Has Government Forgotten About Us? Former LRA Abducted Women
BY BLESSING NIMARO CHRISTINE
Women were raped and under-aged girls defiled as the war between Lord Resistance Army and Uganda People’s Defense Forces went on in the North for two decades.
Upon their return from captivity following their escape from abductions by Lord Resistance Army Rebels, they are now faced with several challenges ranging from stigma, denied access to land, and those with children are insulted for having children with the rebels.
The constant insults to almost all the women who returned from captivity, inspired them in 2012 to form Women Advocacy Network,( WAN); from which they can seek audience with government for redress on the challenges they face in their communities.
In 2014, they sought audience from the ninth parliament on how best they can be helped to live decent lives upon return from captivity where they spent half of their lives.
In the same year, Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a “gender sensitive reparations fund” and offering of reparations war-affected women and children, but four years later, the resolution is gathering dust in their shelves.
After the adoption of the resolution, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah, also member of Parliament for Omoro County in Omoro district, Aswa County Member of Parliament Reagan Okumu with two others were to follow up on the government’s implementation of the resolution and to update Parliament accordingly.
The long war in the north resulted into displacement of approximately of 1.5 million people in Internally Displaced Camps(IDPs), tens of thousands lost their lives, women and girls were turned into sex slaves and children were recruited and child soldiers.
However, the women who petitioned Parliament under their umbrella (Women Advocacy Network), have never received any feedback something that has put them in dilemma.
They argue that nothing has come their way ever since the ninth Parliament picked up the matter and they have continued to suffer in the communities.
Chairperson of the Network Ms. Evelyn Amony, said former Lord Resistance Army returnees are in abject poverty. Most of the women are struggling single handedly to raise their children born while in captivity.
“The government that failed to protect us from abduction has also failed to take up responsibility for our recovery. Most of us were abducted as children and we returned from captivity as parents with several children who also have nowhere to call home,” she says
Ms Amony adds that, the most biting issues ranges from daily insults for both the mothers and children who returned from captivity, their relatives have denied them land to settle and become productive.
“Some women due to rape and defilement have health challenges and specialists that were promised by the government have never been seen in these hospitals within our vicinity,” she said.
She adds that they are in communities with perpetrators who have never apologized to them.
Ms Amony who stayed in captivity for 11 years adds that, their perpetrators have been integrated in the Uganda people’s Defense force while others have been supported to get back to school but as victims they are still suffering up to date.
She adds that, those who forced them into relationships while in captivity, have gone ahead to refuse the children they had with them while in captivity.
“In other countries where such insurgencies happened, the government supports re -integration programs but for the case of our country the government just ignores the pleas of returnees and this is very disappointing” said Ms. Amony
MP Okumu, who was tasked to update parliament on the progress told Daily Monitor that his attempts to meet the concerned people are showing some success.
“When there was no feedback from the government, I and other colleagues who were meant to do a follow up, first met up with the former premier, Amama Mbabazi and when he was dropped, we still forwarded our matter to the current Ruhakana Rugunda.
Personally I have not relaxed, I know the plight of my people and it has also been my wish to see that something is programmed for them specifically, Mr. Okumu said.
The government programs that are currently ongoing in the region are too general, there is need to have those that target the very individuals in terms of return, recovery and reconstruction.
“We know the plight of the children born in captivity and what mothers go though in providing for them the basics in life coupled by stigma from the communities that should have embraced them,” he said.
He added that for victims and perpetuators to co-exist, perpetrators should accept the blame, admit it and seek forgiveness.
“Guns have gone silent, but wounds and injuries inflicted by perpetrators are still fresh in the memories of the victims. Unless reconciliation takes place, the peace we think is there is not total peace,” he said
He however called on civil society organization and donors to give helping hand in making sure that the locals are fully recovered.
Retired Bishop of Kitgum Diocese Macleod Baker Ochola II, said if government is not reacting to the resolution up to now, it shows irresponsibility and insensitivity towards her citizens, who suffered during the two decade war in the region. The parliament of Uganda must respond to the resolution.
“This is total neglect from the government, why are they running away from their responsibilities.” said Bishop Ochola.
Bishop Ochola, said the government should have a policy to address the challenges the former abductees are facing. “The government’s failure to protect the civilians in the two decades war has resulted in to issues the government is failing to handle yet it was her failure to protect them. They should get back to the drawing board and have guidelines in place,”
Prime Minister Acholi Cultural Institution, Ambrose Oola, said the government has missed steps of recovery and it has gone straight away to reconstruction.
“There is nothing specifically targeting the returnees in particular as far as recovery is concerned both Peace Recovery and Development Plan and NUSAF are covering a wider range. As leaders we feel there should be program that should be ring-fenced to specifically cater for the needs of the LRA returnees,” he said.
He added that the software component is still lacking in most of the war victims, both who returned and those who witness it.
The resolution also calls for the government to provide free and accessible health services for war-affected women and children as well as to ensure the integration and resettlement of children born in captivity and formerly-abducted women in their communities.