By Eva-Maria Kollman, ACN International
Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada
The situation in Central African Republic hinders the return of Ugandan child soldiers
Montreal, October 22, 2013 – Following the coup in the Central African Republic, it has become more difficult for Ugandan child soldiers abducted to that country to return to their homes. Msgr Cosmas Alule, rector of the national seminary of Alokolum (Northern Uganda), spoke of this deplorable situation to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
In the past, child soldiers who were abducted by rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) during the civil war in Uganda and taken to the Central African Republic and held there were able to flee to the Ugandan soldiers who were stationed there, Msgr. Alule explained. But now the new government of the Central African Republic, which emerged from the Séléka rebel alliance and came to power through a coup on 24 March of this year, has “much sympathy for the leader of the LRA, Joseph Kony,” and has expelled the Ugandan troops, he said. The situation in Uganda itself has improved and “the people there no longer live in fear,” but the LRA is still “very active” in the Central African Republic and Sudan, and causes problems there, according to Alule. The seminary of which he is rector is situated in a region of the country that was badly affected by the civil war between 1988 and 2008.
On May 11, 2003, the minor seminary in the Diocese of Gulu, where the seminary of Alokolum is also located, was attacked by LRA rebels and 41 seminarians were taken away. There is still no trace of twelve of the young men who were abducted. But “there is still hope that some of the former child soldiers will return,” Alule declared.
During the 20-year civil war between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government, more than 30,000 children and young people in Northern Uganda were abducted by the LRA rebels. The LRA, which was founded in Uganda in 1987 under the leadership of Joseph Kony and has now been largely driven out of that country, is active today especially in Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.