Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
It is difficult to find anyone in northern Uganda who has not been affected by the LRA insurgency.
Most families have lost children to death or abduction, and nearly two million have been placed in squalid and congested internal refugee camps.
Even members of the LRA delegation, most of whom have not been involved in the war, yet are touring the north, were shocked.
My week spent with the delegation was highly emotional, but I doubt if it comes close to what is felt by the victims of the rebel atrocities.
My trip began on the morning of November 6, as I headed to the Gulu hotel where LRA delegation slept. I traveled with peace team leader Martin Ojul and Rwot David Achana, who is the Acholi paramount chief.
After Ojul and his team participated in a traditional cleansing ritual, we went to St. Monika tailoring school where the team heard the bitterness and suffering caused by the war.
When asked if they had forgiven the LRA, everybody raised hands and shouted, “We want peace.” When asked by LRA lead counsel, Chrispus Ayena if the International Criminal Court, ICC, warrants should be dropped, the answer was yes.
But as I awoke on November 8 to leave for Lira, I knew the reception was going to be hostile. I knew I was taking a risk, since this area was not home territory for Kony. It was where LRA rebels had massacred hundreds of people.
On the way, we stopped at Ngai where the delegation had few answers when camp residents asked for explanation about the killings, abducted children, raped women and compensation of the lost property.
Our next stop was Barlonyo near Lira, where LRA reportedly took twelve of their victims and boiled their body parts in pots.
I was relieved as I saw the security was beefed up for the trip.
As we reached the camp, we found less than 50 people had gathered at the site of mass graves, despite the fact that the visit was well publicised.
We had ten-minute prayer at mass graves before moving into the Barlonyo camp.
It was emotional. Tears filled my eyes as women sang about how they were raped, mutilated, and made into sex slaves for LRA commanders.
“We were raped, made to be sex wives to LRA commanders. We tortured. Despite all the suffering, we need peace,” the women sang.
Like everyone, members of the delegation were deeply touched by the encounter.
Dr James Obita said, “I am ashamed of what LRA did here. Even a fellow animal could do the fellow animal,” he said. “We ask for forgiveness on behalf of the LRA for the atrocities, suffering and pain inflicted on you during this rebellion.”
Throughout this trip, I saw the suffering in the faces of the people of the people in northern Uganda and how strongly they yearn for peace that has eluded them for the last 21years.
I hope that LRA leader, Joseph Kony will see the videos of various rallies and that this might convince him to sign the peace agreement quickly.
It was an event I will never forget, and one that I hope will be communicated to LRA leader Kony.
Samuel Okiror Egadu is an IWPR journalist in Uganda.
Link to original article by Samuel Okiror Egadu in Barlonyo camp. Published in AR No. 144, 4-Mar-08.
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