Monday, June 15, 2009

Uganda: Married to a LRA butcher who named their child "George Bush"

Lilly Atong, 26, was first abducted by Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels from Amuru district in northern Uganda in 1991 when she was 10 years old. She was made a “wife” of the LRA leader Joseph Kony but escaped in 2005. However, during the Juba peace talks in 2006 she met Kony to persuade him to release other women and children, only to be held captive again in Garamba National Park, where the rebels were hiding. She managed to escape a second time and is now living in a rehabilitation centre in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu.

“I was going to school when the rebels abducted eight of us in 1991.

“I was given to one of the commanders called Abucingu. He took us to Southern Sudan, where we found many rebels in Nisitu, one of their main camps. Kony then took me and two other girls. He said we would work in his home helping his other wives.

“Later in 1996 Kony told me I was his wife. I feared he would kill me if I refused. I was not ready to be a wife at that young age and it was difficult and painful. I cried but there was no way out.

“I had my first child in January 1997 and he named the baby George Bush. In 1999 I had another baby with him.

“In 2005 we came back to Uganda, I had another baby and life was hard. There was no food and the army [Ugandan People’s Defence Forces, UPDF] was always following the group.

“One day the rebels were ambushed. Their commander decided to release women with children. I had two children; my elder son Bush had remained in Sudan with Kony. We reached a nearby UPDF detachment.

“I came back home but there was no work. Luckily, a woman called Else Deternamann came to my assistance and took my children to school in 2005. I was finally settling down and forgetting the bush memories but in 2006 I heard my name being read on the radio; Kony wanted to see me and his other women. The Juba peace talks had just begun.

“I didn’t want to go but after several pleas from people who told me to go and persuade Kony to release children and women, I agreed. We were 22, including leaders from Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts.

“We stayed for a week but when it was time to leave, Kony told me I was not going back to Uganda. He ordered two of his escorts to shoot me if I tried to escape.

“I insisted I was not staying but Kony became so furious. I told him I was ready to remain if he was willing to release other children and women but he said he would kill me if I defied him again.

“The following day Kony moved me to another LRA camp deeper in the forest. Here were 10 other women of Kony’s and many young children. I found my child Bush; he had grown big.

“The camp was heavily guarded by LRA soldiers because it was one of the main bases.

“… But during Operation Lightning Thunder [in December 2008 ]… I escaped and am happy I am finally home but I do not know what to do now. My brothers are angry with me because I delivered another child with Kony while in the bush.

“They said I should not have gone and they are not ready to keep me and my children. I do not know where to begin after leaving GUSCO [Gulu Support the Children Organisation] rehabilitation centre.

“I pray somebody or an organization will help train me in tailoring so that I can raise some money. Before going back to Congo, I was selling vegetables in the market in Gulu but now all is gone, I need something to help start a new life.

“I don’t know what will happen if Else stops providing school support to my children; maybe I will go back to the village.”

Disclaimer:This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
Photo: Copyright IRIN
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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