Brenda Angom was seven years old when she was captured by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. She was turned into a wife of one of the rebels and by the time she was rescued, she had one child. Angom, now aged 29, who ekes a living from selling silver fish, said upon return to her village in Pader district, she was rejected and chased away, for siring a child with a rebel.
“I sustained injuries from my family members who beat me up for returning home with a child from the bush. They chased me away, and each time I would try to go there, they would beat me up. One time, I tried taking poison and poisoning my son,” she said.
She made the remarks at the Deputy Speaker’s boardroom, where they were meeting Jacob Oulanyah on the issues affecting the former wives and children of the LRA rebels. Angom, who also suffers from TB, said even the aid that the Government sends for the war victims does not reach them.
“I sometimes contemplate going back to the bush,” said the mother of four.
Her child from the LRA rebel is now 14 years. She asked the Government to support their businesses to make enough profits to buy land so that they can sustain their families as single mothers. Angom was part of the group of exwives and children of LRA rebels who petitioned Oulanyah on their plight.
Lyandro Komakech, the Gulu Municipality MP and the chairperson of the Greater North Parliamentary Forum, noted that while the Government struggles to put policies in place to support the victims, there are critical issues, such as those of children born in captivity, that need to be addressed urgently. He said the women have tried their best to raise these children, but it was becoming increasingly difficult for them to pay for education, alongside other basic needs.
“They would like to have an intervention that sustains them. One of the children is in first year, at Gulu University, but as of now, he cannot continue with studies because he cannot afford tuition fees,” he said.
Stella Angel Lanam, the founder of War Victim Children Networking, said the women have no livelihoods and that the district has sidelined them in most of the programmes.
“The children are stigmatised against in schools, by fellow pupils and even teachers. Their parents want to go back to the bush, yet I think there is no need for war. We need Government help,” she said.
The victims noted that even the petition that they tabled before Parliament in 2014 has never been responded to. Oulanyah wondered where the monies the Government releases through the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF III) and Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP III) go.
“In these programmes, there are specific interventions to deal with a category of people like you. I am just not sure why it is not taking place because it has been budgeted for. We are sourcing money from development partners to deal with these specific issues through the programmes,” he said.
He explained that PRDP III is supposed to deal with issues of livelihood of people affected by the war and that every financial year, the Government allocates money to it. He tasked the Greater North Parliamentary Group with finding out how the money is spent and who the beneficiaries are. He also asked them to draft a motion on the issues of the victims and present it on the floor of Parliament, for debate.