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Girl was buried, but lived

by Nick Ericsson

A VICTIM of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is to tell her story of rape, starvation and escape on The Oprah Winfrey Show next Thursday.

Akallo Grace Gall (right in picture, with Oprah Winfrey) was abducted at the age of 14 from her school dormitory in north Uganda, with 138 other girls, in 1997. She is now telling of her ordeal in order to encourage funding for the Uganda Christian University.

On the day after the girls were taken, a nun from their school tracked the group, and, despite threats, pleaded for the girls’ release. In the end, the LRA commander agreed to release 109 of them. Ms Gall was one of those who was kept by the rebels.

For the next seven months, she was held in an LRA camp in southern Sudan. She was assigned to the commander as a "child wife", told that she would be trained as a soldier. "We ate lizards, rats, wild fruits, leaves, roots, and even soil. Seven months after my capture, I was a walking skeleton." Once, Ms Gall fainted while walking to fetch water, and, thought to be dead, was buried alive. She came to, and dug her way out of her own grave.

She escaped when the LRA camp was attacked by the Ugandan army, then walked 300 miles across arid plains to reach home.

Back in Uganda, however, she was taunted and abused by her peers at school, as well as by her own stepmother. She persevered with her schooling, however, and will receive a diploma from the Uganda Christian University this August.

She hopes to gain a degree in communications in order to highlight the plight of the Acholi people of northern Uganda. The memories, though, will always be with her: "I have seen heads smashed and people beaten until their sockets swallow their eyes. I have survived hunger, burial alive and assaults. This is not what I want for my people. The time has come. We must stop this war."

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