Kony's Children

Image by Marcus Bleasdale. Central African Republic, 2010.

Marleine Solange Yagasourma, 16Captive girls give birth in the bush, where many die in childbirth. Newborns will grow up within the LRA, often becoming fighters themselves. “It was my first child, so I didn’t know what was happening. I started having pains early in the morning. I was in labor for two days. I thanked God once it was over, but I wondered how I was going to march in the bush with that baby and what I was going to do if there was an attack.” Image by Marcus Bleasdale. Central African Republic, 2010.

Boniface Kumbo Nyeki, 13 In May the U.S. passed a law pledging to hunt down Kony and his top commanders and protect civilians from the LRA. Later, the White House shied away from any suggestion of direct involvement by the American military. “They are still there, and we are afraid. We need help to stop them from coming back.” Speaking in a whisper, Boniface remembered the tearful reunion with his family after nearly a year with the LRA. Image by Marcus Bleasdale. Central African Republic, 2010.

Olivier Mbolifuyhe, 15The LRA specifically targets boys between the ages of 12 and 16. Physically, adolescents are as capable as adult soldiers. They also have an underdeveloped sense of death, are more easily manipulated, and are less likely to run away. “I was with them for a month before the training started. It was our job to kill those we found in the fields or on the road, or who were just too lazy to carry the loot. I became one of them.” Image by Marcus Bleasdale. Central African Republic, 2010.

Teresa Bela Mbolikia, 18United Nations peacekeepers, though present in the region, have not deployed in some of the worst-affected areas. Without the security they provide, most aid agencies cannot operate, leaving the LRA's victims to return to their pillaged homes with no hope of assistance. Mbolikia says, "We have nothing. We survive doing a little farming and selling the alcohol we make here at home. But it's never enough." Image by Marcus Bleasdale. Central African Republic, 2010.

Merci Mbolingako, 14The LRA often disguise themselves in the uniforms of local armies and police to infiltrate villages and abduct civilians. In May of last year, rebels appeared on the road near Lolo, Merci's village in northern Congo. Moving from village to village, they were dressed in the uniform of the Congolese Army, and some even spoke Lingala, the military's lingua franca. Some villagers even came out to greet them. Suddenly they were told to lie down. Image by Marcus Bleasdale. Central African Republic, 2010.

Florianne Bolotilanite, 13The LRA is able to abduct entire families when they surround isolated villages left unprotected. As the rebels sort through their captives, children are kept, adults are used as porters, and the elderly are often slaughtered. Long after the rebels move on and their captives return home, these communities' social fabric remain in tatters. Image by Marcus Bleasdale. Central African Republic, 2010.

Marie Mboligele, 31Abducted and now confined to a hospital ward, Mboligele has been taken from her kids. She says, “They cut off my lips and my ear. All I could do was pray and stay silent.” Mutilations are regularly carried out by children. Image by Marcus Bleasdale. Central African Republic, 2010.

Artimas Levis Ganiko, 17The LRA forces many of the children it abducts to kill. The practice is intended to bind its new recruits to the group, sever the connection with their communities, and break down their humanity. "We attacked a village and took an old man. We tied him up and led him into the forest. One of the rebels cut a length of wood and told me to beat him, to smash his skull and kill him," Artimas says.Image by Marcus Bleasdale. Central African Republic, 2010.

Savilia Mbwoniwia, 14More than 60 percent report severe beatings. A quarter are attacked with a weapon. Many are forced to kill, some even members of their own family. “My husband was a very bad man. I was brutalized. I was raped. But I think he liked me very much. I was his fifth wife and the youngest. In the end, I couldn’t walk. I was taken to a road and abandoned, while others were just killed.” Despite her release, Savilia has yet to return home. Image by Marcus Bleasdale. Central African Republic, 2010.

Daniel Kpakana, 14LRA attacks have driven some 450,000 civilians from their homes. Many schools—regular targets of LRA recruitment raids—have shuttered. “I want them to open again . . . I have nightmares and can’t sleep. I just want all the rebels eliminated.” A deep scar in his scalp is a reminder of Daniel’s daily beatings by his commanders. Image by Marcus Bleasdale. Central African Republic, 2010.

Valentine Mbolibirani, 14Kony keeps dozens of “wives.” “I thought, ‘I’m a little girl, and he’s an old man. How could I sleep with him?’ ” After charring Kony’s evening meal, Valentine was put on trial for witchcraft. Facing a death sentence, she escaped into the forest, where she foraged for days. Image by Marcus Bleasdale. Central African Republic, 2010.

For nearly a quarter century in central Africa, the Lord's Resistance Army has run a merciless campaign of terror. Led by Joseph Kony, a former altar boy and self-styled Ugandan prophet who claims to take orders from a host of spirits he alone can hear, the rebels are dwindling in numbers but have mastered the dark enterprise of abducting children to staff their dastardly mission. Reports say the LRA has kidnapped at least 66,000 minors, some 12,000 of whom are now dead. Others escaped for their lives. Their ages listed here are at the time of capture. Today, chased beyond Uganda's borders, Kony stalks the wildly remote jungles straddling the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and southern Sudan, eluding American backed efforts to end his demented war and save the children who suffer at his hand.

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