Evelyn Amony and Grace Acan have both overcome LRA captivity to become advocates for gender justice in northern Uganda.

Life goes on for survivors Evelyn Amony and Grace Acan

3 April 2017 - 15:04

I was given fifty strokes on the neck and it was too painful. My neck was in pain, my back side was so injured that I couldn’t sit. I prayed to God to let the soldiers attack us so that we would all die.

This is an excerpt from the book “I Am Evelyn Amony”, a 174 page book written by Evelyn Amony who was abducted at the age of 12 by the Lord’s Resistance Army from her village in Atiak in Amuru district.

In captivity, Amony was trained to be a fighter and acted as a military escort to the rebel army’s leader Joseph Kony. At the age of fourteen, she would become Kony’s forced wife and later the mother of three of his children.

She spent 11 years in captivity until she was captured by the Ugandan military in 2005 and taken to a rehabilitation center in Gulu where she was reunited with her Family.

The truth has to be brought out

Evelyn spoke to Let’s Talk, Uganda about her experiences and what she hopes to achieve through her book.

‘’My family should know what I went through,” she says, “but I can’t tell them for they shall begin to weep. This book will help them understand what happened to me.”

In addition to her family, Evelyn wants the rest of the world to read her book to gain an understanding of the dimensions of the LRA’s war with the Ugandan government.

“Also people should know that there are certain misconceptions about the war. For instance people in Uganda think Kony exchanged children for guns but that is not true. In addition, if you are abducted, men don’t sleep with you anyhow. It is important that they know how we lived among ourselves … how the older women mistreated the younger girls."

Evelyn is also adamant that the bigger picture of the war be documented.

"The truth has to be brought out that both sides committed atrocities," she says, "The future can be unpredictable. Suppose the government changes, no one will know what happened during Museveni’s Government, but when it is written down, it stays forever.”

It was very difficult to escape

“People should know that it was very difficult to escape,” Evelyn points out, clarifying a commonly held belief about formerly abducted people. “If you were caught trying to escape, you were beaten or killed. The LRA threatened to retaliate against your entire family clan as revenge against your escape. I didn’t want to escape for the sake of the safety of my entire family. I would rather stay in the LRA than see them all killed. People thought we didn’t want to return, some parents asked why their children didn’t return.”

Was she afraid about what people’s reactions to the book may be?

‘’Yes,” she says, “The Government might not want the truth to be told. Sometimes when the truth needs to be told. These are the things.’’

How did she find the courage to write her experiences?

‘’It came on its own from my heart. I just felt it was important to narrate these things. I experienced such terrible things, but I am not the only one.’’

Amony was freed following her capture by the Ugandan military. Despite the trauma she endured with the LRA. she joined a Ugandan peace delegation during the Juba Peace Talks of 2006-2008. She said she went with the peace team to try to convince Kony to end the war that had lasted more than two decades. In Juba she met with Kony six times before the peace talks collapsed in 2008.

Amony is now back home and working as a human rights advocate for war affected women in northern Uganda as the chair of the Women’s Advocacy Network and with the Justice and Reconciliation Project in Gulu.

After falling you don’t have to remain in the same place

9 October 1996 will be deeply etched in Grace Acan’s heart forever. Like, Evelyn Amony, Acan was also abducted as a child. In her case, it happened when she was only 14 years at St. Mary’s College Aboke Secondary school in Apac district when she was in senior three.

Acan, who hails from Adekokwok in Apac, was taken together with 139 other girls who became known worldwide as the "Aboke Girls". The deputy headmistress of the school, Sister Rachele Fassera, pursued the rebels and negotiated the release of 109 of the girls.

Acan was among the 30 girls who were taken into captivity by the rebels. She spent eight years in LRA captivity and returned home in August of 2004.

Also like Evelyn, she has also written her story down. Hers is a 200 page autobiography titled “Not Yet Sunset” detailing her experience in captivity. She says she was inspired to write by Sierra Leonian Ishmael Beah, the author of “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier”.

Acan says, “I wrote this book to quell misconceptions about the war. I wanted people to know about sexuality among the LRA, the location, the culture and social ways, as well as my abduction. I also want my children to know that life goes on even when you passed through very many challenges.’’

Acan came back with one child from captivity and she was well received by her relatives and community and fortunately did not receive as much stigma as many of the other people who returned. She started writing her story in 2010 which was published this year by Fountain Publishers in Kampala, Uganda.

Acan went back to school in 2005 and graduated in 2013 with a Bachelors Degree in Development studies from Gulu University. She is continuing with her studies as she works with the Justice and Reconciliation Project in Gulu.

Grace also sees a bigger picture brought about by putting experiences like hers into writing.

“I wrote both what I experienced and what other women experienced. As much as a lot has been written about what happened in Uganda, it is important to get views of women and to explain in depth what has happened,” she says.

“I hope the book will help correct misconceptions about people affected by war. There are things [in it] that can provide encouragement to people who have suffered and also those who have not suffered. It is important to know that after falling you don’t have to remain in the same place.”

“I Am Evelyn Amony: Reclaiming My Life from the Lord's Resistance Army” is published by the University of Wisconsin Press. More information about this book can be found here. “Not Yet Sunset” is published by Fountain Publishers

Photo: Evelyn Amony (left) and Grace Acan (right. Credit: Erin Baines.

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