Christine

The guns have been silent in northern Uganda for nearly a decade - and yet still the echoes of war reverberate around Christine Alaba. Years after her return from the LRA, the former child soldier is still haunted nightly by the spirits of those she was forced to kill, the spirits of those she couldn't save. A shortage of trained trauma counsellors in the East African country means that only now - ten years after her escape - is Christine receiving psycho-social support for the first time.

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Portrait of Christine Alaba
Meet Christine Alaba
Mama...
Why did you
let them
kill me?
She always comes to me when I sleep.
I loved her as if she were my own daughter.
we were always on the move to avoid the Ugandan army...
And we’d always walk together.
But one day our commander said she was slowing us down.
She had a bad cut on her leg...
So he just beat her to death.
And I did nothing.
I just watched.
That was over 10 years ago now.
But she still comes to me at least once a week.
I see her face even when I’m awake...
Sometimes when I’m digging in the garden.
I don’t know what to do.
Jennifer Ateng has been a trauma counsellor at the Lira-based Centre for children in vulnerable situations for 5 years.
We start with a lifeline which comprises of a rope...
flowers...
and stones.
The rope symbolizes your life from your birth to the present.
Meet Jennifer Ateng
The flowers represent positive memories...
and the stones represent traumatic events.
Confronting these painful memories will help them heal.
As a trauma counsellor I tell them: I will be here with you, I will cry with you.
It’s a journey we go through together.
The first black stone of Christine’s related to her abduction...
The soldiers came in the middle of the night.
My husband David and I were sleeping in our home when the rebels kicked open our door.
He tried bargaining with the rebels...
Instead they told me to gather wood...
Then they ordered me to build a fire for cooking...
We’d only been married for a year - I didn’t get to say goodbye or tell him I loved him.
By 4am they’d cut off his hands, feet and head.
By 7am I was forced to eat my husband.
First they gave me one of his forearms...
Then, one of his shoulder blades...
Next, some of his ribs...
Meet Jennifer Ateng
After that we moved towards Sudan...
and each night I was given to a different soldier.
I lost count after 6...
It was only when I came back home I discovered I was HIV+...
I get free anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs from the hospital in Lira...
I only take them when I have food - else they upset my stomach.
Christine and ARVs
But normally I can’t afford to buy food and I have to beg for scraps.
So I often have a stockpile of about 3 months’ worth of ARV tablets.
At the moment I have to work on other people’s land for about $2 per day...
But often there are days where I’m too weak from hunger to work.
i live here alone now...
Alone with my nightmares, Alone with those I killed.
But Jennifer is comforting me now, And the pain in my heart is slowly becoming less.
Gallery: Christine Alaba
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