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Friday, June 2, 2023

Lukodi Massacre Survivors: “We Have Been Abandoned.”

Survivors of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s massacre at Lukodi have said that feel they have been abandoned because little support has been provided to them.

On 19 May 2017, the massacre’s 13th anniversary, memorial prayers were organised to commemorate the events where over 60 people were killed and several others abducted. The massacre is alleged to have been led by Dominic Ongwen’s Sinia brigade and forms part of the 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity at his ongoing trial at the ICC.

Strong leadership

Comparing Lukodi to other places like Barlonyo and Abia, Betty Piloya, a survivor of the massacre says the Ugandan government should support victims by fulfilling their promises to construct a museum for the community. This has been the case in other areas affected by conflict, she says, where technical schools and livelihoods projects have been of help to victims and survivors.

“I think the [people in areas] supported by government have strong leadership and representation which helps them to lobby for support for the affected community from the government,” she says, “This is unlike Lukodi where survivors have been abandoned by even the local government leadership.”

Gibson Okullu, the chairperson of the Lukodi survivors group, confirmed Piloya’s statements saying that the group organised the commemoration prayers with very little support from NGOs and local leaders.

“We are ashamed of the District leadership and we feel very bitter that the [Gulu District] Local Government Administration has also abandoned us, just as the Office of the Area Member of Parliament has never supported us in any way,” Okullu stated.

“We are tired of empty promises,” agrees Kennedy Ocaya-Moi, also a survivor of the massacre, “The government promises and never puts the promises to action.”

There are opportunities

Hon. Betty Aol Ocan, the Woman Member of Parliament Gulu District, also attended and spoke during the memorial prayers. While she agreed that little has been done to support the community of Lukodi she also noted that there are opportunities that exist.

“[Right now] Lukodi only [has] a memorial site without any significant project to support the victims and survivors,” Aol Ocan said during her remarks, “As leaders, we are thinking about implementing viable projects which can support the affected communities, unlike presidential pledges that were recently delivered by the Minister of State for Northern Uganda [Grace Kwiyucwiny] to only a few affected people.”

During her speech, Aol Ocan also urged the Ugandan parliament to develop laws providing for permanent amnesty and incorporating elements of the Juba Peace Talk Agreement on Accountability which places emphasis on reparations.

“We do not want a repeat of what happened here in Lukodi. We need peace and witnessing victims staying together which helps them move forward as well as being able to develop projects which are beneficial to their communities and livelihoods,” she said.

Dominic Ongwen

Currently the Lukodi massacre is the subject of the trial of alleged LRA commander Dominic Ongwen at the ICC.  During the memorial prayers, survivors commented on the ongoing proceedings.

Betty Piloya, who had previously travelled to The Hague to watch a hearing in Ongwen’s trial, observed that Ongwen “is not bothered about the crimes he committed”, saying that, when the trial judge asked him about the crimes he is accused of “he was just laughing and he did not look to be remorseful.”

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