CCF primarily works in Pader District, Northern Uganda, and also supports children in Lira and Kitgum. These areas were particularly affected by the 20-year war in northern Uganda.
A Region at War
Since its independence from the British in 1962, Uganda has been plagued with dictatorships and civil war. In 1987, the Lord’s Resistance Army began terrorizing northern Uganda—particularly the districts of Gulu, Kitgum, and Pader—in a campaign that resulted in widespread suffering and human rights violations including mutilations, rape, abduction of children, and civilian massacres.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is a guerrilla army led by Joseph Kony with the aim of overthrowing the Ugandan government and installing a government based on the Ten Commandments. Still believed active today in Southern Sudan, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic, Lord’s Resistance Army operations scaled down in Uganda by 2006, though the scars of their brutal tactics and long-waged battle continue to affect those living in Northern Uganda.
A Region at War
The LRA’s main strategy is the abduction of children for forced servitude and combat. While boys are used as child soldiers, girls are forced to become “child brides,” and are at risk of getting pregnant at a very young age. It is estimated that 60,000 children were abducted by the LRA in Uganda alone. On average, girls and women are in captivity for 2 years, twice the average length of abduction for boys and men.
A Catholic Relief Services 2004 Report explains the LRA’s tactic clearly: “The LRA reportedly forces children to kill family members or friends in front of other children to instill fear and loyalty causing a devastating psychological impact on children who are less likely to return to a community where they participated in murdering and torturing their own neighbors and family members.” As a result of rape and forced killing, children returning to their communities are discriminated against by the locals. Child mothers and their children face greater rejection and have a very difficult time reintegrating and accessing basic services and social support networks.
The Government of Uganda’s response to this dreadful violence centered around moving civilians from their homes into internally displaced camps (IDPs) for easier and better protection. In the 20 years of armed conflict, about 1.8 million people were displaced and it is estimated that in Pader district alone, 82% of the population was displaced. Although well intended, the Government’s mobilization policy did not provide real protection for camp residents, who continued being attacked by the LRA while also being exposed to high prevalence of disease, malnutrition, and poverty.
Attempts at Peace
Peace talks with the LRA began in 2006. After many failed attempts at drafting a peace accord LRA leadership would sign, peace talks ended in 2008.
Since then, Northern Uganda has benefited from relative peace and stability, though the effects of the long war are widespread. Post-war poverty is rampant, domestic and sexual violence prevalent, and many struggle to reintegrate after forced combat.