Ugandan sex slaves released

After four years of sexually servicing rebel soldiers, kidnapped Catholic schoolgirls are finally freed.

Published January 28, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Jan. 28, 00

During World War II, the Japanese military maintained brothels of abducted Chinese, Korean, Philippine and Indonesian women as sex slaves, or "comfort women," to satiate the rapacious appetites of its soldiers. Sadly, Japan's hideous example is still being perpetuated today by other incorrigible forces around the globe.

In Uganda, the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has waged a 12-year struggle against the Kampala government. Its insurgent ranks are buoyed by an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 children who have been kidnapped from villages, reports Human Rights Watch. Typically, the young hostages are transported to rebel bases in neighboring Sudan where the boys are trained as soldiers and the girls forced into sexual slavery.

In October 1996, the LRA brazenly snatched 152 young girls from St. Mary's Catholic School in Aboke, northern Uganda. An Italian nun persuaded the abductors to release 109, but the remaining 43 schoolgirls were whisked away into cruel, carnal servitude. Ugandan authorities have subsequently lobbied for their release by pressuring the Sudanese government to cease assisting the rebels.

An agreement was finally negotiated between the two hostile nations on Jan. 10. Uganda freed 72 captured Sudanese soldiers in exchange for the LRA's release of 75 Ugandan prisoners, including eight of the missing schoolgirls who have since been placed in the care of UNICEF in Khartoum, Sudan's capital.

Uganda continues to lobby for the freedom of additional St. Mary's schoolgirls and other abducted children who remain in captivity. Although thousands have escaped or died of disease or in battle, Ugandan administrators contend that at least 2,000 of its citizens are in captivity, according to Agence France-Presse. With the LRA's civil war continuing its rampage in the northern states, the sexual slavery of girls and the martial brainwashing of boys is guaranteed to continue.

By Hank Hyena

Hank Hyena is a former columnist for SF Gate, and a frequent contributor to Salon.

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