- The Ugandan rebels Lord Resistance Army (LRA) are reported to have abducted around young girls in raids against villages in the northern part of the country. Girls abducted by the brutal LRA rebels often end up in forced marriages.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today it was "horrified" by the abductions this week of at least 100 young girls in Uganda by LRA rebels. Abductions of children in northern Uganda have been increasing in number during the last year.
The new mass abduction - confirmed by the Roman Catholic Church in Soroti - is "part of the ongoing insecurity in the region," UNICEF today informs.
Northern Uganda - troubled by 15 years of warfare by the brutal LRA rebels - has seen an upsurge of violence against civilians and has resulted in a doubling of the numbers of displaced people over the last year, according to the UN agency.
Only during the last months, some 20,000 people, mostly young children and women have fled for their lives, trekking miles into the towns of Kitgum and Gulu. This adds to an estimated half million internally displaced people in the region, living in camps under miserable conditions.
- They seek refuge on the grounds of hospitals, religious centres and other safe areas during the night and return to their homes at daybreak, the UN said today. UNICEF and other non-governmental organisations were providing tents for shelter, blankets and latrines, among other essentials.
Child abductions have been a known phenomenon in northern Uganda since the LRA started its operations. Most LRA combatants thus are child soldiers or grown up ex-child soldiers. LRA methods of brutalising the youngsters are known to include forcing children to kill family members.
While LRA-abducted boys usually are turned into child soldiers, girls as young as 9 years old are forced into maiden services, sexual slavery or forced marriages.
It is reported to be fairly common for senior leaders in the guerrilla movement to forcibly marry young, abducted girls. These marriages are used as a reward and incentive for male soldiers, organisations operating in the area report.
Concy Abanya, a 14-year-old girl abducted by the LRA and taken to Sudan and then liberated, recently told her story to humanitarian agencies: "In Sudan we were distributed to men and I was given a man who had just killed his woman ... I was not given a gun, but I helped in the abductions and grabbing of food from villagers. Girls who refused to become LRA wives were killed in front of us as a warning to the rest of us."
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