These children were born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan to women and young girls who were abducted by LRA rebels during the war that lasted close to two decades in northern Uganda
In Gulu, least 1,017 children who were born in the Lord`s Resistance Army -LRA captivity are struggling to acquire National Identification Cards and access government services.
The children were born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan to women and young girls who were abducted by LRA rebels during the war that lasted close to two decades in northern Uganda.
These children were unable to participate in any of the programs of the countries where they were born and they later returned home, only to learn that they could not be registered in Uganda because they did not have the required documents to obtain a birth certificate. They are now spread across the eight districts of Gulu, Lamwo, Kitgum, Pader, Nwoya, Omoro, Agago, and Amuru.
Ugandan laws require that they produce a medical birth certificate, a citizen card showing that they are Ugandans by birth, information about their biological parents and family clans and their original residential location. But the children in this category do not have medical records since they were not born at medical facilities and do not have proper knowledge of their parents’ lineage because there was no family information while in the bush.
When they returned home, they were resettled with their maternal relatives, and until now, they do not have information about their paternal lineage or clans. As a result, the children have not been able to register their births in Uganda and are still considered non-citizens. This means that they are unable to acquire the National Identification Cards and cannot, therefore, access government programs with ease.
The National Identity Cards are a prerequisite for opening Bank accounts, registration of sim cards, obtaining travel documents, voting, and registration for the National Social Security Fund -NSSF for those seeking formal employment.
One of the affected children, now aged 26, does not know the whereabouts of his father more than 20 years after they successfully escaped from the bush. He explains that because of the absence of official records about his ancestry, he has struggled in vain to acquire a National Identity Card.
He added that some of his colleagues who have the interest to further their studies travel abroad for greener pastures, seek jobs in public offices, or run for political offices and reputable organizations have all been blocked due to the lack of birth certificates and National Identity Cards.
Another child now aged, 20 disclosed that at one time the personnel from the National Identification Registration Authority office asked him to use the details of Joseph Kony, the LRA Commander as his father, a thing he said greatly affected him psychologically.
He explained that some of his colleagues have forged the details of their parents in order to acquire the documents. To the source, the denial for them to have such vital documents means they are indirectly being punished for being part of the LRA rebel group.
The children have now organized under the War Victims and Children Networking (WVCN), and Women Advocacy Network (WAN) local Community Based Organizations rights groups operating in the Acholi sub-region seeking redress. They say that their struggle to acquire National Identity Cards and birth certificates individually, as a group, or as an institution has been fruitless.
Some of them say that their mothers are also shying away from bearing the shame of exposing themselves to the world because they do not know the fathers of their children, the children were produced against their will and they were sexually abused while in the bush or during LRA attacks.
An official from WVCN who speaks for the children born in LRA captivity said during an interview that they are stuck because some of the mothers neither know the whereabouts of the fathers nor their details. The source who preferred anonymity noted that an average of 300 children have sought assistance in acquiring National Identity Cards.
The source is pleading with the Ministry of International Affairs, Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS), office of the Prime Minister (OPM), and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to come to their rescue noting that they are battling the loss of identity.
Evelyn Amony, the Executive Director of Women Advocacy Network (WAN), a former LRA abductee, child soldier, and single mother who admits the challenges notes that the denial of national identity cards and birth certificates to the children born in LRA captivity is stigmatizing and causing mental distress.
Stella Lanam, the Director of War and Children Networking (WVCN) appealed to the religious and traditional leaders to take on the roles of giving tribal identities to such children adding that some mothers of such children have committed suicide due to the pain of seeing their children suffering.
Pamela Angwech, the Executive Director of Gulu Women Economic Development and Globalization (GWED-G) in Gulu says that the gun has gone silent for more than 20 years but the majority of the survivors are living in agony.
She notes that the fate of children born in captivity should clearly be addressed in transitional justice so that the children have a sense of belonging. Angwech added that together with JLOS and the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) they have engaged with NIRA to design modalities to give national identity cards and birth certificates to the children born in captivity.
Sarah Nkayimbi, the Programs Manager of the Forum for Justice and Development Initiative (FJDI) says that they are interacting with different stakeholders to expedite the implementation of the transitional justice policy and matters that should be addressed.
Margaret Ajok, the National Advisor for the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) said that the matter has been tabled before the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister and administration of NIRA adding that they have agreed to make amendments in that course and have such categories catered for.