They come in the night. Armed militants take young children from their beds, as they sleep: Young recruits for
It happened this (last) week in Nigeria, when heavily armed Boko Haram Islamists kidnapped 200 girls from their boarding school.
And it has been happening in northern Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and other neighbouring countries for decades – the work of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour covered Kony’s sick work 16 years ago, for 60 Minutes, when she reported on the abduction of 139 girls from their school.
She spoke with their teacher, Sister Rachele Fassera, who begged for the children’s return.
“He (Kony) bent down and on the ground he wrote, ‘The girls are 139. I will give you 109.’ He wrote, ‘I keep 30,’ Sister Raquelle told Amanpour at the time.”
“I knelt in front of him,” she said. “And I said, ‘please give me all the girls’. He said, ‘No’ [crying]. Then they (kidnapped girls) started, ‘Sister, they will rape us tonight. Sister, will you come back tonight?’
“That was the last time I saw them.”
That story is now the basis for a new novel, “Thirty Girls,” by the award-winning American writer Susan Minot.
“It’s an amazing story,” she told Amanpour in an interview.
“I think a lot about it. I’ve thought about it for the last 16 years, since I heard her (Sister Rachele Fassera) story. And the bravery that she went through, the horrible situation that she was in, just haunted me.”
In her own coverage of the story, Amanpour also spoke with a girl, Agnes, who had been kept by LRA commanders.
“Did you take part in punishing a girl for trying to escape?” Amanpour asked.
“All of us were made to do so.”
“What did you do?”
“They gave us firewood to beat her.”
“And did she die?”
“What do you think about having been made to kill somebody?”
“I’m okay at times. But at times I could think of her.”
“You still think of her?”
“You see her face?”
“It was unbelievable,” Minot said. “Or it wasn’t … I won’t say ‘unbelievable,’ because, again, I’ve thought about this a long time. And it turns out there’s nothing that’s really unbelievable.
“To me the most horrendous thing about it was this was going on continually and the world was not doing anything to stop it.”
Minot has previously written about the story, but never got the kind of reaction she now has, she told Amanpour.
“When I wrote my non-fiction piece, I actually never even heard a peep back about it,” she said.
“For about 20 years he (Kony) was marauding and looting and victimizing children. And so eight years ago, when I was writing this book, it was still going on. So I wanted to try to write about it as a novelist from sort of the inside out.”
There is a “human recognition,” she said, that “we’re not so very far away from the peoples’ experience.”