Daily VideoNovember 17, 2010
The Struggles of Former Child Soldiers
In the African country of Uganda, a rebel army called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) recruited children to commit brutal acts of violence against their own families and other Ugandan villagers. Now, former child soldiers are speaking out and struggling to find normal lives after their ordeals.
Places like the World Vision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu, Uganda are working to help former child soldiers reclaim their lives, but the work is difficult. Some, like Michael Anywar, were forced to kill members of their family, and others suffered major injuries and assaults themselves. The rehabilitation center holds group and individual sessions and art therapy to get the former soldiers to work through their feelings. Studies on child soldiers in Uganda who return from the battlefield show they have a wide range of problems, like post-traumatic stress and depression.
On top of everything else, child soldiers often feel they can’t return to their villages because of the crimes they were forced to commit against their own people. Even though the international community has granted child soldiers amnesty, meaning they won’t ever be prosecuted for their crimes, people in the villages who suffered at the hands of child soldiers find it harder to forgive them.
“I was abducted with my brother. And they told me I had to kill my brother and other people. If I didn’t, I would be killed.” – Michael Anywar, former child soldier
“The child could have been abducted when he was 9 years old, but now here is coming back home when he’s 25 or 30, meaning that, most of the time, most of his lifetime is spent in captivity. So, we see that, really, they have challenges in coping up with life in the community.” – Christine Oroma, counselor
“Not everybody in the community has already forgiven them, the rebels. There are others who are still very bitter with the rebels. Even those who have already returned back into their community, there are other community members who are still bitter with them, because they see that: Now my child is not back. And, for you, you are back at home. My child died from captivity. And now, for you, you’re still back at home.” – Christine Oroma, counselor
Warm Up Questions
1. Where is Uganda?
2. What is a “rebel army?”
3. What is amnesty?
1. Why are these former child soldiers so hesitant to go back to their villages and resume ‘normal life’? If you were a villager who had suffered at the hands of a child soldier, do you think you be able to forgive that soldier when he or she returned to the village? Why or why not?
2. Why do you think the LRA is harming so many villagers in Uganda and surrounding countries, and why do you think it’s been so difficult to stop them?
3. How would you help child soldiers return to normal life?
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