Last week former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) captives petitioned parliament. The former captives, all women, were seeking reparations from government, many of them had mothered children with LRA fighters, ostracised by the community for it and had no access to resources to bring up the children.
They were therefore seeking compensation from government for the suffering they had gone through during their captivity.
The lawyers may contest the legality of such a claim but from a purely humanitarian standpoint it is a claim that would be hard to reject, if only because more flimsy and unwarranted claims have been rushed through our systems at breakneck speed.
"The war in northern Uganda is only over for people who do not come from the region, because they are not confronted with the after effects of lost relatives, broken homes and sub –human levels of poverty. However the country, whether we acknowledge it or not, is still reeling from the more than two-decade long insurgency in terms of lack of national cohesion, continued suspicion against the government and the continued losses to the economy that come with a significant portion of our population not fulfilling their economic potential...
The LRA insurgency started as retreating soldiers of the UNLA made a last stand in northern Uganda against the NRA, who had captured Kampala in January 1986. Along the way the rebellion was hijacked, finally coming under the control of Joseph Kony, who wasted no time with trying to win the hearts and minds of his tribesmen, but set upon a campaign of terror, conscripting children into his ranks as sex slaves and child soldiers.
The NRA cannot be exonerated. It had its lapses in discipline – as President Yoweri Museveni acknowledged earlier this year, with the general population stuck in the middle with nowhere to go. War is messy business, a far cry from the sanitised images we see beamed down to us from Hollywood.
A coincidence of events triggered by the Al Qaeda attack on New York’s Twin Towers in 2001 led to the labelling of the LRA as a terrorist organisation, forcing Khartoum to cut off support to Kony and allow the UPDF to take the fight to the rebels in Southern Sudan.
The LRA’s operations in Uganda ended around 2002 but the UPDF has continued to pursue and harass Kony and his bands through southern Sudan, eastern Congo and into the Central African Republic.
The war left in its wake a dislocated society and an economy on its knees.
Last week one foreign report warned that Kony still remains a menace hundreds of miles away from home.
With this background a case for the victims of the war is not difficult to sustain, if only to prevent a future generation growing with bitterness in their hearts and vengeance on their minds.
"No amount of money can replace the lost childhoods of these young mothers or the unimaginable suffering they endured in the bush or the irreparable damage to their kids who have lived their formative years in a state of hunger and deprivation, their future prospects already compromised...
But as a gesture of the country’s solidarity with the region and collective determination to overcome the horrors of the insurgency it is as good as any.
"Capturing or even killing Kony will serve only as an opportunity for political chest thumping, it may even serve as an opportunity to poke around his mouth and study his unique case of psychosis but it does nothing to set the issue to rest...
When we recognise that, progress can begin to be made.
Unfortunately too our brothers in the north have learnt the habits of theft and corruption and funds being channeled to the reconstruction of northern Uganda are finding their way into the pockets of a few connected Kampalans. They shall get their just rewards.
But we should not dismiss it as their problem, because as long as one part of the country is not benefiting from the economic growth, is the extent to which this progress is not sustainable. Poverty is a recipe for instability and without stability there can be no economic growth or development.
The honourable lady member from Pader MP Lowila Oketayot couldn’t have said it better when she said, “guns have gone silent, but the war is not over.”