Odora Nakumiya sits in the garden by his house in Panyum Obanlwane Village, Kitgum District.
One early morning in the 1990s fighters from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) forcefully entered Odora Nakumiya’s hut in northern Uganda and grabbed his sixteen-year-old son, Charles. Nakumiya knew what that meant. He started pleading with the rebels but they would not listen. They were following the orders of Joseph Kony, their notorious leader, and had heard similar pleas many times before. They knocked Nakumiya unconscious and dragged Charles away. Nakumiya's wife could only watch as her son disappeared into tall grass.
After Charles' abduction Nakumiya always inquired of people that escaped from LRA if they know anything about his son. But no one could remember Charles or recognize him in photographs. Nakumiya doesn't know if Charles died or if he's still with the LRA in the border area of the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
Nakumiya and his family suffered intense distress because of the abduction. His daughter Suzanne developed physical problems and died of an illness. His wife's grief was so strong that she had a mental breakdown. When she was struck by lighting in 2012, Nakumiya remained alone. Every day he thinks about what had happened and hopes that this will be the day he will get Charles back. Every night he falls asleep in sadness that it did not happen.
Parenting the Missing
During the insurgency in northern Uganda between 1986 and 2006 thousands of children were abducted. Recruitment into the LRA – which waged a lengthy and brutal war against the Ugandan government - was accomplished mainly by abduction. Their primary targets were children between 10 and 18 years of age, who were later used as child soldiers and sex slaves. Studies estimate that over 66,000 children were abducted and that the total number of missing people in the LRA-affected areas is higher than 12,000.
For their parents the war is still enduring and most have only memories of their children to hold on. In the fury of war their clothes, photographs and notebooks were lost. This project captures parents' experiences through their portraits and spaces and objects that symbolize their loss.
Odora Nakumiya holds the picture of his deceased wife Alwoch Jeroloda.
Odora Nakumiya stands in his hut in Panyum Obanlwane Village, Kitgum District. Nakumiya's 16-year old son Charles was abducted by the LRA in 1990s and has never returned. After the abduction, Nakumiya lost also his daughter and wife and now lives alone.
Odora Nakumiya weeds his garden in Panyum Obanlwane Village, Kitgum District.
Footprint next to the grave of Mary Auma's late husband in Oryang Ojuma, Kitgum District, Uganda.
Mary Auma plants sweet potato in her garden in Oryang Ojuma, Kitgum District. Mary's daughter Grace was abducted by the LRA at age 14 in 2004 while they were spending the night at the ginnery in Kitgum Town. Every night they went to the ginnery for safety, but on that fateful night they stayed in the room that had no inside locks. The rebels were able to enter and they abducted 4 children. Only Grace has not returned.
Mary Auma stands by the termite mound that occupies the spot where her former house was in Oryang Ojuma, Kitgum District during the war. Mary now lives in Kitgum Town.
Pots in the window of a house in Mary Auma's compound in Kitgum.
Omiya Anyima, Kitgum District in the morning.
William Oryem weeds his field where he plants ground nuts and cassava close to Kitgum Town. His son Charles was abducted at age 17 in 1992 during a burial ceremony for his cousin's wife in a nearby town. The LRA abducted six people at the burial. William's wife blamed him for sending their son out of town and later divorced him. William thinks it is likely all six abducted people were all killed, but without a solid proof he still hopes that is not the case.
William Oryem smokes a cigarette in a shack close to his home in Kitgum Town. His son Charles was abducted by the LRA in 1992.
William Oryem stands on the road by his field close to Kitgum Town.
Palabek Gem Village, Lamwo District. Huts used to be part of the former camp for internally displaced people and most are still inhabited.
Akot Esther in her hut in Ajoa Gala Village, Lamwo District. Her daughter Santina was abducated by the LRA in 2000 at age 9 and has never returned.
Hut in the former camp for internally displaced people in Palabek Gem, Lamwo District.
Oyella Hellen and her mother Adong Rita stand next to the mango tree that Hellen's son Michael planted in their compound in Ajoa Gala Village, Lamwo District. Michael was abducted by the LRA at age 10 in 1997 and Hellen has no news of him.
Drawing on the door of the room where Atoo Sisilia's three abducted sons used to sleep in Kalama Central Village, Lamwo District. They were abducted by the LRA in 1996 while working in the field close to their home.
Mukasa Joseph Okidi and Adwar Sibirina stand in their field in Barongwe Village, Kitgum District. Their son Marcelliano was taken by the LRA at age 12 in 1998. The rebels came in the morning and while they were dragging Marcelliano out of the hut he was able to warn other children who escaped into the bush. Marcelliano was taken to Sudan and hasn't returned.
Mukasa Joseph Okidi walks towards his compound in Barongwe Village, Kitgum District.
Anna was abducted by the LRA in 1998 and returned in 2004. Due to stigma of being abducted by the LRA she does not want to be identified.