A World Shattered
While it is difficult to know exactly how many children have been abducted by Joseph Kony's rebel army, the LRA, the United Nations estimates that 25,000 children have been abducted since 1986. Child abductions peaked in particular between 2002 and 2003, where it is estimated that 10,000 children were abducted from their homes.
The children who were abducted faced a hard and brutal road ahead of them. When children are captured, many are forced to help murder or maim their own family members to prove their new forced loyalty to the LRA. This act of violence towards the sacred ties of family is what causes many children to be rejected by their community, should they ever return home.
In other cases, a child soldier may not even be given a chance to prove his worth to the LRA. Children who are viewed as weak or cannot keep up with the unit are beaten, mutilated, or trampled on by the men of the unit. Though children are seen, in Joseph Kony's eyes, as easier soldiers to train and manipulate, the LRA had little time or patience for weaker children.
Children from the countryside commute to communities in order to avoid being abducted (also known by the locals as "night commuters") image copyright http://childrenaidother.tripod.com/id1.html
Female soldiers are more likely to suffer from post traumatic stress than male soldiers due to extreme cases of sexual abuse. When a female child is captured, she is forced to become a "wife" for the commanders of that LRA unit. Females are repeatedly raped, and some end up receiving HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases, or become pregnant. Females rarely are ever accepted back into their communities and are seen as very unclean. If a female child has become pregnant, she will more than likely abort or abandon her illegitimate child due to a lack of support from her family and the community.
The Family and Other Civilians
The family as well as community members also suffer from the abduction of their children. Many mourn the loss of their child, for most children do not return home. If a child does return home, families may fear the child due to his/her forced recruitment and what they may have done while in the LRA. Siblings in particular are usually very afraid and reject the returning sibling.
Other children who were not abducted shun child soldiers. If a child soldier does return to school, they are often bullied and isolated by their peers. Female child soldiers rarely have any support and are normally not allowed back into their community.
While their children were being abducted, families were being forced into "protective camps" by the Ugandan government. These camps, which were meant to provide a sense of security in numbers, were overcrowded and extremely unhealthy. Over 90% of the Ugandan population was forced into these camps, where they were to suffer overcrowding, malnourishment, disease, and poverty. Thousands of Ugandan civilians perished in these camps that were meant to be a source of help.