Many children particularly those who left the bush when they were young, do not know that their biological father.
This was our first activity as we didn’t know the number of the children born in Captivity. We thought it is important to document the numbers of these children before any other activity and also to guide us both in planning and looking for funding. We started the documentation in Gulu but realised that Gulu was the central town for the greater north. The way we designed our documentation was into details that we had we had to know the origin of the mother, origin of the father, where the mother is living currently, where the father is also living, are both of them alive or death, whether they still in the bush or not, if the person is dead then the detail of the guardian is then taken. Age of the child, where the child is currently and whether the child is at school or not and the person paying the child.
WATYE KI GEN got approval from the seven districts of Acholi sub region to enable them do the documentation; Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya, Kitgum, Lamwo, Pader, Agago district. The documentation was not completed though because we ran out of fund. In this seven districts we tried to reach all the sub counties in the respective districts and came out with 1175 children born in Captivity with all their details.
- Many children particularly those who left the bush when they were young, do not know that their biological father was a Lord Resistance Army commander. But because of the community they have heard it from rumours and comments. However, when they ask their mothers about this, most deny it. Saying this, many children are aware that there are complications about their origins.
- The majority of children born in Captivity live with their mothers. Most mothers are in another relationship and have other children. In many cases, women have had several relationships since their time in the bush and have children from other men and making them even more vulnerable in the communities.
- Mothers are very loyalty to their children despite the challenges the face in the community. Many have left their relationships because the man would not support their children in the bush. Yet others have tried also going back to the real fathers of their children but all didn’t work out either because they keep uttering words that brings pain because of the past lives in the bush, or because the man still wants to carry on with the command from the bush and later the feel it can’t work for them any longer and at the end they are separated or divorce leaving the mother to cater for the children.
- There are some families that are not functioning well. Children describe how their mothers are depressed and worried. In rare cases children have to support their mothers, both financially and emotionally. They have no other source of support.
- For both children and their mothers, a priority is education. But many mothers finds it difficult to pay school fees. In other cases, children do not have good uniforms. Because it is so important for them not to be different than others, this is a source of great worry.
- Children who are known to have been born in the bush say that they often suffer from prejudice and stigma from their community and families. They are often teased by their friends and can feel separated from others. As one little boy explained, “ I have only one problem –everyone hates me”
- Teachers usually know about the children’s background. There is a mixture of responses and level of support that a child can expect. Some teachers are supportive and keep the secret, if that is what the mother prefers. But others are not so understanding and if a child commits a mistake they can label them as being trouble, ‘rebel children’. Some other teachers may teachers may segregate them, treating them differently than the rest of the students.
- While most of the children are living with their mothers, some are living with their fathers. In these cases, there is little or no contact with the mothers.
- A small number of the children are completely orphans. These children are usually living with grandparents. These are usually very difficult situations, as the grandparents often do not have the resources to pay for school fees.
- Older children have memories of their time in the bush. They remember gunfire, hunger, sleeping in open places or under the tree and long marches. They remember seeing people wounded from the gunshots and also dead people.
- Adolescent children seem to be particularly interested in discovering their fathers’ families and origins. However, in some cases, members of this age group are strongly opposed to any contact with their birth fathers.
"I have only one problem –everyone hates me"
Issues relating to the documentation work
- Because the mothers were young when they were taken, they may not know the year they were abducted. Instead they described the year in the terms of certain events.
- The population of Gulu Municipality has increased substantially. Gulu District has been divided into other districts. Women are very mobile so their district of origin and their current living place is often different. This can cause problems for the verification of the information, particularly the data of abduction.
- Many mothers no longer had contact with their families-they and their children have been disowned and majority living with the children in towns. This also caused problems for collecting personal data on the mothers.
- The names of the father of this children-the commanders –are often not known. Other mothers would know either the nick name, or only one of his name. When they were in the bush, wives were not permitted to ask their commander husbands any questions. The one exception to this must be a first wife. However, even in this cases, the men often used an assumed, ”bush” name and were unwilling to reveal details about their clan or birthplace.
- Some women are living very separate from others. It can be difficult to reach them. Although Watye Ki Gen project had done a lot of outreach, both on the radio and through local mobilisation.
- There was a problem in explaining this project to the mothers. For example some of their children died in the bush. The mothers have produced another other child form here. They would like to substitute the new child, to represent the memory of the one who died. It was difficult for them to understand why we cannot do a replacement.
- Some mothers were also afraid thinking that the project will force them to go back to live with the father of their children or father’s family- yet they didn’t not want that. Because they didn’t have good memories to the time in the bush. But they were pleased to participate if the project intention was not that.
- There was high expectation from the mothers for changes of the life after the documentation. Mothers thought they will now never pay for school fees for their children and health care in particular this was majority dreams.
- A few of the fathers who came to register their children didn’t want the mothers of their child to be acknowledged in the documentation. Because they now have another wife/wives and so the want her to be named as the mother of these children yet it was not the case.