I grew up in the Great Lakes Region of Uganda. My parents sent me away to a boarding school for boys, thinking it would keep me safe from the civil war that was ravaging our beloved homeland.
One day soldiers arrived at the school on a mission from rebel leader Joseph Kony to find conscripts to beef up his Lord’s Resistance Army. They did not care that we were children. They did not care that we did not want to fight.
I was abducted by Kony’s soldiers, along with my four best friends and forced into military training. They gave us guns. We wanted so desperately to run away, but when other children tried and were caught, they would kill them in front of us to set an example.
Five months later, my friends and I summoned up our courage and ran. One of my friends died that day. We walked through the forest, day and night, without food and little water for over 35 miles.
We made it to my uncle’s farm and he spirited us out of the country in one of his trucks to the Congolese border. We walked again for days, until we were finally picked up by the Congolese military, and eventually brought to a UNHCR compound in the heart of the capital city, Kinshasa. In all, it took us one month to find sanctuary.
One day soldiers arrived at the school on a mission … to find conscripts to beef up the Lord’s Resistance Army. They did not care that we were children.
UNHCR staff registered us as refugees and gave us mattresses, blankets, plates, pans, food and new shoes. We began to breathe easy again for the first time since our capture.
The political situation then changed. A rebel group began to fight President Mobutu for power; and they had support from a number of surrounding countries, including my homeland, Uganda.
Once again, UNHCR came to my rescue.
My family and I were referred by the UNHCR for resettlement. Then we waited for good news to come. When the official letter came, I showed it to my wife – her face changed completely. All the distress just melted away. We hugged each other and cried. Our family would have a second chance at rebuilding our lives.
Thank you UNHCR for all that you have done to make a positive difference in my life and in the lives of my wife and children!