By the time he was sixteen, he was already raping, maiming and killing as a child soldier in the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel terror group in northern Uganda headed by the maniacal Joseph Kony.
(PURE EVIL: A rare photo of Joseph Kony)
We’ll call him Jeffrey. To use his real name could bring dire consequences.
I had the opportunity to interview Jeffrey extensively this morning here in Uganda. I was told that it was the first time he has comprehensively opened up and revealed the horrors of his past life. Many like him try to repress the memories, try to not talk about the atrocities they have committed against their own tribe…own people…own nation.
(TEN YEARS ON: Jeffrey recounts his fours years of captivity as a child soldier in Joseph Kony’s army.)
As a young teenager, Jeffrey was abducted from his village near Gulu. While recounting the event he explained that, typically, children like him are required to kill right away so that they have "blood and shame" on their hands. Under the threat of torture and execution, Twelve year olds, ten year-olds, eight year-olds, are forced to bludgeon or hack somebody to death before they are taken from the village and brainwashed to do the bidding of a purely evil man.
With guns pointed at his head, a child might have to kill his own father and mother with a hoe or machete, often with daddy and mommy telling him that it is ok so that their boy might live, might have a chance to escape and lead a normal life. As such, many children are the very instruments used to cause their own orphaning.
Regardless of who they are forced to murder, the children start to think of themselves as evil, damned beings…unforgiveable, unredeemable. In that state, they can be further exploited to do diabolical acts of violence and hatred.
Jeffrey’s indoctrination into a cult of fear occurred over a two-month period. He was partly held in bondage by the threat that Kony’s army would kill his family if he tried to escape. The subjugation was completed by the dread of death by dismemberment. Jeffrey conveyed to me that whenever Kony addressed his troops he would arbitrarily accuse two or more of them of wanting to escape. He then employed a machete to take them apart, "piece by piece" in front of all, starting with deep downward strikes at the collar bone and shoulders.
Jeffrey said that the reality, of course, was that everybody wanted to escape, but they knew that they would surely die if they attempted to do so.
(CHILD SOLDIER WARNING: A section from a school poster in the third-grade classroom of one of our orphan homes in Uganda)
Jeffrey’s first task was to serve as a slave to Kony’s militia. He was subsequently sent out as a spy to sell alcohol to government soldiers stationed in various barracks in the area. He would report back and, when the moment was right, signal when to attack the soldiers in a state of drunkenness. The very men he was befriending were the men he was to betray and cause the deaths of, to rip husbands away from wives, fathers from children.
Ultimately, though, Kony would decide when to strike and when not to strike. It is said that he consulted evil spirits to determine favorable times for victory.
It wasn’t long before Jeffrey was required to carry a gun and pull the trigger himself. His particular troop of children killed about twenty Ugandan soldiers every week with an ambush scheme that submersed the government troops into a state of surprise and panic. During such attacks, Kony’s young fighters were told to use only one bullet per soldier, to slowly pick off their targets one by one. Cold, calculating and deadly accurate.
But what shocks the world most is not the death that Kony has dealt to the Ugandan army through kidnapped children, but what he has used them to do in the villages to peaceful people that have no heart for conflict.
To be continued…