Uganda has had a troubled past, plagued by despotic leadership and civil war for half a century. As distressing as Uganda’s past is, it is important that we understand a little about what the men, women and children in Uganda have endured, so that we may better understand their situation today and to build a brighter future. As Edukid continue to help children in Uganda to safely access education, we look at the events that led to the civil war and the current situation in this beautiful country.
Uganda’s history is a long and complicated one, fraught with despotic leadership and conflict for power. The country lurched from the oppressive control of Idi Amin, during whose reign an estimated 300,000-500,000 people were murdered and a further 80,000 Asian Ugandans were expelled from the country, to the repressive regime of Obote, during which time another estimated 100,000 people were killed and Uganda became known for having one of the world’s worst human rights records.
In 1985, Obote was deposed and in the ensuing chaos, Museveni seized control of Uganda, proclaiming a government of national unity and declaring himself President. Museveni introduced democratic reforms and set about improving the country’s human rights records. However, the power struggle has continued, and since Museveni’s government has been in power, over 20 militant groups have tried to displace it, most notably the LRA.
The Civil War
In the early 1990s, a civil war ensued in the North, with the LRA, the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony. Kony is claimed to wish to create a state based on the Bible’s Ten Commandments; in his bid to achieve this, a 21 year war ensued in which he is alleged to have abducted up to 40,000 children to serve as child soldiers or, in the case of girls, “wives” to other soldiers. During the civil war in Northern Uganda, around 1.6 million people from Northern Uganda have been displaced and over 100,000 people abducted or mutilated by the LRA.
During his control of Northern Uganda, Kony and the LRA abducted and “retrained” children to become soldiers, fighting for the revolution. Abductees were often forced to kill their own family members before being subjected to a grueling process that lasted months and turned innocent children into creative and callous torturers and killers.
The civil war ended after 21 years, in which time the people of Northern Uganda became accustomed to living a life of deprivation, starvation and fear. However, the ramifications of the child soldier war are ongoing. Abductees who survived the LRA suffer from severe psychological after effects. Thousands of abductees returned to their homes, only to find that their families had been killed; many are now orphans with responsibility for younger siblings.
It was in 2008, just months after the end of the civil war, that Edukid first visited Uganda to discuss what the charity could do to help children affected by the war. We wanted to find a sustainable way in which we could help children to access a better education whilst overseeing their well-being and helping them to build a brighter future.
In Uganda, the government makes some payment towards school fees; however, children still need to pay a certain amount each month in order to cover the costs of their education. We found that first-grade classrooms were full, but that once schools realised the children were unable to pay, the children could no longer attend. As a result, higher grade classrooms, like the one pictured above, were completely empty.
Edukid realised that former child soldiers, child-led families and children living with HIV were unlikely to be able to afford an education, so in the first instance we focused on helping these children. We sought to identify the poorest children in Northern Uganda, those with the greatest need, and gave them a grant which enabled them to go to school, supported by a Ugandan social worker to ensure their emotional welfare.We have continued to support children in Uganda through primary and secondary education, vocational training and university, helping them to gain employment and providing small business loans to help our students to establish themselves and work within their community.
Life for our children in Uganda is still unstable at times, and very much overshadowed by the terror into which they were born and forced to live. However, with your help, these children are moving forward, bringing hope and optimism to their families and communities. Education is showing them that they can dream for more and, most importantly, that they deserve more.
If you would like to know more about our projects in Uganda, or to sponsor a child, please get in touch.