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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 May 2007, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Surviving war: Santa Akanyo
Ugandan widow Santa Akanyo, 35, recalls the night when her husband and two oldest sons were killed by rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army. Since then she has lived with her four children and one grandson in Agweng Camp in northern Uganda's Lira district.

Santa Akanyo
Santa Akanyo finds solace in her remaining children
My eldest daughter, Dorcus delivered her first-born the night the rebels came.

It was the month of September but I don't remember the date.

I had cleaned up, leaving my daughter and the child to rest, and then lain down too.

It was 0200 hours local time when flashlights woke us. Our home was surrounded by rebels with flashing torches.

They undressed my eldest daughter and her new-born till they were stark naked. They said she could stay like that, with her child, but the rest of us must ferry all their belongings - which were actually our family's belongings.

We were handcuffed and tied in pairs and then ordered to carry all the looted goods. My youngest daughter, Ciddi, was so small and yet had to carry a dead goat.

Too scared to sleep

Altogether 15 of us women and 12 men were abducted, including children. And 21 cows were looted.

See the school where children living in the camp learn

The loads were so heavy but we had to keep carrying and keep going as fast as the rebels were.

Some of them ahead of us led us into a deep river. We had no choice but to follow.

My eight-year-old son, Richard Opio started being swallowed by the water, which luckily prompted the rebels to send him home and so he was set free.

Night came and we were ordered to sleep. I couldn't. I was too scared.

I watched the rebels slaughter two of the cows, cook and eat them.

Early the next morning we were all untied and told we had further to go. Again we walked, two-by-two, carrying our heavy loads, all day.

Friday

It was late when we reached the place. It was a swamp of people - rebels and commanders and normal people like us.

COUNTING THE COST
Moses Odia holds a calabash to represent his late mother, Beca

The men were taken away to another place. The rebels told us that it was Friday and thus not a day to abduct mothers and baby-sitters [LRA rebels are known for stating peculiar reasons to explain their actions, often based on some religious beliefs].

They told us we would be set free but our husbands were to remain to look after the cattle.

Saturday we stayed and again on Sunday.

The rebels never fed us, but nor did they hurt us. On Monday they set us free, telling us not to look back.

We asked for our men but they told us they were still looking after the cattle.

Our fears were realised some months later.

'Embarrassing'

Some children from our village who had been abducted escaped from the rebels and came home.

They told us how they had watched our husbands being beaten to death.

They took us to the place.

SURVIVING WAR
Mildred Akello's burnt scared arms and hands
Someone poured water on me and my flesh slid down my arms
Mildred Akello, 53
Abia Camp, Lira

According to the children's narration - our men were tied down and their heads were smashed. No shooting. No knives.

That was how I lost my husband, Baptista Okidi who was 40 and my two married sons, Richard Anek and Bonny Ogwang.

It is my loss and now looking after everyone is my responsibility.

Life is embarrassing.

I get food aid, when it comes, and when it doesn't I work in people's gardens to get money to buy food.

I hope lasting peace will come but if it does and we are resettled back in our village, who will help me rebuild our home and clear our land?

My children are my solace.

I make sure they keep going to the school here in the camp and I try to keep their stomachs full.

If they study hard then they will lead us to great things. They will be the ones who bring help to the current situation.

Interview and photographs by Robyn Hunter and translation by Victor Ochen.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Rare footage of the child soldiers of the LRA



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