An unspecified number of Lord Resistance Army (LRA) child soldiers who were based in Obo, capital of Haut-Mbomou in the Central African Republic, have surrendered to the country’s authorities.
The child soldiers, some of whom were forcefully conscripted into the LRA while some were children of women hostages of the rebels who forcefully got the women pregnant, laid down their arms recently and surrendered to the Central African Republic military authorities.
“I have just escaped from the LRA. I escaped because the Tongo Tongo (LRA) were always beating me. I have spent three years with them and I met and saw Joseph Kony (leader of the LRA),” one of the former child soldiers said.
“Joseph Kony has been leader of the LRA since 1988 and he continues to give orders. I was trained in the manipulation of arms and they gave me weapons,” revealed Michel Mbolifouko, one of the LRA child soldiers who just surrendered.
According to Mbolifouko, Joseph Kony, the LRA leader, is still alive and is in Darfour in western Sudan.
Another child soldier, Justin Aristide Niko, called on his former companions not to be afraid to lay down their arms.
Niko said there are potentials for him and others to become farmers after laying their weapons, urging them to stop killing innocent people.
“Within the LRA, when we arrived at a village, it was to take everything by force but don’t forget that we also cultivate potatoes, sesame and groundnuts,” Niko said.
“What I am saying now is that if my former colleagues lay down their arms and come here, they can also become farmers. The LRA fighters should leave the bushes. Joseph Kony, the leader, should also lay down his arms. All those listening to me should stop the killings and also lay down their arms and abandon the bushes.”
Many of the former child soldiers have regretted the things they did while with the LRA. This is the case with Aime Crepin Malianda. As an infant, he was a witness to an attack by the LRA on March 6, 2008 in Obo region. The attack was aimed at forcefully abducting children and drafting them into the LRA.
“I left after a clash when the Ugandan army was attacking us. I left because we left Garamba for a village in Congo where we were based. We looted the village and it was at that time that the Ugandan army started chasing us,” he said.
“The following day they attacked us between 8 and 9 o’clock. It was at that time that I took the opportunity to escape.”
Though he had abandoned the LRA, his victims were still bent on taking revenge on him.
“I escaped until I arrived at the village of Naparka where the villagers wanted to kill me but one of them advised them against killing me. I explained to them that I was also a victim like them and that is how the father of one family took me on a motorcycle and eventually transferred me to a military base in Uganda,” Malianda revealed.
According to the United Nations, the LRA has killed more than 100,000 persons and abducted over 60,000 children during violence which extended through Sudan, the DR Congo, and the Central African Republic.
The abducted boys are usually turned into docile soldiers while the girls are turned into sex slaves by the LRA.
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