Voices from the Ground Blog Posts
The monitoring team set up to oversee the cessation of hostilities signed by the LRA and Ugandan government has confirmed that there is a small group of LRA in the area, estimated to be twelve in number and moving in two groups. The rebels are accused of killing two UPDF soldiers at the end of last month and also looting food from displaced persons. Read more at The New Vision.
It is likely that small groups of LRA that remain in pockets in northern Uganda are not coordinating their activity with the LRA command in DR Congo and Sudan, but are acting more as armed criminals. Boosting northern Uganda
Last week, Kenny Ferenchak, Resolve Uganda’s field researcher based in Kampala, attended a service commemorating the 11-year anniversary of the LRA attack on St. Mary’s College in northern Uganda. Below, Kenny offers his thoughts on this event and its significance in light of the challenges currently facing the people of northern Uganda.
On 10 October 2007, hundreds of visiting civil society and religious leaders and representatives gathered in the shade of the serene campus at St. Mary’s College in Aboke, Apac District. They were greeted by the voices of hundreds of the school’s female students, filling the courtyard with songs of praise and thanksgiving accompanied by the rhythmic beat of a percussion arrangement. The sense of community and hope formed throughout this prayer service captured the concept of peace like no words ever could.
On 10 October 1996, visitors of an entirely different nature descended upon these very same secluded school grounds. On that night, rather than peaceful song, desperate cries and gunshots pierced the night air. In a night of terror that generated international attention, an overnight raid by the Lord’s Resistance Army resulted in the abduction of 139 students from the all-female secondary school. While the heroic efforts of Sister Rachele, the college’s deputy head mistress, quickly brought about the release of 109 of the girls, several girls remained in captivity for years to come and some remain missing to this day .
To me, last week’s service clearly illustrated two related points. First, this type of gathering in northern Uganda, so filled with unity and hope for a potentially bright future would never have happened prior to the start of peace talks last year. The continuing talks, the slow but steady return of people from the
Local leaders in northern Uganda are urging the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, to refrain from violence when trying to remove the LRA from their base in Garamba National Park. Cultural, religious and civic leaders in northern Uganda want an urgent meeting with Kabila to persuade him to avoid recent military arrangements with Kampala and instead use his influence and contacts to persuade the rebels to abandon the national park for Ri-Kwanga assembly site. Meanwhile, local leaders are also set to hold talks with Sudanese president Omar el-Bashir to urge him to directly support the Juba peace talks. Read more at IWPR.
Northern Ugandan religious, political and cultural leaders announced today that President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has invited them to Khartoum to discuss the prospects of the Juba peace talks. Meanwhile, the Sudanese ambassador to Uganda said that the decision of South Sudan
Civilians in the Lango sub-region of northern Uganda have expressed fears that uncertain progress at the Juba peace talks and poor provision of health and education services in areas of return will slow recovery efforts. Local official Benson Dila said, “The population is enthusiastic to get settled in their villages as per the government plan but the unclear peace talks are delaying the process.
A doctor from the Gulu Regional Referral Hospital in northern Uganda has said that youth in northern Uganda suffer from mental illness, many from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Dr. Thomas Oyak said, “These young people were born during the insurgency, they have grown up seeing nothing but guns and people being killed.
Residents of an internal displacement camp in northern Uganda sang and ululated at a ceremony to mark the formal closure of the settlement and the return of most of the 18,000 inhabitants to their villages. “I declare the camp closed, for God and my country,” declared Musa Ecweru, the minister of state in change of disaster preparedness, relief and refugees, as he formally announced the shutting-down on 11 September of the Atwal Railway Camp in the new district of Oyam. The number in the displacement camps of northern Uganda has decreased from 1.8 million in 2005 to an estimated 916,000 in June 2007. Still, another 381,000 have moved to new transit camps closer to their villages. While this shows huge process, many are still hesitant to get comfortable because a final peace agreement remains elusive. Moreover, returnees face significant challenges. “People are disempowered. There are no water and sanitation services in the villages. We shall need to do our outmost to empower these people trying to regain their dignity,” said Catherine Amal, chief administrative officer of Oyam district. Read more at IRIN News.
Archbishop John Baptist Odama recently appealed to the people of northern Uganda to unite in the pursuit of peace in the region during an ordination ceremony for a new priest in Gulu. Odama, a longtime local and international advocate for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in northern Uganda, said,
More than 30 victims of the LRA met with MPs in Soroti on last Thursday to recommend how best to bring justice to the female casualties of the conflict. The Northern Uganda Women
A special feature in today’s New Vision recounts the story of Rebecca, a northern Ugandan girl who was abducted by the LRA and forced to endure compulsory labor, rape and forced pregnancy before she was able to escape. Read more of her powerful testimony at The New Vision .