Friday, 24 August 2012

Day 5 of Peace Camp - The Real Story

Day 5 of Peace Camp-August 16, 2012

(Warning: War stories could potentially be triggering.)
Today was the day the youth began to open up.
The theme of today was “Forgiveness and Reconciliation,” and started out with an introductory session lead by an enthusiastic Ugandan facilitator.  We talked about the importance of reconciliation in the process of healing, as an individual and as a nation.  A few campers (including Joyce!) sang songs they had written about forgiveness, while others shared their personal stories.
During our “sports and games” session, I decided to check in with one very shy girl who goes to school with my other girls.  She said she was not having fun, and requested that I call her teacher so that he could tell me about her life.  I asked if she could tell me instead…
Alaroker Joyce Lillian was abducted when she was five years old, along with both of her parents.  I didn’t “pick” how long she stayed in the bush, but I do know that eventually, they managed to escape by tying themselves together by rope, and wading across the Nile river, which she called “the sea.”
Fast forward to the age of 18, Joyce’s parents are coming home from a burial on a bicycle; a bus driving too fast crashes into them, stealing the lives of both Joyce’s parents, and even the unborn child.  Now Joyce must go live with her “lame” brother who is not able to work because of his condition, and is therefore unable to pay her school fees.  His wife, Joyce’s sister-in-law abuses her both verbally and psychically-even going so far as to deny her food. Now that she is 19 years old, Joyce fears that her sister-in-law is going to marry her off.
I feel so helpless to see girls like Joyce disempowered.  I want to give them the life of opportunity they deserve, but how can I?  I feel as though I have the ability to support them psychologically…  But I don’t have the resources to support them in any other way.  For a girl in this country to have the chance to create a life other than the one that has been laid out for her, it is imperative that she go to school. Right now, with the support of all of you, we are helping six girls do just that-and are struggling more and more as each trimester passes…  But what about Joyce?
If anyone would be interested in sponsoring her, please let me know.
The next session of the day was lead by another PCV.  The topic-goal setting.  He started off by asking each camper to take out a piece of paper and write down what they want to be in “some few years
A doctor
A lawyer who does not accept bribes
A peacemaker
A police woman
A midwife
A professor
“…The distance between you and these papers,” the facilitator said, “is a plan.”
But I can’t help to continue to feel discouraged today.  School fees are a major problem in this country.  How can they be empowered to formulate their plans without being given equal access to education?
Today we really encouraged the youth to share their personal stories during our small group reflection time.  As an outsider, I decided to sit back and let my Ugandan co counselor facilitate the discussion.  Culturally, there is a lot of shame associated with being abducted, so telling their stories is not something that comes easy-but is something that is crucial to the healing process.  Though they spoke with little emotion (probably avoidance), once one of them took the leap, most of them followed.  None of the campers in my group have both of their parents living, and the majority of them have been totally orphaned.  Most of the boys had been abducted as child soldiers, and the girls-you can only imagine.

Christopher, one of the campers that I hadn’t originally chosen, shared his story first, and carried an immense amount of bravery, as he spoke about having to kill innocent people, and about his escape.  Hearing the intensity of his experience, I felt guilty that I had not originally accepted his application… And I couldn’t help but wonder about what other amazing and courageous youth I might have also overlooked.  What touched me most about Christopher’s story was that after all he had been through; he still believed that Kony should not be killed if captured, but rather, that he should be welcomed back into his community…  I don’t know if I could ever have that kind of forgiveness in my heart.
I know Esther had been in the bush for 3 years and 8 months, but I did not know her story, nor did I want to push it.  Rather than share her story in the group, she asked if she could write it down for me, and even encouraged me to share it with all of you.  Verbatim, here is her story:
“Real story.  I could not believe that this could really happen when my own father who gave birth to me calling me all sorts of names that I am Kony, am being raped by Kony, that also I should also go back to the bush because I will kill him on his land because am Kony which kill people.
It became worst when ever my society member started calling me Kony and that am the wife to Kony, most especially when I was at school till my sister had to transfer me since I lost another.
So I thought of going back to the bush at least then to suffer from the father who thought that am different from his own children.
Luck enough my sister the one who was taking (care) of me when I was still childhood to now as I talk up to now.
The memories still comes to my mind like nightmares, the sound of the earoplane (airplane) and the ghost of the person I killed but through prayer and the psycotromous (psycho traumatic?) clinic in Soroti helping me to give me some of the drugs which removes nightmares, stress and worries.  I remember when the rebels cained me all day fifty slashes of sticks till I lost my sense but good enough rain splash helped me not to die; again I was made to killed the person and even eat the brain which was serious, I could walk without eating, walking long distance bullets and guns and eroplanes till when I learnt how to shoot a gun and sent to loot peoples’ property and I was shot on the right leg but didn’t die, could walk and we looted things and on going back we slept in some deserted home where I managed to escape back up to the barracks where I was given help and taken to gulu world vision for concelling & guidance after I left to home.
On reaching home, people could not believe that I was the one even my own mother and other relatives of which they were telling me that am dead because my cousin sister told them that she left when I was dead of which even the ceremony for my death was being carried out already, so till they gather people to settle the case then I was accepted as one of the lost child, as the prodigal son in the bible.
Last what bores me at home is my own father for the words he always keeps on telling me.
If my sister would (not) be there, I would be miserable in street but I have to suffer looking for pocket money and buying things for going back to school as my sister is also paying for her own children and the husband dont allow her pay my fees, of which stopped this year.  I struggle working and digging to earn school fees for my fees but these does not mean the end of my life but really I would like to study and become an important person in future.”

I can’t even begin to find the words to tell you about the Forgiveness Ceremony we held tonight.  These former abductees were forced to kill each other in the most horrific of ways.  They are the true victims of this war.  If they refused to do as the rebels said, they would be tortured, raped, and killed.  Some were even forced to chop up body parts of their community members, and even to kill their own parents.
During the ceremony, two tribes would face each other and speak vulnerably about the atrocities that had been committed against them, and about the atrocities their own people had committed against the other tribe.  They would then ask for forgiveness.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.

The Acholis got it the worst.  Many of them psychologically broke down…
Watching Daniel break down during the ceremony was what took me over the edge.  He was the only one who spoke of having to kill innocent people on his application, and it was very apparent tonight, that he still deeply suffers from PTSD.
In Daniel’s group as they shared stories, one young man named Geoffrey spoke of a raid he was a part of in a particular village…
“On Independence day?” Daniel intervened.  Geoffrey nodded.  “I was there that day, but I escaped” Daniel said.  “It was during that raid that my brother was killed.”  They stared at each other for an intense moment, as though realizing their brotherhood.  Though, I can only imagine that they must have been thinking “You could have killed me.” Or “I could have killed you.”
At the Forgiveness Ceremony, Geoffrey courageously stood before his peers and tribal “enemies,” and told his story.  I asked if he wouldn’t mind writing it down, and letting me share it:
“On 11-April-2003 I’m being abducted by those of Kony rebels at around 10:00 pm.  They take me to the bush.  At that night they went with me during all the night. Then we reach at day times, That day in the morning, they take me to under commander called BOUGY for some questions, and I’m been questioned about my parent weather they are there.  From there they told me that if allows to take rebels to my parent so that my parent to killed.  I told them that I am lost both of my parent.  After saying that I’m lost my parent, they tighten me with ropes to be beaten, and they were using panga (machete) to beat me.  So to make tells the thing truly;  I said to them that I’m not lying them they refuse.
One day one time there was a journey to Sudan country so we the abducties we were force to cross the boundary of Uganda and Sudan very quickly because the area is very danger I manage to cross.  After crossing I hard (heard) the sound of the boom at the back where most of the people are standing.  By that time people were scared, no where to run, some of the civilian were died.  By that time I was in Sudan country and some of the people remained in Uganda.  Then we stayed in Sudan for two month.
We got access to comes back to Uganda, I realized that I was going to died.
After crossing we were been deployed to various Districts in Northern Uganda.  Those who were remain in Uganda begun hurt just because of going to Sudan.  ACHOLI peoples I was treated in the bad ways:
ALL my clothes were removed from my body and they left me necked, I walk for three months necked in bush.
When there is a time for sleeping always tighten me with ropes both legs & hands.
Times for food they don’t allows to heat food, they only gives me raw-beans to eat.  They used to make (us eat) bone which lasted for 2 or 3 weeks.
Forcing to kill innocent people without and I killed with the intention to saved lives. (?)
From 2003 to 2006 that I take a chance to escape from those of L.R.A. (Joseph Kony)
Thank you the story too long I cannot narrate all.
Geoffrey’s story was one of many.  And listening to all of them has left me physically and emotionally shattered.  I can only hope that today, as these individuals shared their stories, and heard the likes of others, that they will never again feel like they are alone in the world.
“We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, 'I survived'.” –Chris Cleave


  1. There are tears pouring down my cheeks. You are such a courageous and strong woman, Jenna. We would be very interested in sponsoring Joyce's education. Please contact me to let me know how much you need and when? You are doing amazing work. Amazing.

  2. tears down my cheeks too. thank you for sharing these stories, the stories we don't hear so often. it is hard for me to imagine how intense it must be to be surrounded by so much trauma, but i feel so grateful for your presence there. love blessings and peace to all.