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This photo was taken at a child soldier rehabilitation camp in 2005 in Uganda. I spent some time in the girls’ quarters, photographing the children resting in between chores and activities. A mosquito net made for a striking visual element as I made portraits of these girls, who have been through too much sadness in their young lives.
Concy Abu, 16, rests in her bed at the GUSCO (Gulu Support the Children Organization) Child Soldier Rehabilitaion Center in Gulu, Northern Uganda, Friday, October 28, 2005. She was abducted at the age of 13 and released at 16.
Of the 20,000 children kidnapped by the rebels in 20 years of war in northern Uganda, a lucky few manage to escape or are released. The survivors end up at one of Gulu’s rehabilitation centers, where they learn how to overcome their trauma and re-enter the normal world.
Many children at the camp talk of being forced to kill their parents so that they “wouldn’t have anything to return to” after they are made to serve in the Lord’s Resistance Army, the only way the guerilla group can replenish its ranks in a battle to overthrow the democratic government.
Most of the boys are forced to slaughter people in the countryside when the rebels ambush villages in search of food and other children to kidnap. The girls are typically kept as sex slaves for rebel commanders.