The author reclaims not only her name, but also her identity and sense of purpose in this survivor’s testimony of kidnapping and survival in Uganda.
As a title in the Women in Africa and the Diaspora series, this memoir focuses less on political complexities than on the plight of one girl, abducted into Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. “How can I be your wife when up until this point you have called me your child?” she asked when he began to make his sexual intentions clear when she was 14. She tried to escape when he said they would share a bed that night, but her recapture was swift and her punishment, severe. “After they were done beating me,” writes the author, “Kony felt that it was my parents’ fault for giving birth to such a beautiful girl.” Then known by the alias Betty Ato, she became Kony’s 11th wife after serving as babysitter and all but a slave to his first wife, who was violently jealous. She also bore him multiple children, one of whom disappeared in the bush more than a decade ago, leaving her mother with no idea whether that daughter is still alive. In her ambiguous position, she experienced threats from both those aligned with Kony and the military forces opposing him. In one plot of insurrection, “they said that for Kony’s assassination to be easy, they should first do away with me or maybe recruit me to kill Kony myself.” When peace negotiations allowed her to return home, she found herself under suspicion as one who had shared Kony’s goals as well as his bed, as if her marriage was anything more than rape and child abuse. Her own mother said, “You should have died while still in the bush.” Vindicated, she became chairperson of the Women’s Advocacy Network.
Within the academic framing and footnoting, there’s a survivor’s story that is all the more harrowing for its matter-of-fact understatement.