Skip to main content

'Super nun' in Congo helps victims of Lord's Resistance Army

By Bharati Naik and Atika Shubert, CNN
October 22, 2013 -- Updated 1147 GMT (1947 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sister Angelique Namaika recognized by U.N. for work with LRA victims
  • LRA members known for brutal treatment of its victims in terror attacks
  • LRA has displaced 2.5 million people over past 30 years, according to U.N.
  • Namaika on LRA: "It is as if they destroyed the future of the country"

(CNN) -- A Congolese nun working in the Democratic Republic of Congo is making a difference.

Sister Angelique Namaika has been recognized for her extraordinary humanitarian work with victims of atrocities committed by members of the Lord's Resistance Army, the militant group led by African warlord Joseph Kony.

The LRA took up arms against the Ugandan gvernment in the 1980s and soon became notorious for killing, kidnapping and brutalizing people throughout central Africa. Its members are known for hacking off the lips and ears of their victims, looting villages and burning huts, and stealing clothes and medicine from the communities they terrorize. Those who survived attacks have been deeply scarred.

Namaika, who has received the Nansen Refugee Award United Nations award for her work in the DRC, has helped rebuild the lives of more than 2,000 women and girls caught in the LRA's web. She has dedicated the award to all the women and children who were abducted by the LRA.

Sister Angelique Namaika meets the Pop, Oct. 18, 2013.
Sister Angelique Namaika meets the Pop, Oct. 18, 2013.

Namaika said she was inspired to follow the path of social work as a child when she saw a German nun, Sister Tone, who used to visit her village to help the less fortunate.

"I thought it was worth giving more efforts for the women that had suffered at the hands of the LRA for two to three years," she told CNN. "It was very difficult because I had to bring some sort of cure, to relieve them of what they had been through. One of the main goals of providing these trainings was for the women to feel valued within society and be autonomous."

Pope Francis offers blessing

The number of people trying to recover from the LRA's reign of terror is staggering. The group has displaced 2.5 million people in the DRC, Uganda, South Sudan and the Central African Republic over the last 30 years, according to the U.N., making it the world's largest and longest-running displacement predicament. Countless families have been destroyed or split apart in this time.

Rwanda's president talks Joseph Kony
The hunt for Joseph Kony
The 'Kony 2012' phenomenon

Namaika told CNN: "Some women did not directly witness the atrocities performed by the LRA, but they saw them through their children whom they counted on. This one woman had three of her children taken from her, two boys and a girl, one of the boys was killed in the jungle, the other had both his arms amputated, and the girl had a sexually transmitted disease. And this woman carries this pain in her heart."

Namaika recently met with Pope Francis and sought blessing for the victims of the LRA. Just before the meeting she said: "I am going to ask him for a special blessing for us and for me, for me to continue to have the courage I need to fulfil my mission to help women to find their lives again."'

Working in the north-eastern Congolese town of Dungu, Namaika said she has worked with women who were captured by LRA rebels when they were as young as 11 or 12.

"For me, the impact on the country is what they have done in the hearts of thousands of Congolese children. He kidnapped children, who represent the future of the country. It is as if they destroyed the future of the country."

"They still spread fear throughout the local villages, and no matter what anyone thinks, even if someone feels safe, Kony could come out with his group very unexpectedly. People are still very afraid of going through what they went through."

After years hiding in the jungle, the number of LRA fighters is thought to be down to a handful, and the U.N. report says there's been a drop in the frequency of attacks against civilians. It is good news, but as Namaika knows, the healing will go on for years to come.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
The reported firing of artillery from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle, says CNN's military analyst Rick Francona.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 0846 GMT (1646 HKT)
The young boy stops, stares, throws ammunition casings at the reporter's feet without a word.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
A picture taken on June 28, 2014 shows a member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. The World Health Organization has warned that Ebola could spread beyond hard-hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to neighbouring nations, but insisted that travel bans were not the answer.
The worst ebola outbreak in history spreads out of control in West Africa. CNN's Michael Holmes reports.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 0048 GMT (0848 HKT)
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
ITN's Dan Rivers reports from the hospital where those injured by an attack in Gaza were being treated.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Flight attendants are wearing black ribbons to show solidarity with fallen colleagues in "a tribute to those who never made it home."
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT