A Child's Hell in the Lord's Resistance Army

Grace Akallo
"The first thing, you're beaten. The beating is to initiate you into the army. The second thing, you're forced to kill someone," Grace Akallo told a House panel. (Andrea Bruce -- The Washington Post)
By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 10, 2006

War is ugly.

Yet she is still beautiful, sitting there with her scarred cinnamon brown skin. Her lips shine with a natural gloss. Her legs are wounded and polished.

Her eyes flicker with a comprehension of having gone to hell and returned to this side.

And she is telling how she survived.

She is here to put a face on the war. Tell about the atrocities, cruel and brutal; recount the scenes of a war in northern Uganda, where rebels led by a madman steal sleeping children from their beds, because children are easier to brainwash. Tell of rebels who smear the children with oil, promising that the oil will protect them. That the bullets will bounce off the oil. And the children believe them. Then they force the children to kill or be killed.

Grace Akallo, once one of those children, is waiting in the office of Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who has requested to see her. The senator emerges from a meeting and introduces Grace, now 26, to a member of his entourage:

"The Lord's Resistance Army came in one night and took her into captivity."

"How long were you in captivity?" the man asks Grace.

"Seven months," Grace answers.

"Seven months," the man says. "Bless your heart and welcome to Washington."

She has come to Washington to get the U.S. government to do what it can to stop the war in northern Uganda, a 20-year-old war in which more than 30,000 children have been abducted, held in captivity and forced to fight in the Lord's Resistance Army.

The LRA, which wants to topple the Ugandan government and create a government based on the Ten Commandments as law, is led by Joseph Kony, who claims to represent the Acholi people. Except support among the Acholi has dwindled, and adults ceased to enlist in the LRA. But children were more easily manipulated. The LRA began snatching them from villages. Grace says children make up more than 80 percent of the LRA. They are subjected to a "spiritual initiation" and sometimes ordered to kill relatives or neighbors. Pretty girls are given to older commanders as wives; the others are often killed.

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