A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
infrastructure as a result of the chronic insecurity that has affected the region since 1986 and earlier.
Young people in the north face severe limitations on their chances of education and employment, and are vulnerable to economic and sexual exploitation from adults,
including parents, teachers and employers.
The depredations of the LRA have
generated from. To
violence and insecurity which young people particularly have suffered obtain food, supplies, wives and soldiers, rebels looted villages and
abducted young people, sometimes as young as 8, to serve as porters, combatants
and spies, and, in the case 20,000 children and youth
of girls, as ‘wives’ for soldiers and commanders. are believed to have been abducted in total, and
At least perhaps
one or two thousand still remain with the LRA as of December 2006. Thousands boys and girls (as well as adults) have returned from the bush deeply scarred their experiences, having been forced to kill in combat.
Many who were abducted as children have spent years in the bush and are returning as adults, having lost their chances of education. When abducted children return, those who had interrupted their studies find reintegration into school very difficult. Although primary education is free, many schools in the north have closed down due to insecurity. Older children find it difficult to be in class with much younger children. An estimated 30% of girl and young women returnees have become mothers. Many are excluded from school because of poverty and because of the stigma they face as a result of having transgressed social codes by living a life of violence and by bearing illegitimate children.
The LRA is not the only body against whom accusations of child abuse have been leveled. Children have been recruited into local defence units and the government army, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). There are also many reported cases of sexual exploitation and sexual violence against girls by government military personnel in internally displaced camp settings. The government is currently committed to an action plan and to strengthen the implementation of existing legal and policy frameworks on the recruitment and use of children in its armed forces.
In general, the number of young and single mothers has increased year after year, and at present stands at more than 3,500 (UNICEF 2005), leaving stakeholders with a substantial challenge in ensuring their reintegration into the community. The difficulties faced by young mothers who return from captivity have received little attention. In addition to the problems of material poverty they face in providing for themselves and their children, they return home seeking psychological and social rehabilitation, and find little support available to enable them to do this. Although extended family and clan systems continue to operate in displaced people’s camps,