Oct. 9, 1996, seemed like normal day at St. Mary’s College, a girls’ school in Uganda. “But the nuns who ran the school seemed a bit nervous,” recalls Grace Akallo, then a 15-year-old student.

The nuns had heard rumors that the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army were nearby. That night, the LRA attacked the boarding school, taking 139 girls, including Akallo.

“Sister Rachele caught up with us in the morning,” she recalls. “The rebels threatened to rape and kill her, but she pleaded with them until they released 109 of us.”

 

Akallo was one of the 30 girls the rebels refused to free. “The next week I had to start fighting,” she explains. “The rebels beat people to death, and I had to kill, too. That, and having to marry one of the rebels, was the worst part.”

According to the U.N., 90 percent of the LRA’s soldiers are children; they are forced to cut off ears, hands and lips, or to kill, civilians suspected of being loyal to the government.

After seven months of killing hell, Akallo managed to escape. “Who am I to complain?” she says. “I survived. Five or six of my friends were killed; others were raped; and some were infected with AIDS.”