Polline Akello was a former child soldier, abducted and forced into the Joseph Kony militant group in Uganda. Today, her life has positively turned around and she is lending out her voice to avert the tendency of recruiting child soldiers. According to Reuters, the Ugandan former child soldier and survivor, Polline Akello was in London last year to speak at the Women in the World summit.
Where ever ‘child soldier’ is mentioned, one thing is for sure- ABUSE. Having children aiding and abetting in war scenarios shows a visible mark of gross abuse and poor recognition of human rights. They are forced into the army, possibly brain washed and tortured so as to make them oriented to the ruthlessness of the job.
Polline Akello was abducted at 12 “and forced to become a soldier” in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Kony is still wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
See Also: 10 Shocking Facts about Child Soldiers in Africa
As a child soldier she describes the life lived there and then as a hopeless one; she was raped, maltreated and forced into labor. Same was the fate of other co-abducted children. In situations like this, children are often used as spies/messengers, baits- for political propaganda as seen in the Nigerian abducted Chibok girls. While the boys are toughened up and filled with what the psychologists call the “dutch courage”, the girls particularly face greater chances of becoming sex slaves for the rebels.
However, Polline counts herself lucky because she was one of those fairly treated well by the rebels. At 15 she was “married” to one of the rebels,
“He was 23, I was 15,” she recalls. “I used to see him and used to say, ‘I wish I could be with this one’, because I could see he was not as ruthless (as some of the others). So when I was given to him, I counted myself among the lucky ones. I could see other girls being given to men of 50… If I did something wrong, he would sit me down and talk to me. Some men would cane you, or fight. I didn’t go through that.”- Polline
Polline became pregnant at 16 but lost the baby. This she says was a blessing in disguise as it enabled her make her escape plans. Polline was held for 7 years before she luckily escaped from the rebel group.
As a grateful survivor she enrolled for a degree in development studies in Kampala. Supported by War Child UK, Polline has become a global advocate for the protection of children especially in war zones. She campaigns with the organisation on behalf of child soldiers around the world. With her story she hopes to help, support and give hope to victims like herself.
At a tender and vulnerable stage of life the abusive treatments that child soldiers go through mess up their psyche. Recruiting children as soldiers is indeed the height of child abuse and exploitation. Recently there have been traces of child/teen recruitment by rebel and terrorist groups in Africa and the world over. The number of child/teen soldiers in the world is growing in hundreds of thousands, owing to both domestic political conflicts and extremist insurgencies in the continent. They are estimated to be about 250, 000 and more,of which 40% are girls.