Ugandans maimed by Lord’s Resistance Army rebels now shunned by community
Updated October 20, 2015 22:29:47
Nancy Auma cradles her throbbing ribs, used by doctors to reconstruct her ears, which were sliced off by rebels.
Sitting cross-legged inside her grass and mud hut in Uganda’s remote north, she recounts the day Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels abducted her.
“I was told they were going to release me,” she said.
“Then they started cutting off my mouth, my nose and my ears.”
The Lord’s Resistance Army’s 20-year war against northern Uganda left thousands of people disfigured.
The maiming was a tactic used by the LRA to instil fear and punish people.
Then they started cutting off my mouth, my nose and my ears.
Peace has now returned to the region but those who had their lips, ears, noses and limbs sliced off by the rebels face a new hostility from within their communities.
Ms Auma has since had reconstructive surgery but she said she has lost her identity.
She said she is abused and isolated even by her husband.
“I feel a lot of pain and broken-hearted. I thought of committing suicide because of all the abuse, but I decided to keep on living and persevere,” she said.
The I Live Again charity gives trauma counselling to people affected by the war.
The charity’s Joel Nokrach said they are trying to encourage the community to accept those who have been maimed.
“Many of them are being stigmatised and not only stigmatised but abused,” he said.
“It’s just a laughter to some people because of the way they appear. It’s unusual.”
Amos Okellokoko is abused, laughed at and outcast in his community, even by those closest to him.
“When I was not mutilated, I was somebody. I had a wife and two children. But after I was mutilated my wife left with the children,” he said.
He was attacked by rebels in bushland, a long way from help.
The rebels cut him down with bayonets, then hacked off his lips.
“It was very painful because the cut was so deep,” he said.
Mr Nokrach said maimed victims, especially those who have had their limbs hacked off, have become a burden on the community.
“Say this person, the mouth has been cut, the nose has been cut, they really need special attention and who is ready to do that?” he said.
Exactly how many people endured this brutality at the hands of the LRA is not known, but the United Nations said the majority were women.
The Ugandan government promised to compensate people maimed by the rebels several years ago, but many say compensation never arrived and they feel neglected by the government.
Mr Nokrach said it is time for the government to step up.
“If the government could come in and take the initiative of helping these people from wherever they are so that they are able to sustain themselves and not rely on others,” he said.
Watch Alexandra Fisher’s full report tonight on Lateline at 9.30pm (AEDT) on ABC News 24 or 10.30pm on ABC TV. The International Women’s Media Foundation supported Alexandra Fisher’s reporting from the Uganda .
First posted October 20, 2015 19:11:32