A Former Ugandan Child Soldier Campaigns In U.S.

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Images courtesy of Elle Comm.

Photo of Ocitti David, a former Ugandan child soldier, from a stop on his tour of the United States with Invisible Children.

Ocitti David was born in 1986, the year that the Lord’s Resistance Army began terrorizing northern Uganda. When he was 17, the LRA attacked his village, Pabbo, and he was forced to watch the rebels kill his father. Rebels then abducted him, his two step-brothers and other village children. He worked for the LRA for six months, and then managed to escape.

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Now he is on tour in the United States with Invisible Children and advocating for ZeroLRA, Jason Russell’s new fundraising campaign to help other LRA captives like David escape so that eventually, no soldiers or captives remain and the conflict can come to a permanent end. He shared his own escape story with TIME.

How did you escape from the LRA?

How I escaped from the LRA was really crazy. After being abducted, working for 6 months in the LRA, I had seen lots of atrocities, seeing my friends die, seeing my loved ones die. I was in a group of people where a woman who had a baby, her baby got killed, and I thought, no way. This cannot keep on happening. I need to go. So I said to my friend, we have to go now.

Where did you go?

I didn’t know where to go. I ran away into the jungle and it took about four days to get back to my home in Pabbo [in northern Uganda].

What happened after you escaped?

I went to trade school. During my school time it wasn’t easy because not a lot of friends knew what it was like to leave the LRA. I was called the killer. I was called the murderer. It was stressful, but I continued. After finishing high school I had to get a scholarship and went to university and got an accounting degree.

What happened to your two brothers?

I don’t know whether they are dead or alive.

How long will you be on this tour?

We will be on the road two weeks, stopping at churches, high schools, colleges, asking people to fundraise.

What is the one message you want to tell people on this tour?

We have to stand for nothing, we have to stand for zero child soldiers, zero killing, zero murdering, and zero living in fear of being abducted.

What gives you hope?

What keeps me moving in life are children in the LRA, it’s the only reason I live, because I want them to free. I have seen a lot, I have lost a lot, but I don’t want to be losing anymore. What keeps me moving is life. I want people to be alive and not suffer anymore.