10th Anniversary of the Mucwini Massacre

Recently, members of JRP’s Community Documentation and Mobilization Departments attended the 10th anniversary of the “Mucwini Massacre” which was celebrated in Mucwini, Kitgum District.

The sinister events that took place in and around Mucwini date back to the ill-fated evening of the 23th of July, 2002. As the local inhabitants were settling down for their evening meals, they remained unaware of the imminent danger that lurked at a close distance. The gruesome events that were to unfold on that sad July evening would only conclude after the massacre of 56 innocent men, women, and children, and with a whole community wrapped in chaos and despair.

On that evening the inhabitants Muchwini, as well as surrounding parishes were attacked by a heavily armed group of LRA rebels. It is widely believed that this was a reprisal-attack undertaken by the LRA as a response to the escape of a man called Omara, a member of the community that had been abducted by the rebels a couple of days before. Apparently Omara had been able to quickly flee from captivity a couple of days before the attack, deeply angering his captors in the process. Rumors say that the news of his escape quickly made their way to the Sudan, where the LRA’s top leader Joseph Kony is believed to have ordered the local unit commander to attack the village of Mucwini and to “slaughter everything that breaths”.

Several interviewed people have alleged that during Omara’s abduction, he was forced to confess the name of his direct relatives, as well as the description of his place of residence in the village. It seems that Omara, a member of the Pubec clan, was so embittered by a long standing land dispute between his clan and the Pajong clan that when interrogated by the rebels he provided them with the name and place of residence of an influential elder and leader of the Pajong clan which he claimed was his father. After the massacre, accounts of Omara’s role in the attack quickly came to light, and since according to Acholi culture, one person’s crime extends to his or her entire clan, the blame quickly fell on the Pubec clan to take responsibility for the apparent misdeed of one of its members.

The event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the massacre was led by Bishop Macleord Ochola, an important local religious leader who has been working with this community for several years, and who is one of the main actors of a long mediation process that has allowed for the Pubec and Pajong clans to meet face to face and discuss reparations after years of animosity and hostility between one another.

Significant progress has been made ever since that dreadful July day and the community has overcome many of the challenges that it has faced in the past. Nevertheless, unresolved issues still remain, most notably with regards the payment of reparations and a more comprehensive settling of the land disputed. This commemoration ceremony thus presented the community of Mucwini with a good opportunity to not only honor its dead, but also to openly voice and discuss those issues that remain a constant cause of tension until this day.

Related: Massacre in Mucwini, Field Note VIII