All photo source : BBC news




Every night in northern Uganda, tens of thousands of children, known as night commuters, flow into town centres.

They come seeking safety in shelters set up by aid agencies, with the Ugandan government unable to end a brutal 18-year war and protect them from rebel attacks.

At a centre known as the Arc in Gulu town, hundreds of boys will share the floor



Many children walk long distances to find safety at night but they still want to learn and do their homework.

Desperate to break out of a cycle of war and dependence, many children, such as these teenage girls at the Arc, spend their evenings reading by what scant light there is in order to finish their homework by the next school day.



Street life

Children can walk for 7km each night to reach town from the outlying villages.

Often these children sleep on business verandas, under trucks or in the central bus station so they can start off for school earlier than those staying in the centres.

Although it is safer in town than the villages, it is not without risks as children must always be on the alert for the police who can treat them roughly.



These two young girls make their way into Gulu in search of a safe place to sleep.

They run the risk of assault from both government soldiers of the UPDF and the LRA rebels.

In internally displaced camps, girls are often raped by the men who are charged with their protection and if abducted by the rebels they face being forced to become sex slaves for years





While centres such as the Arc provide what they can (a meal, a blanket and a hard, if clean floor) what they cannot provide is a good night’s sleep and the rhythms, love, guidance and sense of identity that family life can provide.

Because of distance and security concerns, many children only visit their families once a week.

The rest of the time they spend between the centres, school, makeshift football fields and odd jobs in which they earn a few pennies a day and the street.



With daybreak minutes away, a child wanders the centre’s grounds covered in a rough blanket that is his main comfort for the night.

When boys are abducted by the LRA, they are indoctrinated into the rebel army and forced to commit murder, often against their own family members.

Having killed their mothers and fathers, they are left with nobody to turn to.


At the Arc, children eagerly await their release back to the outside world.

Then they can run, play football and in general have a freer existence than they experience behind the barbed wire enclosures of the centres.



One of the reasons why children walk the lengths they do is because of scenes like this.

A child stands outside a burnt home in an internally displaced persons camp near Soroti town because of a cooking fire that swept through a quarter of the camp.

Such fires are common in the camps and result in thousands of injuries and deaths each year.

Words and images: Jake Price, Hikari pictures





The LRA are notorious for abducting children and mutilating victims

 Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels began public consultations on whether four of their top commanders should face an international war crimes trial.

The leader of the LRA delegation, Martin Ojul, told them the group had come to ask for people’s opinions on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and whether an alternative justice mechanism could be found.

Four of the LRA’s top commanders, including its leader Joseph Kony, have been charged with war crimes, including rape and the use of child soldiers in combat.

The arrest warrants were issued at the request of the Ugandan government.

But at a meeting with the rebel delegation on Saturday, President Yoweri Museveni said he would not be asking for the warrants to be removed until a final peace deal had been signed.

The rebels have consistently expressed the wish to face justice within Uganda.

Justice demands

The LRA representatives plan to travel to camps across northern Uganda in the coming days and weeks where people have sheltered from the fighting for years.


Fear of conflict

Many in the camps still have no access to their land, and are unable to grow food.

Poverty, or rather avoiding it, is their main priority.

Christmas massacres ‘killed 400’

More than 400 people have been killed by Ugandan rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo in attacks since Christmas day, aid agency Caritas says.

The head of Caritas in DR Congo told the BBC some 20,000 people had fled to the mountains from the rebels, who have denied carrying out the attacks.

An eyewitness told the BBC that five people in Faradje had their lips cut off by Lord’s Resistance Army fighters.

They were told that it was a warning not to speak ill of the rebels.

The armies of Uganda, South Sudan and DR Congo carried out a joint offensive against the rebels in mid-December after LRA leader Joseph Kony again refused to sign a peace deal.

The LRA leader, who has lived in a jungle hideout in north-eastern DR Congo for the last few years, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Uganda‘s government had been involved in lengthy peace negotiations with the LRA, hosted by the South Sudanese government.

But Mr Kony has demanded that arrest warrants for him and his associates be dropped before any agreement can be struck.

‘Hacked to death’

News of the attacks in north-eastern DR Congo began to come out after the weekend when the Ugandan army accused the LRA of hacking to death 45 civilians in a Catholic church near Doruma.

In Faradje 150 civilians had died, almost 75 people in Duru and 215 in Doruma.

The victims had been hacked to death and forced into fires.

“All villages were burned by rebels… we don’t know where exactly the population is because all the villages are empty,” reported to BBC.

Bruno Mitewo, head of the Catholic aid agency, says

“We have almost 6,500 displaced who are refugees in the parishes of the Catholic Church around the city of Dungu, more than 20,000 people displaced are running to the mountains,” Those who were hiding in the bush and forest were mainly the young, as the LRA tends to kidnap children and recruit them as fighters,






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