My visits with Beatrice took me to Padibe Internally Displaced Person's (IDP) Camp in Lamwo (previously Kitgum) District, Northern Uganda from 2006-2008.
Her temporary home lied in the heart of a 23 year old conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government. At certain stages in the 23-year conflict in Northern Uganda, over 1.8 million people, or 90% of the northern population, had been displaced into severely overcrowded and squalid internally displaced person’s (IDP) camps, resulting in “almost 1000 excess deaths every week…” (Ugandan Ministry of Health 2005:35). It is also estimated that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 3 boys in Northern Uganda have been abducted at some point by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group and were forced to be child soldiers.
Although a ceasefire had been signed in August 2006, it has since run out without producing a peace agreement.
Although northern Uganda has experienced increased security since the initial ceasefire of 2006, the LRA group and their infamous leader, Joseph Kony, have been active in neighbouring Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, continuing their trademark brutal abductions and civilian-targeted terror. In addition, President Museveni and the Ugandan Government have yet to answer for the appalling condition of the camps, supposedly “protected villages”, which resulted in at least a hundred thousand deaths.
Although there is a lull in the crisis within Northern Uganda, with 80% of the IDPs returning home and the abductions and killings halted, the 23-year conflict has not officially ended.
Terror, displacement, and hunger has left lasting physical and mental marks… But it has also provoked resistance, tenacity, and refusal to be defined by such violences.
I visited Beatrice three times over the past two years. She resides in Padibe IDP Camp in Northern Uganda.
Her name is Beatrice.
She would be uncomfortable to be known only as a former child soldier. Or simply as a former abductee...or as an orphan...or as a child head of household.
Her name is Beatrice.
The conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and the Ugandan government’s military (UPDF) began in 1986, 5 years before Beatrice was born…