An elderly victim’s cry for reparations
Lino Owor Ogora
Mego Carla Akidi is 59 years old and is one of the many victims of the war in Northern Uganda who are still longing for reparations from the government in various forms. For people like her, all that is needed is assistance to take care of their surviving children, who can only hope for a bright future through the completion of their education.
Carla lost three sons as a result of abductions and killings perpetrated by the LRA. She was happily married and living in Paimol with her husband Mzee Aboda Yakobo prior to the conflict, but they were later displaced into an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp at the height of the conflict. They were later to live through several years of terror and fear as they struggled to keep alive amidst the violence being perpetrated by the LRA.
Carla’s first three children, all boys, were abducted by the LRA to serve as rebel soldiers. Her first son, Otim Largo, was abducted in 1993 while he was aged only 20 years. A few months later, her second son, Labongo Samuel was also abducted. Some years later, her third child, Olweny Richard was also abducted by the LRA, and Carla was now left only small children. All of the abductions occurred during raids that the LRA conducted while the family lived in the IDP camps.
Carla never saw her children again and only later heard that they were dead. Richard was reportedly killed in a gun battle in Aswa. Otim Largo was brutally murdered by an LRA commander after refusing to kill a fellow abductee. He was beaten heavily, and slowly tortured to death by breaking several bones in his body. Odong Samuel reportedly starved to death in Sudan as a result of the LRA’s lack of provisions.
While Carla was left with her three other children, two girls and one boy, she was disillusioned by the loss of her first three children. She feels that if the older children had been alive, they would have succeeded in life and supported her in her old age. Carla now has to work hard to support the younger children with her main source of income being agriculture.
Her eldest daughter, Arach Grace, is in senior four in secondary school. Her son, Omol Justin also recently joined secondary school, while her youngest daughter, Ayoo Martha is still in primary school, but needs to join the boarding section, which is expensive.
Carla has been forced to struggle single-handedly to meet their needs because her husband Yakobo is old and frail. Yakobo’s health deteriorated as a result of an injury suffered during an LRA attack on the Paimol IDP Camp during the conflict. He can neither engage in agriculture nor pursue any other meaningful trade to earn income for his family. In addition, her husband lost his cattle during the conflict and was left with no substantial means of livelihood.
Carla has been asking and longing for some form of reparations for several years now. In her own words, “some action should be taken to help elderly people who lost their children.” Carla says that the closest she came to hoping for assistance was when ‘some whites’ and a Catholic Nun called Sister Veronica came and talked to her and took her photograph, but she never heard from them again.
“What pains me is that if my children had not been abducted and killed by the LRA, they would probably be supporting me and my husband, and I would not have to live the life of a beggar that I am living now. My children were bright, and I am sure they would have been successful in life. What I want is to be supported as a victim of conflict to pay school fees for my remaining children so that they can help me in future.”
Mego Carla Akidi
The above comment by Mego Carla Akidi is a typical statement that one will hear from many survivors in Northern Uganda. It is close to four years now since active combat in Northern Uganda ended and a reparations program, well designed and crafted by the government, would go a long way in alleviating the situations of individuals like Carla who often prioritise compensation for the lost property (especially cattle), educational support for their children, livelihoods, and health services in the quest for reparations.
The sad fact is that many like Carla do not ask for much. Carla wants nothing for herself, but rather support for her remaining children to purse their education. She also wants support to conduct last funeral rights for her children who were killed because of the LRA. But up till now the Government has been slow in responding to her needs and in drafting a reparations policy to forge a way forward. In addition, many lack a forum or channel through which they can be heard.
Carla for example said, “I talked to some parliamentarians and asked them if they could help me. None of them responded to my plea. Things are so hard for me that I find it difficult to tell my story anymore, but rather to suffer in silence.”
Stories like that of Carla’s, and the many victims of the conflict like her, are an indication that an effective reparation programme in Northern Uganda is long overdue.▪
Lino Owor Ogora is the Team Leader for the Community Documentation Department at JRP..