Uganda: Former LRA child soldiers undergo rehabilitation

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A number of former child soldiers of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are currently receiving help from various centres in Uganda. The rehabilitation centres have resorted to using not only formal education techniques but also art to help them overcome the horrifying trauma they were forced to undergo during the war.

Former child soldiers of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Kony are undergoing rehabilitation in various centres in Uganda.

During the war in northern Uganda, LRA rebels abducted many children whom they recruited into ther force. But some child soldiers were rescued last year when government troops attacked the rebels. Others escaped and handed themselves to government forces.

LRA rebels split into small groups in December last year when the Ugandan army led an offensive against them in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to one of the officials in charge of rehabiliting the former child soldiers aged between 12 and 18 years, Steven Amoge, “over 5,000 formerly child soldiers were rescued by Uganda army. Most of them are in various rehabilitaion centres where they also attend schools. Art, music, dance and drama are being used as a therapy to relieve them from traumas of war.”

He said that one of the organizations called New Life Centre, based in northern Uganda, looks after over 500 of such children and youth.

The director of New Life centre, Milton Obbo confirmed that the “former child soldiers were brought here when they were traumatized by the war which was raging in northern Uganda for over 20 years.

“Although we started educating them following the national education carriculum, we had to introduce ideas to make them forget the horrific incidents they experienced during the war. So we included art, music and drama in the syllabus.”

“Besides academic and technical subjects, the students are treated to drama every weekend to help them go over their turbulent past. Some of the former child rebels are still emotional and isolate themselves. We use music and drama to make them social” said Richard Wafula, headmaster of North Hope, another school for former abductees and fighters of the Lord’s Resistance Army. It has 300 former child soldiers.

“When I was brought to North hope, one year ago, I was unsettled in mind and felt guilty for the killings I carried out in the bush. I was infact traumatized. Participating in music dance and drama has made me forget my bad past and become confident,” one of the former child soldiers, 15 year old Daniel Opio said

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