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ARKIB : 01/11/2004

Rebel atrocities in northern Uganda: a survivor's tale

LACOR (Uganda) - Morris Ojok had difficulty in recounting the ordeal that left him hospitalised and helpless because the rebels who abducted him from a camp in northern Uganda not only cut off all of his fingers, except for one thumb, but also his lips.

``They were at first friendly,'' Ojok, 28, said through forever-bared teeth, speaking of the Lord's Resistance Army fighters who abducted him from a camp for displaced people near the northern town of Gulu on October 7.

``But when they asked me if I knew any of them and my answer was in the affirmative, this is the regrettable mistake on my part,'' added Ojok from his hospital bed.

``They changed their attitude, saying I might report them to the government,'' he said.

Ojok's chin was resting on a cotton pad that absorbed the saliva drooling constantly from his mouth.

``On the first day they went in people's gardens near the camp uprooting potatoes and cassava which they cooked and ate. But on the next day they fired me questions including whether I could identify the rich people in the community and whether I could accept to be a rebel agent, which I rejected as I did not want to create grudges with the community,'' he recalled.

``Suddenly, they undressed me and we walked for another 25 miles (40 kilometres), but I knew they were going to kill me. We crossed a road and after a short distance they tied my arms behind my back and started cutting off my fingers.''

After the fingers the rebels sliced off his lips before leaving him bleeding and disappeared with two children from the camp.

``I pleaded that they kill me instead, but they refused, saying I should tell the authorities that they hate the government (anti-LRA) propaganda,'' he said, as his pregnant wife sat next to his bed.

Tognetti Samuele, the Italian admistrator at the hospital, said he hoped some experts expected at the clinic would be able to offer Ojok plastic surgery for his deformed face and hands.

Gulu is one of three districts in northern Uganda that for the last two decades have been ravaged by vicious civil war between government forces and the LRA.

The war has displaced some 1.6 million people while relief agencies estimate that 20,000 children have been abducted by the rebels to become sex slaves or child fighters. - AFP

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