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Voices of Youth Digital Diaries

15 December 2004: Ugandan youth describe experiences living in nation divided

Stephen and Edward are both in school, and participate in youth programs to promote education and health among young people in Kampala and Mubende.

Voices of Youth Digital Diaries are all about young people who want to know more…do more…and say more about the world. Our goal is to amplify their voices by inviting the world’s children to share UNICEF’s electronic podium. These reports are first-person/eyewitness accounts by young people from around the world.

KAMPALA/MUBENDE/NEW YORK, 15 December 2004 – In Uganda, the northern section of the country is still embroiled in civil unrest, as it has been for the last 18 years, with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in violent battle with the Ugandan army. Unfortunately, it is the civilians, and mostly the young people, in the region who suffer the most, far more than the soldiers on either side of the conflict.  The LRA uses violence, abduction and rape to subjugate the children of the villages in the region, and force them into their ranks as soldiers.

20-year-old Edward and 21-year-old Stephen are concerned young people in Uganda, living in the central area of the country, just outside Kampala and in Mubende.  Both young men are students, but both have found the time to travel to the northern region, through volunteer work they do with youth advocacy groups in Uganda. They have seen first-hand the violence that their contemporaries in the north face each day.

“We talked with some young people,” says Edward of his visits to the northern districts. “We interviewed them.  Some young girls have gone through rape.  And they’re being fought by the rebels.  So they have lost their parents.  So they are living in the camps.  They’ve spent like 18 years in the camps.”

Villagers in the north have taken extreme measures to try and safeguard themselves and their children against nighttime attacks by the LRA forces.  Those that live in the country, often walk into towns to spend the night.  They are called “night commuters”, and Stephen has seen them walking by the thousands at the end of the day.

“What the young people do, is they get to the city center, and spend the night in the center, where at least there’s some little security,” says Stephen.  “There are some soldiers around, and they think its better to sleep there and in the morning or during the day, that’s when they go back to their houses or go to school, those who can still go to school.”

Edward is studying civil engineering in a university six hours from where he grew up, and working with a group called GEM, Girls Education Movement, a UNICEF partner organization, to promote the importance of education for girls in Uganda.  Stephen is also a student of Information Technology, who hopes to become a website designer when he finished school.  He volunteers with a group called Straight Talk, another UNICEF partner organization, which promotes healthy sexual behavior among young people.  They are also both active members of UNICEF’s Voices of Youth.

For Edward and some of his contemporaries in the relatively safe central part of Uganda, it is easy enough to temporarily forget that there are thousands of young people living in fear and experiencing trauma in the north. 

“It is as if we are two countries within one country.  The people in the north are suffering and people in other places are enjoying.”

For this reason, he and Stephen both feel it’s important to tell their stories, and the stories of the youth they’ve met in the north, to other young people around the world. 

Learn more about what young people are saying: Visit Voices of Youth’s online community. Or find out about UNICEF’s work to promote and protect the rights of adolescents.




15 December 2004: Stephen and Edward of Ugandan describe experiences living in a nation divided


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