#CommunityVoices collects; preserves and makes accessible personal and collective accounts on experiences and highlights transitional challenges of communities affected by decades of conflict in northern Uganda. It’s our hope that this blog will serve as a medium for communities to share their experiences and for the public to appreciate the transition challenges that they go through.
85 year old Abalo, referred to as mama Lwiji in her home in Got-ringo village, Alero Sub County in the present Nwoya District describes her challenges while struggling to take care of her grand children who were left with her as orphans amidst a protracted inter-clan conflict following a massacre that claimed the lives of seventeen people while she was watching.
Mama Lwijis’s grandson Olanya was abducted by the LRA rebels in 1996, but after a week he escaped from captivity the rebels followed him and killed 17 people claiming that Olanya escaped with their money. This incident has since caused intense conflict between mama Lwiji’s clan and another clan where ten of the deceased persons come from, yet mama Lwiji was left to care and fend for orphans whose parents were killed. This is a story that illustrates some of the complexities of post conflict northern Uganda which transitional justice processes should pay attention to.
As the month was coming to an end in September 1996, Olanya – in his early teens at the time – was home repairing the structure that housed his pigeons when the rebels caught him unawares. As a young boy, he was abducted together with other children found in the area and taken to the nearby rebel camp. While in the bush, the rebels entrusted Olanya with the looted items including money as they went on with their business. One week later, noticing this as a window of opportunity to escape, Olanya immediately took advantage and ran away with the bag containing the rebel’s money.
On this fateful day at 3:00pm on 30th September 1996, when he successfully escaped from the rebels, Olaya ran home to inform his relatives about his escape and the possible retaliation by the LRA. Indeed it was common practice by the LRA during the peak of the conflict to retaliate and punish the family or community of an abductee whenever he/she escapes. Heavier punishments such as killing were given for an escape with any LRA property like guns or money. Indeed the rebels did not waste time in following the escapee. While being interrogated by the rebels at her home, mama Lwiji who tried to protect her grandson by denying knowledge of his escape quickly received heavy beating from the rebels when they saw Olanya’s sandals at her door.
Read part 2 in the next installment of #CommunityVoices.