In the last #CommunityVoices, we began the story of mama Lwiji, whose grandson was abducted by the LRA and inadvertently led the rebels to his family’s home when he escaped. The community’s story continues below…
As mama Lwiji was being beaten, other rebels gathered members in the village, (mainly the adults as they believed that the rebels would only target the young ones who had gone into hiding) and brought them to her compound. They started beating the people gathered using an axe and massacred 17 people in total, killing 15 on spot, while the other 2 died later after they failed to access medical help in time.
A short young man killed my husband and many other people in my marital home. I survived because I made an alarm “agee we” that identifies me to my birth clan. They asked where I come from, I told them that I come from Alokolum and they told me I would survive with my co-wife because I am not a member of this place by birth.
Mama Oryema, a survivor
Seven of the deceased were from mama Lwiji’s home while ten from a neighbouring clan known as Nam- awal. Since then the relationship between the two clans has soared as they blame mama Lwiji’s family and clan for the misfortune brought to them by her grandson. In the Acholi tradition, blame was not apportioned to the individual who is believed to have committed the offence but collectively to his clan. The following paragraph as narrated by Doreen, one of mama Lwiji’s grandchildren shows the complexities of transition challenges faced by many families/communities in northern Uganda;
We started experiencing problems right away when the incident occurred; the clan members of Nam-awal robed our family taking away goats, bicycles and utensils which they claimed that they will use to bury their beloved ones who were killed because of us. They want compensation for all the people who died. Disunity has also cropped in our family as survivors have abandoned the home. Land boundary conflict is now very common among children who lost their parents in the massacre. Parents of Olanya are living in isolation with fear that they can easily be attacked by clan members who lost their dear ones since their son caused them death. Some of the children who lost both parents have become helpless and abandoned the village, gambling in urban centres.
Doreen Acayo, mama Lwiji’s granddaughter.
Olanya, who watched the rebels kill members of his family from his hiding place, self exiled himself to another community for 14 years only to return in 2011. He has since apologised to the clan members and asked to be forgiven, but members of Nam awal clan insist that his clan should pay compensation for all the people who were killed yet they cannot afford this payment. The family members pray that government comes up with a programme to help such families to facilitate reconciliation and peaceful co-existence. Mama Lwiji furthers requests government to ensure that this programme also takes care of orphans as a result of the conflict like her grandchildren and provide for them social security that will enable them to achieve a better future.
It’s therefore important that the transitional justice policy development process that is taking shape at national level pays attention to these complexities and daily transition challenges affecting communities emerging from the more than two decade conflict. The policy will only be relevant if it addresses such and other concerns of conflict affected communities.
#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