Ugandan peacemaker travels to Suffolk

Jeff Fish

Last summer, a group of Suffolk students, led by Government professor, Judy Dushku, travelled to the African country of Uganda to study its attempts of reunification after a brutal civil war that lasted over twenty years.

The victims of this war were the children of Uganda who were forced into battle by the crazed Joseph Kony, who led his group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), in a rebellion against the Ugandan government in 1987. Kony claims to be a spokesperson of God and used these children to fight his twisted cause.

He turned young boys into murderers and young girls into sex slaves for the soldiers, permanently scarring and causing severe lasting trauma. Yet now these children, many of whom are grown have returned to the villages they were once forced to slaughter and are learning to cope with their experiences.

Dushku and many of the students were amazed at the positive attitudes that these former child soldiers had, despite the limited access they had to any therapy for post traumatic stress. Much of this reunification is thanks to a woman named Lina Zedriga of Northern Uganda, who is the director a leadership training program that promotes unity among all those affected by the war.

Zedriga has worked with these soldiers and many other organizations in Uganda to make sure these kids are kept off the streets and do not succumb to the violence that constantly surrounds them.
Although the civil war is largely over, tension still exists between Uganda and its Northern region and Zedriga works every day to see the children reintegrate themselves into society.

Suffolk students interacted with Zedriga and were visited by Northern Ugandan former soldiers in the capital city of Kampala. Because they were all in the same hotel, they were able to really interact with these people and had the opportunity to hear first- hand about their experiences.

Dushku and the students were not able to travel to Northern Uganda for safety reasons, but members not affiliated with Suffolk were and they were inspired by the attitudes of the most severely injured children, most of whom were in wheelchairs. They played basketball and truly enjoyed themselves despite the horrors they had been through.

While in Uganda, the students forged lasting bonds with many people including Zedriga, who travelled to the United States last week and visited Suffolk University.

Zedriga and people involved with the trip hosted an event on Friday where they made the Suffolk community aware of what has been going on in Uganda. They also sold handmade necklaces to raise money for these children.

The Journal ran a story over the summer about the trip to help spread the word, but unfortunately no one was actually there to cover the event on Friday.

But I am writing to make sure that this event does not go unnoticed and people are aware of both the atrocities and truly inspiring things that have gone on in the country.

I was fortunate enough to have the chance to meet Zedriga while working at the Government Department on Friday. She shook my hand warmly and thanked me for the article I had written over the summer, nearly in tears.

She appreciated the work I had done to inform my fellow students about what’s going on in Uganda, and it was this interaction that reminded me how truly rewarding the field of journalism can be.