The Ugandan Child Soldiers of Waiheke

There is a woman in Waiheke named Emily who, through a program called Watoto, is well acquainted with the child soldiers and victims of Uganda’s decades-long civil war. She is also known on the island as “Miss Fruit and Veg.” When her friends from the Ugandan village of Gulu took their stories on a world tour of Child Soldier No More, Emily made sure they stopped in Waiheke.

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She wanted them to meet the people of her own village. Cable Bay Vineyards donated their art garden for the evening, a who’s who of NZ corporations paid the bills, and the Waihetians turned out en masse.

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There are few things as festive and relaxing as vineyard theater in a small village on a summer night.

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Village high school kids managed the crowd and multiple generations sat together on the grass.

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We all shared the same sense of security and well being as the villagers of Gulu before the war started and this was where the story began.

Before the war Gulu was “a vibrant community where the residents worked together to meet each others needs.” There may also have been lots of singing and dancing.

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Then the maniacs in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) showed up. They butchered, tortured, enslaved, and raped their way to regional power.

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The LRA left kids in their wake who had been forced to murder their own friends and elders, orphaned, raped, mutilated, infected with HIV/AIDS and subjected to unimaginable abuse. We heard many of their stories. 

 

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There was a sudden change in the atmosphere at Cable Bay Vineyards as the focus shifted from Sauvignon Blanc and toddlers playing in the grass before a perfect view of the Hauraki Gulf and the Auckland skyline to the horror of these Gulu kids living their daily nightmares. And perhaps the discomfort grew as the Ugandans gave us their greatest lesson, that they had forgiven their oppressors by the example of Christ on the cross. They now stand together as former soldiers and victims with no malice towards anyone, and feel free to move on with the rest of their lives.

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The girl in the red dress was actually orphaned by the father of the girl in polka dots. Heavy stuff.

36°48.20’S 174°59.30’E 13-Mar-11 07:45 UTC

One Response to “The Ugandan Child Soldiers of Waiheke”

  1. Enrique says:

    Da Powa of Luv!