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Sunday, 17 October 2010

What happened in Lira?

A child goes missing, abducted, in the United States. The police are notified and they issue what in America is referred to as an Amber Alert. Radio stations begin broadcasting descriptions, while TV stations flash pictures of both the abductor and abducted across the screen. Billboards along major roads flash pertinent information regarding the abduction. The police move out in force with helicopters and planes and the Army National Guard may even be engaged. Everything is put into operation to bring a child home to its family. At the same time, they go after the abductor to put him behind bars, so she or he cannot harm any other child.









In another part of the world, on the other side of this globe, in the northern districts of Uganda, 30,000 children have been abducted in the past 20 some years. Alost every family in the Acholi and now Langi area has been affected. Many families have lost a child through abduction, or their village was attacked and destroyed, families burned out and/or killed, and harvests destroyed by an army of abducted children. The countryside is virtually empty and people have moved into safe villages. At night the children of the north flee into towns to sleep, fearing that they might be abducted. They find safety in numbers in towns such as Gulu where even the local bishops and ministers have joined them as they seek safety.

Lira, located 215 miles north of Kampala, was one of those sleepy towns in Africa where you could simply be. It hardly made the international news, and one of the few articles. Its claim to fame is that the former President Milton Obote had his home here, which you can still see, or what is left of it.

Thousands of children have been robbed of childhood and, in many cases, of life itself. Boys and girls are turned into ruthless killers who no longer feel, but are numbed within, and their souls have become seared by the atrocities they have seen and in which they have forced to participate.





My friend Richard with a little orphaned baby at Lira in May 2010


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