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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 62 / 125

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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

mothers who returned from captivity without their husbands or whose husbands were killed, and who have no-one to support them. In Acholi culture men are known to be the protectors and breadwinners of the family. Margaret went on:

‘At least I have some one to support me, but the other girls have to struggle to make ends meet …When relief food takes a long time coming, their children move like mad people to other people’s doors, begging for food to eat, it’s so painful. And my children are happy to be with their father and their father too is close to them.’

Not all former captives pass through rehabilitation centres, however; others return directly into their communities with no support. The young mothers who did not go through rehabilitation centres suffer both psychologically and socially. Respondents told us that when they seek assistance from NGOs, they are normally expected to produce their amnesty card, showing which rehabilitation centre they registered at. However, some cannot identify with any rehabilitation centre and no documentation can be found about them. There is no justification for requiring this documentation, however, since there are other ways of establishing whether or not a girl is an LRA returnee. For example, local councillors (LCs) also document their return into the community. As one respondent put it, ‘I do not know whether the Kony that abducted us was different from the Kony they talk about now. Perhaps our type of rape was not rape?’

A deeper problem confronts child mothers who go directly home, however, namely the problem of their children’s identity. Often, the children of the child mothers grow up without being able to trace their families, and without knowing their fathers, who may have been captured, or died, or remained in the bush. Children who escaped with their mothers lead a life of misery and frustration; they suffer stigma and are always called names by their peers, in schools or in the communities. One young mother described the pain of having children without a father:

‘You have to do every thing on your own, there is no-one to support you, no-one to help you bring the children up morally, and no-one to point to show the children “that is your father, that is your grandfather”. Worst still, they belong to no clan. I almost committed suicide because I could not see the end to this suffering.’

Girls who later marry often try to avoid telling their husbands about their experience as abductees, because they fear that this would lead to the breakdown of the marriage. One respondent described how her children questioned her on the whereabouts of their father, because the man whom they regarded as their father did not care for them and constantly harassed them when drunk, saying that he wanted nothing to do with her or them, because they were rebels. She explained:

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