A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
suffering is not being acknowledged or compensated for. Moreover, very little preparations were made for the children’s return in many cases.
Some illustrations from the testimonies
‘My peers don’t freely associate with me, I think they take it that as I have been in the bush I may hurt them.’
‘We are rejected by people because they say we are killers, thieves, that we robbed them and ate their goats.’
‘I fear to stay with them (peers) or even approach them. I usually spend my time with my colleagues, the ones I came back from the bush with.’
‘The group members are stoned when they dance, because people say that we are robbers, murderers and have stained hands.’
‘The community uses bad language on us, which makes me not even to work or stay with other ladies because they insult me.’
Child mothers who were abducted by and spent time with the LRA in the bush did not do so of their own volition. However, having undergone this experience, they are seen as offending Acholi values in a number of fundamental ways. Most importantly, because abducted children were forced to kill in some cases, and because all have, in one way or another, been associated with adult LRA members who killed, one of the main reproaches levelled against the returning children is that they too are killers. Associated with this allegation is the belief that they have acquired cen, meaning that they are haunted by the avenging spirits of those they have killed. Cen can be transferred from one generation to another, and any misfortune which occurs to any member of the girls’ families can be attributed to the cen which they have brought into the family. This leads to extreme mistrust of the formerly abducted children. People fear that, having acquired a taste for blood, they could easily kill those they come into contact with.
Community elders have a potential role to play in assisting the abducted children back into the community. Recognised clan heads and local chiefs preside over clan discussion, rituals, marriages, funerals, and initiation ceremonies. Elders believe that when someone returns from fighting in the bush, he or she needs to be cleansed before they are accepted, and to carry out this cleansing they officiate, both within families and in the community, in a ceremony in which the person to be cleansed steps on eggshells. There is no particular ritual for cleansing a young mother who