Child Soldier Project, Anaka, Uganda
Since it's inception in 1987 the armed rebel group The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) abducted approximately 67,000 youth and 25,000 children in northern Uganda, forcing them to join their ranks as they carried on their insurgency against the Ugandan government.
Known for it's brutality, the LRA terrorised northern Uganda, with those unfortunate enough to fall into their clutches being presented with a grim choice - to join the group or to be killed. Many kidnapped girls were sexually assaulted and forced to 'marry' LRA fighters while boys were given a gun and put into the ranks of the militia. In many cases initiation involved carrying out murders or other atrocities, with non participation resulting in execution. Those who managed to escape tried to return home but, in many cases, 'home' no longer existed, with their relatives murdered and their dwellings destroyed.
With international intervention the threat of the LRA has largely gone but the long impact remains, with the refugee camp in Anaka for a period being the largest refugee camp in the world.
In partnership with The Sir Stanley Matthews Foundation, Onside Soccer has been working in Anaka since 2018, with our project providing football coaching sessions three times per week to help with the rehabilitation process of many former child soldiers as they try to reintegrate back into a society which fears them. In 2021 the German journalist Lukas Flottmeyer visited Anaka to see our project and to see the positive impact that football can have on a community traumatised by conflict as part of his masters project at St Mary's University, Twickenham. His work documents the life of Stephen, a boy kidnapped when he was 8 years old, and who is now benefitting from participation in our project.
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