Victims of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army

Valentine Mbolibirani: Captured by the Lord's Resistance Army when she was 14 years old, Valentine was summoned to a hut and raped by the rebels' leader Joseph Kony, Africa's most-wanted war criminal. Image by Marcus Bleasdale, Central African Republic, 2010.

Hortence Miahinongote: In March 2008 Hortence, then 17, was taken from her village in Central African Republic and given to an LRA commander as a reward for loyalty. 'They tell you, "This is your husband now. Go and sleep with him." If you make problems, they kill you.' Hortence, seven months pregnant, escaped into the bush as Ugandan army helicopters strafed the LRA base where she had been living. Now she is back home with her family. Image by Marcus Bleasdale, Central African Republic, 2010.

Yoris Mihidie: Ngilima, Yoris's village in northern Congo, had been besieged by the LRA for months when, last August, he made the risky journey to a nearby market in search of salt. On his way home, the LRA attacked the army-escorted convoy he was travelling with and shot him in the back. '[The attack] lasted an hour. When the LRA fighters left I managed as best I could to get back on my own during the night'. Image by Marcus Bleasdale, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2010.

Marcelline Namani: Soon after being abducted from her Congolese village in July 2009, Marcelline, then 15, was forced to participate in the killing of another child. 'They told us those who refused to hit him in the head would be put to death as well. So we finished him off. While I was doing it, I wanted to cry. Those memories often return. Since it wasn't something I chose to do, I hope God can forgive me. I place myself in God's hands.' Marcelline was freed during a Congolese army attack on the LRA. Image by Marcus Bleasdale, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2010.

Marie Mboligele: A young mother of four, Marie was attacked by the LRA near her village in Democratic Republic of Congo in March 2010. The rebels cut off her lips and ear and abandoned her. But her cries of warning saved her family. 'When I saw the LRA arrive in my field, I thought they were the Ugandan army. Then I realised it was the LRA. I began to scream. Everyone else fled and got away. It was only after a month that I saw myself in a mirror for the first time. I began to cry. My family just cry when they see me now'. Image by Marcus Bleasdale, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2010.

Valentine Mbolibirani was harvesting peanuts near her home in eastern Central African Republic when the gunmen arrived. It was 2009 and she was 14 years old. The men, members of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the notorious Ugandan rebel group, had terrorised the nearby villages for more than a year, appearing suddenly out of the dense forest to loot and take captives before vanishing again. Yet Valentine, like most of her neighbours, knew little about them.

'They told us they'd come to surrender,' she said. 'Villagers arrived to see what was happening. Then a man rode by on a bicycle, and they knocked him to the ground and kicked him. We knew then that we were their prisoners. I was taken with my little sister. There were 14 of us in all.' At one of the rebels' main camps, Valentine was summoned to a grass-roofed hut and told to ready herself. She was about to be raped by Africa's most wanted war criminal, Joseph Kony.

Nearly 25 years ago Kony, a former altar boy and self-styled mystic, announced that he had received instructions from the spirit world, ordering him to overthrow Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, and impose the Ten Commandments as the law of the land. Today, the 50-year-old warlord's army, responsible for Africa's longest-running armed conflict, espouses no political programme and exists primarily to shield Kony and his top commanders from war crimes indictments issued by the International Criminal Court in 2005.

Theirs is a campaign of incalculable brutality. Over two decades in Uganda, LRA rebels attacked the villages of their own Acholi people, displacing some two million civilians. Untold thousands were killed; exact figures do not exist. More than 65,000 minors were kidnapped and trained as LRA fighters or used as sex slaves. Twelve thousand children are believed to have died in the ranks of the LRA. And though now pushed out of their homeland by the Ugandan army and dwindling in numbers (from 5,000 at their peak to no more than 400 seasoned fighters now), Kony's men continue to terrorise the jungles straddling the borders between Central African Republic, Congo and Sudan.

Western governments have been loth to intervene, and regional United Nations peacekeeping operations already have their hands full. But last year Barack Obama signed a law pledging to 'remove from the battlefield Joseph Kony and senior commanders' and increase humanitarian support. Many living under the daily threat of the LRA see the US initiative as their only hope.

Between September and December last year, the photographer Marcus Bleasdale and I – with support from the Pulitzer Centre on Crisis Reporting – travelled to the areas hardest hit by the LRA to document the lives of its victims. We met Valentine, and many others with stories like hers.

Valentine managed to slip away during a looting raid one night, hiding in the darkness for hours as Kony's men scoured the tall grass by torchlight looking for her. She has now returned to her family, but the LRA is still holding her sister captive.

The below film is part of a video series in collaboration with Human Rights Watch and The Pulitzer Center. The video is courtesy of Marcus Bleadale/VII.