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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 61 / 125

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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

been written (for example, Human Rights Watch 1997, de Temmerman 2001). The testimonies of the MDP child mothers who took part in this study suggest strongly that this support, while it certainly exists in some quarters, is profoundly lacking in the lives of the majority of girls in this situation. This applies both to the families and neighbours of the girls, and to a range of other duty bearers, including the police, the courts, and NGOs operating projects which support returnees.

2.1 Rehabilitation centres

Rehabilitation centres are the first point of re-entry for many child and youth ex- combatants. At the rehabilitation centres, young mothers are registered with their children, and are given an amnesty card and letter of introduction from the centre. When they leave and are reunited with their families they are given rehabilitation packages.

Mothers who pass through rehabilitation centres have the advantage of being provided with a minimum of support. The disadvantage they face is that this support is itself a source of discrimination since it announces to the world that they have been in the rebel movements. At the same time, once the rehabilitation package is used up, the girls face the dilemma of how to survive economically, and how to provide both themselves and their children with food and shelter. For many, the answer lies in marriage, or at least in settling down with a man who can offer such protection.

Some young mothers who come home and rejoin parents – often themselves living in poverty - end up seeking remarriage with their former spouses, who had provided for them during captivity. Some interviewees said they would not consider reuniting with their former LRA husbands. The majority of this group said they had been given as wives to the commanders by force and not by choice, that they had been mistreated by their husbands in the bush, and that they would never think of reuniting with them. Others said they had been obliged to do so just because of the hardship of looking after their children. As Margaret22 explained,

‘After I left the rehabilitation centre I stayed with my brother, but things were not easy. I had to feed my children and pay rent with the little money that GUSCO23 gave me. So when my husband came back after six months I just made up my mind to go and live with him. My mother consented because my father died while I was still in captivity. My husband is still taking good care of me and without his support I would not be looking good like this. Nevertheless, he destroyed me, he destroyed my future and my school career. I would have been a different person today.’

Margaret considered that there was a big difference between her and those child

22

23

Not her real name The Gulu Save the Children Organisation, one of several NGOs which offer rehabilitation services to formerly abducted children.

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