Restoring 'Broken Citizenship'

When children are abducted the links of their citizenship get broken. These links need to be repaired in order for them to become active, valuable and meaningful members of the community again. Margaret Angucia's 2010 thesis, Broken Citizenship: Formerly abducted children and their social reintegration in northern Uganda (308 pages), differs from other publications in that it presents the subject from the perspectives of the children themselves and the community.

The author wants to contribute to the understanding of the children’s experiences of war and how the Acholi community was receiving them back home. She does this through using the compelling stories of children, boys and girls, abducted from their villages by the army of the Lord in northern Uganda, notably in the Acholi area and the remarks of community members made during focus group discussions. The children tell about their abduction, about their horrifying experiences, and about the atrocities they were forced to perform. These atrocities, more often than not directed on command against their own communities, are the reason why these children face difficulties and are rejected on return.

The writer uses qualitative action research in data research and analysis. A spectrum of methods is used: life histories, focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, feedback meetings and a workshop. Part of the information consists of the life stories of the abducted children, which paint the picture of life in captivity, military training, the constant threat to life and difficulties faced in the bush.

“Then about the difficulties that peoples’ children face from the bush, it is unbearable. In that when you were abducted young, they will never treat you as the young ones are being treated from home. Because if they tell you to perform any task however big it is, they will not consider your age and you must accomplish the assignment. You can even get too hungry to carry a luggage but they do not mind; they will even continue piling more and more on your head. Like on our way to Sudan there was no water, nothing like food. But in case you get tired or weak on the way, they will throw you down and just step on you; anyone who fails to walk…
(Child mother, GUSCO)

The information provided by the stories is cross-checked: for instance, in focus group discussions with parents of war-abducted children, institutional and NGO personnel and other engaged members from the community. These discussions express the difficulties faced and the fear of parents and community members when abducted children return and start living in the community again:

“There is a lot of fear towards these children especially those who have been away for five to ten years. At least during their stay they might have done bad things. This is why when they return some traditional ceremonies are being performed involving even sacrificing a goat.”
(Focus group discussion, Alokolum IDP camp)

The author continues with a description of formal institutional approaches to reintegration and focuses on the community-based reintegration initiatives in northern Uganda, and the use, need and necessity of traditional rituals as a form of reintegration in general and in the Acholi communities in particular. She describes the shortcomings of the various approaches and makes recommendations for improvement in which she addresses the lessons learnt and best practices as expressed by other authors in the field of reintegration practices for abducted children or child soldiers.

> Broken Citizenship: Formerly abducted children and their social reintegration in northern Uganda

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