For many years, the LRA, under the leadership of Africa’s most wanted warlord, Joseph Kony, terrorized people in northern Uganda and some parts of South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, leaving thousands of people dead and many others displaced from their homes.
But since the fighting is over, the group of former child soldiers calling itself the Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development is endeavoring to help the victims resume their normal lives and heal.
Started by two Ugandan former LRA child soldiers some two years ago, the Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development gets support from Goldin Institute based in the U.S. and Tokyo-based Arigatou International.
Through this initiative the group has managed to attract 240 people most of whom were captives of LRA, allowing them to share their experiences at the hands of the rebel group and the life after escaping their captors through songs and plays.
According to the UN children’s agency, the rebel group abducted tens of thousands of children, many of whom became fighters and “bush wives”. It is alleged that Kony preferred children abductees because they were easy to indoctrinate and force into believing in his alleged supernatural powers.
Many of the captives were tortured, raped, killed and maimed, scars that remain fresh both physically and emotionally. Sadly, those who survived were rejected by their communities and received little help from the government. Many of them are still withdrawn, secluded and full of anger.
But with the new idea of composing songs and plays as a way of expressing themselves, many of these victims have been able to share their pain and begin the process of healing.
“You would not cope if you were to stay according to the traditional way. So when the group came, they started sharing with us, they started counseling us,” 36-year-old Jackline Akot, a former LRA captive, was quoted by the News 1130.
Like many other victims, Akot says the initiative has helped her be at peace with herself and the community, even after being rejected by her own family. The group holds regular public gatherings in northern Uganda where people share their stories and help each other get over their painful experiences.