washed her clothes, and took her to the army barracks. Janet M. worried about LRA retaliation against this woman.138
Julius Tiboa, director of the GUSCO rehabilitation center, said that children released by the LRA "are mostly sick and malnourished, children who could not be of help or significance to their efforts."139
Children who are released, rescued, or escaped are usually brought to the nearest army detachment, transported to the Fourth Division army barracks in Gulu, and then to a special Child Protection Unit (CPU) managed by the army, where they are held for debriefing by army intelligence. If injured, the children might receive treatment at the local army hospital. Most children, particularly those only briefly in LRA captivity, are held at the CPU for periods of one to three days. Children with the LRA for longer periods, particularly as combatants, might be held several weeks or more. In one case reported to Human Rights Watch, two children were kept for more than two months, reportedly because they were receiving medical treatment at the army hospital. 140
After debriefing, children are taken from the CPU to nongovernmental rehabilitation centers in Gulu, Kitgum, or Pader. Other children are brought to the centers directly by community members. At these centers, children receive medical care, including testing for STDs, counseling, vocational training, and other assistance. The centers help trace the families of abducted children and work with both the children and their families to reintegrate the children into their communities.
For most abductees, release or escape does not end their ordeal. Most are fearful of re-abduction and few are able to return to their original homes because of the increased LRA activity in 2002-03. Many have siblings or other family members still in captivity. Girls and young women with children born in captivity fear they will not be able to support their children. Many bear physical or psychological scars.
Former LRA captives report that the LRA is registering all abducted children. Those who managed to escape greatly feared that the LRA would conduct revenge attacks on their families and communities, and that if they returned home, the LRA would come for them, abduct them again, and possibly kill them.142
This fear is reflected in a joint report by the ARLPI, the Peace and Justice Commission Committee, and Caritas Gulu Women's Desk. They found a
After escaping from the LRA in January 2003 Angela P. discovered that the LRA had killed her mother during a raid. Others find that their families have relocated to IDP camps or even other districts seeking safety from the LRA. Ruth K., age twelve, was abducted from Purongo, a "protected" village, in July 2002. Her family left the camp after her abduction and moved to Masindi district. Unable to join them, she planned to stay near Gulu and live with a cousin.144
Many of the children worry about brothers and sisters still in LRA captivity. One-third of the returned children interviewed by Human Rights Watch were abducted with siblings who are still missing. As described above, Grace T., age sixteen, was abducted in July 2002 together with two of her sisters and a brother; one sister and the brother are still in captivity. Janet M., age twelve, was abducted in November 2002 with two sisters, ages fifteen and seventeen. One sister was released, but the other remains missing. Thirteen-year-old Martin P. was abducted with four brothers; two were killed by the LRA, one was killed by the UPDF, and one is still missing. 145
Most of the children want to return to school, but many do not feel it is safe at home. Charlotte W. said, "I want to go back to school, but I will stay with my uncle in town. In my home area, rebels are moving freely, so I could easily be re-abducted."146 Similarly, Janet M. said, "I want to go back to school, but I'm afraid the rebels will come for me." Because of these fears, she lives and studies in town with her uncle.147 Matthew A. feared that if he returned home, he would not be able to run fast enough if the LRA attacked his village: his leg was amputated after he was shot in a battle with the UPDF. 148
Representatives of Save the Children Denmark, which supports the GUSCO center, said that:
Some children joined the "night commuters," the children who live outside Gulu, Kitgum, and Pader towns, and travel into town nightly, seeking to avoid abduction. Grace T. was abducted from Agwe, two kilometers from Gulu town. She planned to return to her family in Agwe, but then said she and her formerly abducted sister would go to Gulu nightly for safety. Grace T. said she was "afraid when I hear about the LRA, because now that I have been abducted, they might kill me."150
Returnees also suffer on-going physical and psychological problems. A nurse at World Vision identified gunshot wounds, skin problems from walking long distances, and sexually transmitted diseases as the major physical problems affecting returnees. She estimated that about 15 percent returned with gunshot wounds, and another 5 percent had shrapnel injuries. Fifteen children assisted by the center since 1996 have had limbs amputated.151 Another counselor at the center said that girls who had spent long periods in LRA captivity were often missing hair on the tops of their heads from portering supplies. 152
The same nurse also reported, "Almost all of them suffer from nightmares and flashbacks, especially those that were long in the bush. Some are quiet, withdrawn and don't want to talk."153 Susan A. told Human Rights Watch that she dreams that she is staying with her mother and that the LRA comes and abducts her.154
Many wonder about their future. Sixteen-year-old John W., now an orphan, said, "What disappoints me most is the future. Some seem to have things to do here, and a place to go, but for me, the future is blank. . . . What am I going to do?"155
Attacks on Schools
In Kitgum and Pader districts, the ARLPI received reports of eighteen schools attacked between June and December of 2002. Schools have been looted and books and supplies burned. Teachers have been beaten, abducted, and killed during LRA attacks, and children have been abducted. In August and September of 2002, children were abducted from schools in Lapole, and Akwang and Lukolu sub counties.156
On July 12, 2002 the LRA raided Pa-minyai displaced primary school. It abducted nine pupils and burned down forty-five huts. On December 10, 2002, the LRA abducted forty-two students at schools in Palenga Gudu, Bobi sub county, together with more than fifty other people. Again, on February 27, 2003, the LRA abducted thirty pupils from Abung Primary School in Koch Ongako, and another eleven secondary pupils from Oxford School in Kitgum town. On the same day, another LRA group attempted to abduct pupils at Wii-Awor Primary School near Lacor Hospital in Gulu municipality.157 In early June 2003, the LRA abducted forty-one persons from a Catholic seminary school.158
According to the Gulu District Inspector of Schools, nearly half of the district's schools - 116 of 234 - have been displaced due to the conflict and only 56 percent of primary school-aged children are currently attending school.159 He commented that education suffers in the absence of political stability:
Education took an even heavier blow from LRA-caused insecurity in the Pader district. A U.N. assessment in March 2003 revealed that in Kalongo Trading Center alone, 55 percent of the children registered by the assessors were not attending school. Kalongo had two sites hosting students from thirty schools, "all of them displaced due to insecurity."161 The persons conducting the assessment believed that this "could be the tip of the iceberg in Pader district," where there were at least twelve camps for IDPs.162
The LRA suspected those who moved to internally displaced camps, or "protected villages," of being against the LRA and for the government. It has at various times demanded they leave and has targeted these camps to punish people who remain. Targeting civilians is a gross abuse of customary international humanitarian law (rules of war) governing internal armed conflict.163
The LRA communicated these threats to the camp population through letters left after attacks on the camps. In one communication of January 2003 to IDPs in Kora camp the LRA stated, "We know now that the people of Acholi want to stay in the [IDP] camps. We will come [to the camps] and kill you."164
During an attack on Purongo IDP camp in Anaka sub county, Gulu district on June 29, 2002, the LRA killed seven civilians and abducted an unknown number of persons. LRA Commander Matata left a letter addressed to the sub county chief, to the local commissioner, and to the camp population, stating:
A former abductee told Human Rights Watch that the LRA did not hesitate to kill people as a warning of what would happen to those who did not obey the LRA. Christopher W., age fifteen, said,
Although the LRA warned people not to stay in the IDP camps, it ironically continues to kill people who have stayed in the villages as well. And it has spread fear and forced people to abstain from any movement by conducting ambushes on commercial and civilian vehicles. It has also ordered people not to use bicycles and not to travel along main roads, especially on Fridays and Sundays. One result of these attacks is the crippling of the northern Ugandan economy.
LRA Attacks on Food Convoys and Malnutrition of IDPs
The World Food Programme has become the principal source of food assistance in northern Uganda-and its trucks and stores and delivery points are therefore frequently attacked and its beneficiaries way laid by the LRA. In Gulu and Kitgum districts, WFP relief food is subject to LRA looting after it is delivered.
In Pader district conditions are so unstable and insecure that the WFP (which has become the only provider of relief food for the district's needy population) can barely operate there. The U.N. OCHA reported in January 2003 that "Humanitarian organizations cannot access almost all IDPs in Pader District" as a result of insecurity.167 LRA military activity aimed at civilians and civilian transport and movement is not the sole cause of the desperate lack of food in northern Uganda. The UPDF has come in for its share of criticism by the agencies attempting to provide relief to the stricken population, for failure to provide adequate protection (including sufficient armed escorts for the relief trucks) and for limiting access of farmers to their fields. After a February 2003 assessment mission to isolated and congested camps in Pader district that had been cut off without any tangible humanitarian assistance due to fighting in the district, the WFP noted other factors that compounded the blockage of food deliveries: "inadequate coping mechanisms and a lack of access to the fields."168
The child malnutrition rates among the IDP camp population of Acholiland-where 70 percent of the population is internally displaced169-were described as "alarming" by the WFP in early 2003. Its analysis of Ugandan ministry of health data showed that the global acute malnutrition rate for children under 5 years of age was unusually high: it
The WFP put the findings in an African context, noting that "above 10% is alarming for an African in-camp population" and beyond 15% warrants a blanket supplementary feeding of the children according to the U.N. framework. 172
A later survey by Action Against Hunger-USA (ACF-USA) conducted in April and May 2003 in two IDP camps near Gulu concluded that the chronic malnutrition rates for children under five was 41.4 percent, which represents a steady increase over the last six years for which comparable date is available. Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) for under five's was found to be 6.2 percent, not as high as in the January study, but for children between six and twenty-nine months, the GAM was 10.2 percent.
Even more troubling was the Respective Mortality Rate (for three months in 2003): for the under five's, it was 5.67/1,000, where 4/1,000 is considered an emergency for that group. This rate was the highest recorded in five years, and three times the usual observed rate in comparable figures. ACF-USA concluded,
There has been no noteworthy epidemic in Gulu area that could justify the spike in mortality. There is thus a very serious possibility that children have simply died of hunger.173
LRA Abuses in Sudan and Sudanese Refugee Camps in Uganda
With the beginning of UPDF Operation Iron Fist inside Sudan, LRA abuses against their southern Sudanese hosts increased. The LRA was forced to become more mobile as UPDF forces moved by the thousands into the mountainous and sometimes dense terrain near the Ugandan border in Eastern Equatoria. The LRA attacked government-held villages southeast of Juba, and in the area between the Nile and the River Kit. Hundreds of people therefore fled north toward Juba, the largest town in southern Sudan, heavily garrisoned by the Sudanese government.
In April and May 2002, or perhaps as early as the alleged post-9/11 assistance cutoff, numerous units of the LRA also moved eastwards towards the Imatong Hills, south of Torit, looting, killing, and displacing civilians along the way.175 In April 2002 the LRA attacked Sudanese civilians living in the Imatong Mountains, reportedly committing abuses against women and children as well as men. The LRA destroyed the crops in the ground. The frightened civilians fled to Ikotos, some three hours away, and three IDP camps were created for this human flood. Many people returned to Imatong and rebuilt their destroyed homes, still leaving a large population in the IDP camps at Ikotos.176
According to an OCHA report, the LRA displaced 1,800 southern Sudanese in July 2002 alone.177 Despite the displacement and insecurity of the population in Eastern Equatoria, however, the government of Sudan did not lift the flight ban, which it had imposed on the area in 1999, preventing the international relief operation, U.N.-led Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), from having any access to this area or its needy population.178
Reports of LRA attacks inside southern Sudan indicate that the LRA continued to be an active threat to Sudanese civilians in 2003, attacking and displacing Sudanese families, killing civilians, abducting children, looting food, and destroying houses. On February 20, 2003 the LRA attacked the compound of Norwegian Church Aid in Parajok, a mostly Acholi area of Eastern Equatoria, Sudan, killing one civilian male, injuring one child, and looting the NGO compound. The attack occurred less than two days after a large delivery of medicines was made to this medical NGO.179
LRA Attacks on Sudanese Refugee Camps in Uganda
The worst LRA attack of 2002 on refugee camps was the brutal onslaught on Achol-pii refugee camp in Pader district on August 5, 2002, where the LRA killed more than sixty people, and the more than 24,000 Sudanese refugees there dispersed into the bush and elsewhere, in fear.181 The LRA took hostage four aid workers from the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a humanitarian NGO, during the attack, although they were later released.
In other attacks upon returning to northern Uganda, the LRA killed five Sudanese refugees and burned 126 houses in Maaji refugee camp in Adjumani on July 8, 2002,182 then returned for a second attack on the same camp three months later, on October 3, 2002, when LRA fighters killed several UPDF soldiers and burned another sixty-five homes.183
According to the March 2003 report on Sudan prepared by the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, the situation for Sudanese refugees in Uganda is problematic: the majority of Sudanese refugees in Uganda live in twenty-five designated settlements.184 The LRA has subjected them to many of the same abuses to which Ugandans are subjected:
The LRA and other rebels regularly attack [Sudanese] refugee sites. During raids the LRA injures, abducts and kills children and adolescents. . . . Attacks have increased dramatically in 2002, since the LRA scattered in northern Uganda as a result of Uganda's Operation Iron Fist.185
A large number of Sudanese refugees who fled the attack on Achol-pii refugee camp were relocated to Kiryandongo refugee camp in Masindi district in central Uganda, far from the Sudan border.186 The Kiryandongo refugee camp was established in 1996 for 13,000 Sudanese refugees fleeing Achol-pii camp after a 1996 raid by the LRA, in which one hundred refugees were killed, according to a Sudanese refugee leader interviewed by the press. 187
Following the next large LRA raid on Achol-pii, in 2002, some 16,000 Sudanese refugees from that camp were relocated to the Kiryandongo refugee camp. This produced extreme overcrowding and deterioration of sanitary conditions. The Ugandan government, through its minister for disaster preparedness Moses Ali of the West Nile region, identified two locations in West Nile region to which it wanted the Achol-pii refugees moved. The UNHCR assessed the locations and sought to defer the decision to move the refugees,188 then said it thought the new locations in northwestern Uganda were too close to conflict zones and therefore not safe for the refugees.
The Ugandan government in April 2003 apparently expelled the resident representative of the UNHCR as a result of this disagreement,189 although Uganda and the UNHCR later denied that the UNHCR representatives had been expelled. The UNHCR's chief Ruud Lubbers told a news conference that the country representative would be "replaced" and the Sudanese refugees would be transferred to two locations in Uganda's West Nile region considered safe from rebel activity.190
In a letter of May 12, 2003, to the Ugandan government, Achol-pii refugee representatives reiterated that they could not move to West Nile because it is unsafe, citing an LRA warning to them not to cross the Nile again (the refugees have been on the East Bank of the Nile). They also cited a clash on May 8, 2003, between Sudanese refugees and locals at Koboko in northwestern Uganda, in which two refugees were killed and seventeen others were seriously injured. The refugees also referred to ethnic animosity between them (most are Sudanese Acholi and Latuko) and the residents of West Nile as another reason they considered the locations unsafe. The refugees said they would rather walk back to Sudan than go to West Nile.191
The UNHCR noted that the two existing Sudanese refugee camps in that northwestern region, Rhino and Mvepi, have never been attacked by the LRA, and have not been attacked by rebels since 1996, when the West Nile Bank Front (since disbanded) attacked. The UNHCR further said that the Ugandan government believes that the Nile, which is very wide in that area, is a barrier to the LRA entering northwestern Uganda, and that the Ugandan government also signed a peace agreement on December 24, 2002 with the local rebel Ugandan National Rescue Force II.192
On May 28, 2003, the LRA attacked a bus convoy going to Sudan on the western road from Karumba to Arua, via Pakuach, at Pajok II, a frequent LRA target, to the south of the proposed refugee camps. Fifteen were killed and thirty-five were captured and taken away.193 This road, the main land route from West Nile to Kampala, is often disrupted by LRA ambushes and attacks. On June 17, 2003, the LRA attacked an orphanage run by the Catholic Church in northern Uganda, abducting fifteen children, twelve of whom were Sudanese refugee orphans. 194
The UNHCR stated that the Ugandan government is firm on its insistence that the more than 15,000 Achol-pii refugees not already relocated from Kiryandongo-8,500 were moved to a camp in central Uganda, Kyangwalle-be relocated to the two sites in Icafe, Yumbe district, and Madi Okollo, Arua district in West Nile. The government is proceeding with its preparation of the sites, which will take until the end of 2003.195
34 Fr. Carlos Rodriguez, "War In Acholi: What Can We Do?" Kitgum, Uganda, June 2003.
35 Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), Acholibreaks Chronology: Full report and chronology through December 12, 2002 (ARLPI study), at http://www.acholipeace.org/chronology2002.htmat (accessed April 7, 2003).
36 Of 2,611 abductees, some 1,958 were children and 653 were adults. Of 870 persons who escaped or were released, 653 were adults and only 287 were children. This leaves 1,671 children and seventy adults captive, of those who were abducted from two of three districts in the last six months of 2002. ARLPI study, ibid.
38 Human Rights Watch interview with People's Voice for Peace representative, Gulu, Uganda, February 1, 2003.
39 Human Rights Watch interview with Catholic Church of Uganda representative, Gulu, Uganda, February 1, 2003.
40 Human Rights Watch interview with Martin P., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
41 Human Rights Watch interview with James K., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
42 UNICEF reports that more than 38,000 adults and children have been abducted during the course of the conflict, with children making up the majority of abductions. Human Rights Watch interview with UNICEF representative, Kampala, Uganda, February 3, 2002. There were 12,000 registered child abductions from 1990-2001, and 8,400 from June 2002-May 2003, a total of 20,400 for these periods. Email, Mads Oyen, UNICEF Uganda, to Human Rights Watch, June 27, 2003.
43 Ibid. Email, Mads Oyen to Human Rights Watch.
47 Vincent Mayanja, "Most of the 100 abducted Ugandan children found," AFP (Kampala), June 25, 2003; see "UNICEF horrified by abduction of schoolgirls," IRIN, Nairobi, June 26, 2003.
48 Human Rights Watch interview with UNICEF representative, Kampala, Uganda, February 3, 2003.
49 Human Rights Watch interview, Gulu, Uganda, February 1, 2003.
50 Human Rights Watch interview with Charles Watmon, Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
51 In July 2002, when the LRA had just returned to Uganda, as many as 60,000 nightly were seeking refuge in Gulu and the Lacor hospital, according to a Ugandan NGO. Human Rights Watch interview with Fellowship of Reconciliation, Kampala, Uganda, July 23, 2002. Other sources indicated that the peak figure of night commuters in Gulu was 40,000.
52 U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Gulu office, "Night Commuters to Gulu Town," May 17, 2003.
53 Human Rights Watch interview with Charles Watmon, Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
54 Julius was being kept in the army barracks at the time. Human Rights Watch interview with Mark T., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
55 Human Rights Watch interview with Mark T., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003. Mark T. said that after he himself was abducted on August 5, 2002 and forced to march with other abducted boys toward Kalong, they encountered another group of abductees where he saw his other brother Amos, age nineteen. Amos "told me that he and Julius were abducted from home the same day as me." Ibid.
56 The LRA soldiers were referring to rubber boots usually worn by the UPDF soldiers and were implying that the UPDF was visiting or living in the house.
57 Human Rights Watch interview with Susan A., Gulu, Uganda, February 9, 2003.
58 Human Rights Watch interview with Janet W., Gulu, Uganda, February 9, 2003.
59 Human Rights Watch interview with John W., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
60 Human Rights Watch interview with Martin P., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
61 Human Rights Watch interview with Grace T., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
62 Human Rights Watch interview with Edward T., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
63 Human Rights Watch interview with Martin P., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
64 Human Rights Watch interview with John W., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
65 Human Rights Watch interview with Matthew A., Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
66 Human Rights Watch interview with Grace T., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
67 Human Rights Watch interview with Brenda O., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
68 Human Rights Watch interview with Samuel B., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003. Early in its history the LRA "cleansed" initiates from witchcraft and sorcery in a ceremony that included the use of shea-butter oil and water. Behrend, ibid.
69 Human Rights Watch interview with Martin P., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
70 Human Rights Watch interview with Robert O., Gulu, Uganda, January 30, 2003.
71 Human Rights Watch interview with night commuter, Gulu, Uganda, January 29, 2003.
72 She was subjected to multiple other abuses: she was raped and forced to become one of the twenty "wives" of an LRA commander who continuously beat her.
73 Human Rights Watch interview with James K., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
74 Human Rights Watch interview with Samuel B., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
75 Human Rights Watch interview with Matthew A., Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
76 Human Rights Watch interview with Matthew A., Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
77 Human Rights Watch interview with Edward T., Gulu, Uganda, February 8, 2003.
78 Concerned Parents Association Registration Files. Alet O. was abducted on July 15, 2001 and escaped on January 15, 2002. Human Rights Watch interview with CPA, Gulu, Uganda, January 30, 2003.
79 Human Rights Watch interview with Sondra O., Gulu, Uganda, February 9, 2003.
80 Human Rights Watch interview with Christopher W., Gulu, Uganda, February 8, 2003.
81 Human Rights Watch interview with John W., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
82 Human Rights Watch interview with James K., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
83 Human Rights Watch interview with Edward T., Gulu, Uganda, February 8, 2003; see Human Rights Watch interview with Christopher W., Gulu, Uganda, February 8, 2003.
84 Human Rights Watch interview with John W., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
85 Human Rights Watch interview with Bonifatius O., Gulu, Uganda, February 3, 2003.
87 Human Rights Watch interview with Charles M., Gulu, Uganda, February 8, 2003.
88 Human Rights Watch interview with Stephen A., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
89 Human Rights Watch interview with Jules O., Gulu, Uganda, February 3, 2003.
90 Human Rights Watch interview with Peter O., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
91 Human Rights Watch interview with Antonio E., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
92 Human Rights Watch interview with Phillip Lutara, Concerned Parents Association, Gulu NGO, Gulu, Uganda, January 30, 2003.
93 Human Rights Watch interview with Christine A., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
94 Human Rights Watch interview with Josephine M., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
95 Human Rights Watch interview with Sondra O., Gulu, Uganda, February 9, 2003.
96 Human Rights Watch interview with Christopher W., Gulu, Uganda, February 8, 2003.
97 Human Rights Watch interview with Thomas O., Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
99 Human Rights Watch interview with Matthew A., Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
100 Human Rights Watch interview with Grace T., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
101 Human Rights Watch interview with Antonio E., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
102 Human Rights Watch interview with Matthew A., Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
103 Human Rights Watch interview with Edward T., Gulu, Uganda, February 8, 2003.
104 Human Rights Watch interview with Stephen A., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
106 Human Rights Watch interview with Sondra O., Gulu, Uganda, February 9, 2003.
107 Human Rights Watch interview with James K., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
108 His brother was killed en route to Sudan because he could not march fast enough. Human Rights Watch interview with Antonio E., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
109 The commander of Antonio's unit was Lt. Okelo Ochoka.
110 Human Rights Watch interview with Peter O., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
111 Human Rights Watch interview with Peter O., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
113 Human Rights Watch interview with Janet M., Gulu, Uganda, February 9, 2003.
114 Human Rights Watch interview with Brenda O., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
115 Human Rights Watch interview with Charlotte W., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
116 Human Rights Watch interview with Angela P., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
117 Human Rights Watch interview with nurse, Gulu, Uganda, February 10, 2003.
119 Human Rights Watch interview with Julius Tiboa, program coordinator, Gulu Save Our Children Organisation (GUSCO), Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
120 Human Rights Watch interview with nurse, Gulu, Uganda, February 10, 2003.
121 Human Rights Watch interview with Christine A., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
122 Human Rights Watch interview with Angela P., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
123 Human Rights Watch interview with Christine A., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
125 Seventy Times Seven: The Implementation and Impact of the Amnesty Law in Acholi, ARLPI; Caritas Gulu Women's Desk, Justice and Peace Commission of Gulu Archdiocese, May 2002, p. 18f.
126 Human Rights Watch interviews with Caritas Gulu Women's Desk, Concerned Parents Association, People's Voice for Peace.
127 Human Rights Watch interview with Caritas Women's Desk, Gulu, Uganda, January 31, 2003.
128 Human Rights Watch interview with Ruth K., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
129 Human Rights Watch interview, World Vision, Gulu, Uganda, February 10, 2003
130 Human Rights Watch interview, GUSCO, Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
131 Seventy Times Seven: The Implementation and Impact of the Amnesty Law in Acholi, ARLPI, Caritas Gulu Women's Desk, Justice and Peace Commission of Gulu Archdiocese, May 2002.
132 Human Rights Watch interview with Martin P., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
133 Human Rights Watch interview with Charles M., Gulu, Uganda, February 8, 2003.
134 Human Rights Watch interview with Mark T., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
135 Ibid. .
136 Human Rights Watch interview with nongovernmental representative, Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
137 Human Rights Watch interview with James K., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
138 Human Rights Watch interview with Janet M., Gulu, Uganda, February 9. 2003.
139 Human Rights Watch interview with Julius Tiboa, Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
140 Human Rights Watch interview with local religious leader, Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
141 Human Rights Watch interview with Christine A., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
142 According to Seventy Times Seven: The Implementation and Impact of the Amnesty Law in Acholi, ARLPI, Caritas Gulu Women's Desk, Justice and Peace Commission of Gulu Archdiocese, May 2002.
144 Human Rights Watch interview with Ruth K., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
145 Human Rights Watch interview with Martin P., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
146 Human Rights Watch interview with Charlotte W., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
147 Human Rights Watch interview with Janet M., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
148 Human Rights Watch interview with Matthew A., Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
149 Human Rights Watch interview with Save the Children Denmark representatives, Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
150 Human Rights Watch interview with Grace T., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
151 Human Rights Watch interview with nurse, World Vision rehabilitation center, Gulu, Uganda, February 10, 2003.
152 Human Rights Watch interview with counselor, World Vision rehabilitation center, Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
153 Human Rights Watch interview with nurse, World Vision rehabilitation center, Gulu, Uganda, February 10, 2003.
154 Human Rights Watch interview with Susan A., Gulu, Uganda, February 9, 2003.
155 Human Rights Watch interview with John W., Gulu, Uganda, February 5, 2003.
157 "LRA Men Abduct 30 Pupils in Gulu," New Vision (Kampala), February 28, 2003.
158 "Ugandan rebels kill boy, abduct 41 others in raid on seminary," AFP, Kampala, May 11, 2003; "Uganda army seeks Catholic students," BBC News, May 12, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3019563.stm (accessed June 24, 2003).
159 Human Rights Watch interview with James K. Lomoro, Gulu District Inspector of Schools, Gulu, Uganda, February 7, 2003.
161 U.N. OCHA, "Humanitarian Update - Uganda," vol. V, issue 3 (March 2003). While 5,787 students were registered, fewer than 2,600 were attending classes.
163 Uganda has acceded to the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, in which article three common to the four conventions governs internal armed conflicts. The 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Protocol II, as well as customary international humanitarian law, apply to rebel forces of countries signatory to the conventions, although the rebel forces do not have the legal capacity to sign these conventions.
164 Human Rights Watch interview with ACORD, Gulu, Uganda, January 31, 2003. This LRA note is in the possession of Human Rights Focus (HURIFO), a Ugandan human rights nongovernmental organization based in Gulu.
165 LRA Commander Matata died in January 2003.
166 Human Rights Watch interview with Christopher W., Gulu, Uganda, February 8, 2003.
167 U.N. OCHA, "Humanitarian Update - Uganda," vol. V., issue 1 (January 2003).
168 WFP Emergency Report No. 09 of 2003, February 28, 2003, http://qqq.qdp.oef/index.asp?section-2 (accessed April 10, 2003). "According to a study conducted among 400 children in Kalongo hospital in Pader, 14 percent of the children were found to be acutely malnourished and 29 percent were at risk." Ibid.
169 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lars Eric Skaansar, U.N. OCHA representative, Kampala, Uganda, June 26, 2003.
170 The IDP camps in Gulu district are more accessible for relief purposes than those in the Kitgum and Pader districts.
171 Figures for Anaka and Pabbo camps show 31 percent of children in Anaka and 5-18 percent of children in Pabbo suffer from acute malnutrition. U.N. OCHA, "Humanitarian Update - Uganda," vol. V., issue 2 (February 2003).
172 U.N. OCHA, "Humanitarian Update - Uganda," vol. V., issue 2 (February 2003).
173 Action Against Hunger-USA (ACF-USA), "Nutritional Survey in IDP Camps, Gulu District, Northern Uganda" (ACF-USA, New York: May 2003), p. 2.
174 Human Rights Watch interviews, former abductees, Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003; Human Rights Watch interview with LC-V Chairman, Gulu District, Walter Ochora, Gulu, Uganda, February 4, 2003.
175 Human Rights Watch Annual Report 2002, referring to Diocese of Torit (southern Sudan) records documenting the death of 470 southern Sudanese civilians killed by the LRA. "Kony kills 470," New Vision (Kampala), May 11, 2002.
176 Human Rights Watch interview with anonymous officials and relief workers, Lokichokkio, Kenya, May 29, 2003.
177 U.N. OCHA Sudan Humanitarian Update, July 2002, dated July 29, 2002:
Approximately 1,800 internally displaced persons (IDPs) fled to Gomba (5 km east of Juba [Sudanese government garrison town]) following LRA attacks on their villages [in southern Sudan]. During the attacks two of this caseload were killed and seven abducted. The [Sudanese government] military prevented IDPS attempting to move to Juba from accessing the town, as they were concerned that members of the LRA could filter in with them. OCHA has taken up the issue locally with authorities. LRA activity has also prevented people residing in villages up to 30 km from Juba from accessing their land and in some cases safe drinking water.
178 The four years' long flight ban on this area was not ended until late October 2002, when the Sudanese government and the rebel SPLM/A signed a humanitarian access agreement in the context of peace negotiations.
179 Human Rights Watch interview with Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) official, Lokichokkio, Kenya, May 29, 2003. The LRA captured the communications radio belonging to the NCA in an ambush on an NCA vehicle in 2001 en route to Kitgum from Sudan, and presumably used the radio's channels to monitor the NGO's deliveries thereafter. Ibid. See OLS-S Security Sitrep # 52, Nairobi, February 26, 2003 (February 27, 2003).
180 The refugees are fleeing the SPLM/A and/or the Sudanese government. They are often from ethnic groups that overlap the Uganda/Sudan border such as the Acholi, Madi, Bari, and others.
181 "Resettlement of Achol-Pii Refugees to Be Expedited," IRIN, Kampala, Uganda, August 15, 2002.
182 According to a former LRA captive who participated in the Maaji raid and killed a person, there were at least fourteen people killed. Human Rights Watch interview with Antonio E., Gulu, Uganda, February 6, 2003.
183 "Uganda: LRA attacks another refugee camp in the north," IRIN, Kampala, Uganda, October 7, 2002.
185 Ibid., p. 25.
186 Achol-Pii refugee camp was attacked by the LRA supposedly because it believed that the SPLA used that camp for training. Vincent Mayanja, "Worries of rebel attacks pit Sudan refugees against their hosts," AFP, Kiryandongo, Uganda, April 16, 2003.
187 "Worries of rebel attacks . . . ," April 16, 2003.
188 U.N. OCHA, "Humanitarian Update - Uganda," vol. V, issue 3 (March 2003).
189 "Uganda expels UNHCR representative," AFP, Kampala, Uganda, April 13, 2002; United Nations Foundation, U.N. Wire, "Uganda: Government Expels UNHCR Envoy; Lubbers Visits Country," Washington, DC, April 14, 2003, http://www.unfoundation.org/unwire/util/display_stories.asp?objid=33166 (accessed April 16, 2003).
190 "Uganda: UNHCR says no rift with government," IRIN, Kampala, April 16, 2003; Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, "Govt Denies Expelling UN Refugee Boss," The Monitor (Kampala), April 16, 2003.
191 Letter to the Office of the Second Deputy Prime Minister, from Achol-pii community, May 12, 2003/
192 Human Rights Watch interview with Stephen Gonah, Senior Protection Officer, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Kampala, Uganda, June 13, 2003. The Ugandan National Rescue Force II (UNRF II), a splinter from the UNRF I (which laid down its arms in the late 1980s), left Sudan in April 2002 and encamped at Yumbe to negotiate the peace agreement.
193 "15 killed, 35 abducted in northern Uganda rebel attacks," AFP, Kampala, Uganda, May 28, 2003.
194 Patrick Alioni and Dennis Ojwee, "LRA Hits Atiak, Adjumani Church", New Vision (Kampala), June 23, 2003, http://www.newvision.co.ug/detail.php?mainNewsCategoryId=8&newsCategoryId=12&newsId=141412 (accessed June 24, 2003). The Adjumani district is an area east of the Nile but outside Acholiland where there are large Sudanese refugee camps.
195 Human Rights Watch interview with Stephen Gonah, Senior Protection Officer, UNHCR, Kampala, Uganda, June 13, 2003.