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The Devil's Yoke

A young woman describes her former life as a slave of rebel soldiers.
2007This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

The Lord's Resistance Army, a violent rebel group, attacked the dormitories of St. Mary's College in Aboke, northern Uganda, on October 10, 1996. They were in search of child soldiers and "wives" for terrorist Joseph Kony's army commanders. Fifteen-year-old Grace Akallo and 139 of her classmates were kidnapped.

A school nun negotiated the release of many girls. But soldiers kept Akallo and 29 others. After seven horror-filled months, Akallo escaped. Today, she is an undergraduate student at Gordon College near Boston.

Last October, she met with CT senior writer Sheryl Henderson Blunt on the tenth anniversary of her abduction. Akallo spoke softly as she told of her captivity and new mission. Thirty minutes later, she addressed the Peace Within Reach gathering in Washington, D.C., calling for open U.S. support of Uganda's fragile peace agreement—after which 700 people gave her a thunderous standing ovation.

You witnessed many horrors carried out by the LRA.

The killings, the abductions, the lootings—I saw it. I spent one month in Uganda, then walked to Sudan. We had to march in a line. If you diverted from the line, you were dead. They killed so many children who tried to escape. The youngest was seven. He cried for his mother, then they killed him. Either they would kill them by beating them with big sticks, or by bayonet. Other times—it's very hard to say—they would cut the head with an axe.

There was one commander who, if he was not killing someone, was not happy. When he was killing someone, he was happy. People would start crying that they wanted to kill someone. One 18-year-old boy came out of the line crying that he wanted to kill someone. This boy—they would give him 10 children. He'd say he was ...

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