Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

International Justice/ICC: Oct ‘08

Expose of psychological suffering endured by LRA victims assists efforts to raise money for trauma centres.
By Bill Oketch

A story by IWPR-trained reporters about psychological trauma caused by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, has helped to generate funding for new trauma treatment centres in northern Uganda.

The 1.6 million US dollars project will establish new psychological treatment and learning centres in the Teso, Lango, Acholi and West Nile regions of northern Uganda, according to project officials.

The project is being implemented by the Christian Youth Alert Uganda, CYAU, a Ugandan non-governmental organisation.

Project chairman Felix Okabo said he received a printed version of the article – Northern Ugandans Bear Mental Scars, August 27, by Bill Oketch and Caroline Ayugi – from Lira-based Fountainhead Institute of Management and Technology, FIMT, and then used it to lobby for project funds from World Vision, a global aid organisation that has worked extensively in northern Uganda.

“Many [articles] have been [published] on trauma caused by the LRA, but the IWPR article made it easier for us to convince our donor,” said Okabo. “When I read the story I realised that such information is very important in rebuilding northern Uganda.

“We are going to construct eight rehabilitation centres in all the four sub-regions affected by the LRA war. In these centres we plan to put up youth learning centres.”

Health professionals will also counsel those in the north who are infected with the HIV virus, he said.

Meanwhile, another IWPR article written by IWPR-trained reporters Patrick Okino – Ex-combatants Blamed for Crime Wave, October 7 – prompted local police to beef up patrols in a remote region particularly affected by lawlessness.

After the IWPR story was broadcast on Radio Rhino 96.1 FM, a station in Lira, local police said they tightened security in and around five villages.

The area had been plagued by armed men, some of whom were said to have been former members of the Amuka militia, which fought the LRA, and kept their weapons rather than turn them in to the authorities as required.

“The report gave us [good information], and as security agencies we should strengthen our security such that people are protected,” said Raymond Otim, the Lira district police chief.

In another story produced by IWPR, Seriano Errib, leader of Sudanese students in Uganda, said Oketch’s article titled Schools Open Doors to Sudanese LRA Victims, October 20, has prompted the Kampala and Sudanese governments to consider funding Sudanese students studying in Uganda.

“I’m happy that both governments have considered funding us,” he said. “This has come along as a result of IWPR work. We the students are very much cheerful with IWPR story.”

The story, said Errib, also brought the plight of Sudanese students to the attention of Ugandan news media, “This story is an eye-opener to the national media that they also have a lot to do to help Sudanese students studying in Uganda.

“We shall live to remember your work when we go back to Sudan.”

In addition, a school official in Lira recently posted a copy of a commentary by Bill Oketch – Northern Ugandans Deserve A Break, July 16 – for students to read. The comment dealt with public frustration with the failure of the LRA to sign a peace agreement with the government.

“When I read [the] comment…I realised that such information is very important,” said Andreas Kizito, an FIMT lecturer.

“Based on my personal understanding and prediction, when Kony demanded peace talks he was looking for a resting phase.”

Bill Oketch and Patrick Okino are IWPR-trained journalists.