Friday, 25 May 2018

Dominic Ongwen Trial Monitoring Update: May 15, 2018

Former child abductees face ‘cen’ and need cleansing: Psychologist tells court

“Former child abductees face serious effects and a significant number develop post-traumatic stress disorders.” Prof. Michael Gibbs Wessels a Psychologist and Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at Columbia University (USA) told court during the trial hearings of Dominic Ongwen. Prof. Gibbs is also a psycho-social and child protection practitioner who worked in Uganda for 10 years(1998-2008).

Education was my hope; my future and I have lost it.” Prof. Gibbs quoted in open court how a former abductee expressed her feelings about being abducted:He also stated that there is a likelihood of intergenerational transmission of trauma which will likely affect the families of children who were affected for generations.

Prof. Gibbs told the court that former LRA child abductees still face the burden of stigma, burden of being born out of wedlock, being a rebel child,inability to interact properly, engaging in unruly behavior, inability to create and maintain lasting relationships and feelings of guilt which in turn escalates to depression and trauma.
Prof. Gibbs further added that formerly abducted children also face what can be termed as ‘cen. ‘Cen’is an Acholi word used to describe a super natural manifestation, haunting a perpetrator. He recommended cultural rituals be done to break this psyche mentality.

In so saying, Prof. Gibbs was referring to cultural rituals like “Nyono tong gweno” (Stepping on the egg) that the Acholi believe in to remove the ‘cen’ and pacify the victims.He also noted that the resilient nature of Acholi children doesn’t mean they don’t need support urging that rituals have to be part of the healing process. “That is what people in Acholi land want- to remove the ‘cen’ It is much better than imposing western treatment,” he concluded.
The Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development (ACORD) is a Pan African organization working for social justice in Africa with a specific focus on peaceful communities, sustainable livelihoods and healthy lives.  The Foundation for Justice and Development (FJDI) works with children, youth, women and communities to promote justice, development and economic recovery in northern Uganda. ACORD and FJDI are monitoring the trial of Dominic Ongwen with support from the European Commission, under a project titled, “Promoting Justice and Accountability for Conflict Affected Communities in Northern Uganda and West-Nile Regions of Uganda.

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