Iron Gates

eveningafricansunThe summer of 1998 was the best summer of my childhood. I was 8 years old then. My dad worked in Uganda and my family and I went to visit him.

We lived in a beautiful bungalow in Kampala with a lush and lively lawn. Every night I would sleep in my bed surrounded by a tall mosquito net. It made me feel like a princess. It was like a scene from a fairy tale.

Our residential compound was in a gated community. The iron gates were mammoth and we children were forbidden from going near them. The only way we were able to cross the gates was in a car. Never on foot. We were never allowed to be alone on the outside. The gates were being monitored by guards 24/7. They became my friends.

Many years later I learned that Uganda was in crisis back then. Children were being recruited as child soldiers. Over 60,000 children were abducted by the LRA, Lord’s Resistance Army. Schools and and villages were being raided to replenish the children who had died in battle.

The difference between me and the children were the massive iron gates.

Many survivors are still in pain. The children are unable to assimilate. They are unable to interact “normally” with the other children. Many young girls who return to their villages are abandoned by their families because they have lost their “honor”. They also return with at least one child, the remnants of their torture. Some young girls abandon these children because they are unable to feed them. They have endured physical and mental trauma. They require special care from professionals, who are rare in their villages.

The survivors continue to struggle.

http://www.unicef.org/emerg/files/childsoldiers.pdf
http://www.child-soldier.org/children-in-conflict-child-soldiers-in-uganda
http://womennewsnetwork.net/2009/01/13/ugandagirlsoldier809/

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