street children, Africa, identity, social reintegration
This article explores the reintegration experiences of former Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) child abductees into Acholi society in Northern Uganda. Based on interviews with 10 former abductees who were returned to communities for 2 years or more, it explores identity transitions for youth from pre-abduction, to their forced abduction into the LRA and subsequent escape and reintegration. Returnees such as those who have been members of the LRA for a long time, or who have been implicated in the commission of major human rights violations, appear to be at higher risk of rejection on return. Drawing on concepts of relational identity, the paper questions whether there is a role for some culturally grounded forum that can acknowledge identity transitions that some former abductees and their communities may have experienced with respect to each other. Traditional justice and reconciliation approaches, adapted to incorporate international child rights and protection safeguards, could provide such a forum and complement psychosocial reintegration initiatives for returnees at high risk of community rejection. To date, psychosocial rehabilitation and reintegration programs have failed to adequately address issues of impunity.