This is a hard story to tell but there are some stories that demand telling. Angela's is one of them.
Angela was abducted by Joseph Kony and the LRA when she was 14 years old. The army had surrounded her school, tied the girls hands behind their backs and forced all 139 girls to walk to the army's camp hidden in the bush many miles away.
Sister Rachel, a nun at the school, filled her pockets with money and ran after the group and— gad this woman was brave—negotiated with the army to take some of the girls back.
The negotiations went on, and the girls were divided into two lines. Angela was in one line with 29 other girls, her cousin, who stood across from her, was in the other line. Neither of them knew which group was designated to leave with the LRA and which one was going to go back to the school with sister Rachel.
It turned out that Angela and the group of girls in her line were going with the army, back to Kony's camp, to be given as "wives" to the commanders and soldiers.
As a writer I'm supposed to be able to describe to you what Angela and the girls felt when they realized that they were leaving with the army. I'm sorry but I can't. I tried to imagine the overwhelming fear and the anguish and put it into words but I couldn't. I couldn't do it justice. Maybe, for a moment, you can try to imagine it yourself. Maybe that would give you the words that I feel are too inadequate to describe it all.
When Angela had to leave, Sister Rachel hugged her again and again and told her to "take care of the girls." Through tear filled eyes Angela asked her "how?" and again Sister Rachel hugged her and said, "take care of the girls."
I sat for hours with Angela as she told me how she took care of the girls. How she had chances to escape but she stayed because she promised to "take care of the girls." For nine whole years she stayed with the LRA. She had many more stories to tell me. I wiped my eyes, got another kleenex, and wrote enough to fill a book. I'll share more later.
Painting on wall at Gulu Recovery Centre depicting abduction of children by LRA. This is one of several paintings showing the life of a child soldier. Photo by Jason Beardy.
My journey as an author, giving voice to those who can't - or won't - speak.