Alice Adong – The LRA Nurse Who Received Training From Kony
To Adong Alice, now 54, returning home after 15 years in rebel ranks is a miracle and she is grateful to be back alive and be able to openly speak about her life. Twenty six years ago, she and a group of others were rounded up from Awere and taken to an unknown place by the LRA fighters. Today she is a peasant in Awere village in Gulu municipality.
She earns her living doing petty work such as washing clothes, plastering houses with mud and sometimes she is being called by neighbours to dig in their gardens or compounds.
Her parents were killed whilst she was in the bush with the LRA. Adong did not attend the funeral of her parents.
She only got to know about the death of her parents when she was at the reception centre where she was being rehabilitated when she returned.
“My relatives told me that both of my parents were killed from the home where the rebels also took us from,” Adong said with breaking tones in her voice.
Adong says that she did not study much because her parents only concentrated on paying fees for her brothers.
“I only studied up to primary seven, I wanted so much to go further, but that is life, I am not bitter,” she says.
Adong was captured in August 1987 by a commander she only refers to as Oyoo whom she says was killed by the UPDF during an ambush in Moroto district.
“The Commander took us to Pader and on our way back we were attacked by the UPDF and he was killed during the fight,” Adong said.
Adong says that they were taken to Sudan and on her way there, they were attacked in Moroto; Joseph Kony commanded that they should not go to Sudan because it was a bad sign.
Adong said that they waited in Moroto for sometime, until they were given the green-light to proceed to a place called Palotaka. There she says she met a woman who was the LRA nurse. She was given a number of rebels who had been injured along the way to treat.
The nurse, she remembers was known by the names of Molly Laker who eventually became her friend and Kony ordered that they should work together.
“Laker had already stayed in the bush for 6 years and from the look on her face, you could tell that she was no longer bothered about leaving the rebellion,” she explained.
Laker gave Adong some basic simple trainings mainly on how to handle fresh wounds from battle fields.
But one day, Laker called Alice into her hut and told her about her plans to escape.
Adong thought Laker was only joking. She went to sleep that night without taking Laker seriously.
The next morning, Laker was nowhere to be found. Kony called her to explain where Laker was hiding but she could not explain since she didn’t know.
“I was very scared and I thought that I would be kill, but Kony realized that I was innocent and told me to do the work Laker was doing instead,” Adong said.
After she begun working as a nurse, she was only referred to as “Doctor.”
She says that she become a very important person in the LRA and many commanders and Junior LRA officers would not refuse taking orders from her because she was a “doctor.”
“I had no idea how to help the pregnant mothers. I was neither trained midwife nor been a Traditional Birth Attendant before,” Adong narrates.
She remembers one of the complications that came her way when a woman was expecting a baby for the first time.
She explains that the woman who was in labour pains was a wife to one of the commanders.
Adong took her to her hut and no sooner had she reached there her baby started coming out however, it was an abnormal delivery.
“The baby’s legs came out first instead of its head. “Its head got caught up in the mother’s womb and it suffocated and died. I had not wanted this to happen even when I know that I had never helped a woman deliver a baby before,” Adong explained as tears streamed down her face.
She says that she then rushed to the commander, knelt down with tears rolling down her chicks and she reported the matter.
“I also consulted Joseph Kony who in turn taught me how to handle such emergencies by showing me how to handle children who are suffocating during delivery,” Adong said.
From there she was given a maternity ward built out of grass and reeds, which could sometimes handle 10 deliveries at a time, “because the number of the LRA was large.”
‘‘By God’s Grace the only death of a baby under my care in the 15 years I stayed in the LRA captivity was the one in Aruu. But there were challenges like surgical blades and gloves which were not there. I had no alternatives but to use the edges of grass splits to separate babies from their mothers,” Adong explained
Adong remembers using razor blades only twice while working as self-trained midwife with the LRA.
“The only time I saw surgical blades was when the LRA rebels raided a health centre in northern Uganda in 1995 and the surgical blades were brought but unfortunately we were also attacked the same day and we had to run for our dear lives leaving the facilities behind,” she recalls.
For the years that Adong worked as a birth attendant and nurse, she did not use protective gear such as gloves and worst of all, at that time, she says that very few knew how HIV/AIDS could be acquired.
Adong says that few people died from strange illnesses, especially those with symptoms similar to HIV/AIDS, and the advise to the LRA from Kony was to be careful.
“Only Joseph Kony had a slight idea on how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and he was always not happy with his commanders who were carrying out abductions saying that they would spread the strange disease to other rebels,” Adong explained.
“Kony would call all his commanders including me in his morning parades and caution that the people were enough, that they should stop abductions,” Adong added.
She remembers a commander who died of symptoms similar to HIV/AIDS in the bush, but because she was not a trained nurse, she could not help the man or tell him what he was suffering from.
“The LRA commander had the signs similar to that of HIV/AIDS and a few minutes before his death, he told me that his body was burning and he begged me to pour cold water on him,” she said.
Adong says he collected three basins of cold water from a nearby spring and poured it all on the LRA commander.
“When I poured all the water, he sat quietly and thanked me for saving his life, but Captain Abworo died after wards,” the former combatant narrated.
From the day the commander died, Adong says that Kony ordered his army to stop abducting more people, especially girls but some of his commanders never obeyed this order.
Adong also remembers the day Kony fell ill and she was rushed into the nearby bush to get local herbs for his treatment.
She said that it was really rare that Kony could fall sick. And that every time he fell sick it meant that there would be a serious fight with either the UPDF or the Sudanese army.
“His sicknesses symbolized some tragedy and we learnt that every time Kony was seriously sick, some numbers of people would die,” Adong explained.
Adong revealed that many times when they were attacked, it was always those who had been fighting between themselves, committing adultery, theft and those who quarrelled among themselves were the ones who died.
Adong further added that on many occasions, she became very exhausted because she worked long hours as the only “doctor” and that she was always the last person to go to sleep and the first to wake up to attend to patients.
“I did not have time to sleep because of my busy schedules though I was not being paid,” Adong said.
Adong narrated that one time she was flogged 151 strokes which she claims has left part of her body paralysed.
She still remembers the way her husband with whom she was staying with in Palotaka in Sudan used to mistreat her.
She said that her husband who was later killed in South Sudan was a Lieutenant Omony, sent three junior LRA officers to arrest her and they grabbed her when she was sleeping, they started kicking and beating her and she did not know the reason why she was being dragged in this manner.
“When I was taken to him, he claimed that I was trying to escape and so he sent soldiers to arrest me,” Adong explained.
She added, “he ordered the soldiers to lash me 151 strokes and I was thrown in prison without food and water for three days”.
Unfortunately Lt. Omony had not told Kony about what he had done. When Kony heard about it he was very unhappy and ordered his men to remove Adong from prison.
“When I came out from the prison, I crawled and got some treatment and I recovered. When I recovered, I went and took a revenge on Lt. Omony at night and I torched his house where he was sleeping and the matter was settled by Kony”, Adong remembers.
“When settling the matter, Lt. Omony accused me of falling in love with Kony among many things. But Kony pointed it to him that he was already old and did not want more women,” she said.
Later on our relationship ended and he took another woman who was from Kitgum district who became his wife but he was later killed in battle.
Adong says that she was loved by Joseph Kony for the elaborate work she was doing to save the lives of babies and pregnant mothers. But she could not stay for long.
Good enough, two other men, one she remembered only as Nyero and another as Bunya, who were her good friends, really supported her move to escape.
“Both of them had spent five years in the bush. They had made up their minds to escape at 1:00AM one day when all the rebel commanders were sleeping. Unfortunately, one of the men, Nyero, who led the escape, failed their mission when his Gumboots were heard by one of the rebels. Me and Ocan were still inside our huts and we were to escape in turn,” she narrated.
Nyero was arrested and flogged over 100 strokes and later he was thrown in jail through Kony’s orders.
“My luck came only after a long persistence in 2008, after we moved to another place in Southern Sudan. Kony had asked me to escort one of his wives, Vicky Adokorach who is now in Uganda, to one of the health centres in Juba for treatment to constant pains in the stomach.
“But just as we left the bush, we were attacked by the Sudanese army. So both me and Adokorach -Kony’s wife, managed to use this window to escape. The Sudanese community took us to the International Organization for Migration-IOM, and we were transported to Uganda,” she said.
She said that after a month, another group of LRA abductees who also managed to escaped in the same attack, trekked all the way to Juba town.
They were also transported to Northern Uganda through the International Organization for Migration.
The returnees met Adong at a rehabilitation centre in Gulu, where they were all kept before being sent to their homes.
“They also told me that Kony was very annoyed about the fate of his wife and that there was no one to give treatment to the casualties,” Adong said.
Adong was given an Amnesty certificate in 2008 together with other returnees and they were all promised by Amnesty Commission to get a resettlement package which included cash.
Most senior colleagues with whom they were given Amnesty in Gulu received all their resettlement packages including unspecified amounts of money to help them begin their life in the community, but Adong says that she did not.
It’s now 6 years and Adong is still waiting for her money which was supposed to help her re-integrate into her community.
Most of all, she says that she also wants to be recognized by the government for saving the lives of innocent women who were forcefully abducted, impregnated and the children born innocently in the rebellion.
“In my heart I have already given up the hope that the government will thank me. I have seen many LRA rebel commanders who have been supported by the government yet I am the one who saved their lives while in the bush. I know one day, God will reward me for my work,” Adong pleaded.
Adong added that, “My friends with broken legs, armless and bullet scars, have never hated me and they continuously thank me for the good work I did on them.”
Adong was trained on how to use local herbs while with the LRA and now wants to start selling local medicines in Gulu town.
Her fear is that the government may stop her business before it even gets off the ground.
By Claude Emma Omona & Samuel Olara