Child abductee overcomes haunting past

Betty (not real names) is a mother of six, 35 years and a resident of Paluti Parish in Agago district. At 16 years of age she was abducted and later after escaping to live in a camp, she was still shot by the same LRA rebels that attacked that IDP camp leaving her with a bullet in her back that was so complex for the doctors at the time to remove. This forced her to live with it for 11 years till weeks of medical surgery and counselling to restore her back to a normal way of life.

It was in March 1999, ten years into the LRA rebellion in northern Uganda that was marked by gross human rights abuses in the northern part of the country, when Betty was abducted by the rebels in the middle of the night in their home in Odek subcounty along with 10 others who were siblings and relatives. She was then trained as a child soldier enduring torture and manual labor carrying sacks of food supplies that were usually looted from homesteads they attacked.

Betty narrates one of her most memorable experiences in captivity…

“I recall when I killed a certain lady to grab a sack of white beans. The next morning when I passed the place I shot the girl, I found body had changed like the beans I had gotten from her; it was white even to the clothes. This made me so afraid and terrified, I shivered with fear, I thought the lady was a ghost… Whenever I see white beans, I begin to fear and usually think the girl is close to me, sometimes I see her in my bed then I pray a lot to send her away from my house.”

This experience kept recurring regularly even after she escaped from the rebel fraternity with one child. On her return she was taken to Odek Internal Displaced Persons’ camp. Instead of recovering, it would only to get worse. In August 2000, the camp was invaded. Even though she survived abduction this time around, she was shot from behind and retained a bullet in the back. Hopes of seeking treatment were shattered when Doctors at the referral hospital in Gulu told her the bullet was hidden and could not be removed. She lived with it for the next 11 years in pain.

In subsequent years with this pain, Betty could not bend; carry water or even a child. It gave her a very difficult time during the weeding and harvesting seasons even though she had to fend and provide for her family of six children.

Through AYINET’s community mobilization efforts in implementing the Medical and Psychosocial Rehabilitation Program supported by the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), Betty was identified and supported through Medical surgery; removing the bullet in her back and counseling to help restore hope and dignity in her life.

Judith Amongi, AYINET counselor recalls;

“when I started out with Betty, it seemed very difficult because she was not sure of her safety and of coming out of this difficult situation she was undergoing. I helped her talk about the past and bring them to present that will make her realize that she was no longer in the same situation and that she was safe from any danger. Betty talking about her own story ultimately gave me courage and was very happy with how she could now interact with the community freely and talk about her situation at any time.”

Even though it was initially difficult for Betty to accept and open up about her ordeals from captivity to life with a bullet in her body, upon full recovery from the surgery and counselling sessions, the fearful memories of dead white bodies and physical pains are no more.
“Would I even believe that I would be helped after I was told the bullet is located somewhere that it cannot be operated. I thank the almighty father for having used AYINET to help me with both my pains. I can now support my family fully without any pain of the mind or body glory be to God for having helped me”. Betty shares with gratitude.