Colonel Felix Kulayigye, the Chief Political Commissar of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) has cautioned victims of war pushing for truth telling.
According to Kulayigye, the truth telling process could turn chaotic since most of the conflicts in the country were tribal. Kulayigye said this while speaking at the national war victims’ conference held today at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala.
Uganda has witnessed gross human rights violations and abuses as a result of political and civil strife accounting for massive deaths, disabilities, disruption of social and economic livelihoods, disrupted development and frustration of the justice system. Despite the various attempts to address issues of accountability and reconciliation, there has been no overarching Government policy to deal with post conflict situations in Uganda.
A study carried out in 2011 on the use of traditional Justice and Truth telling in promoting accountability and reconciliation covering Buganda, Teso, Bugisu, Bugwere, Busoga, Karamoja, Kapchorwa, Acholi, Ankole, Toro, Bunyoro, Lango and West Nile sub region, recommended the drafting of a policy on traditional justice and truth telling.
The overall goal of the policy is to enhance legal and political accountability for gross human rights abuses and violations to promote reconciliation, foster social reintegration and contribute to peace and security. But, Col Kulaigye says while many people keep accusing government of wrong doing yet there are many civilians and religious leaders who protected insurgents especially during the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel conflict.
Grace Amuge from Ngora district in Teso differs with Col Kulaigye citing the July 11 1989 Mukura massacre in which about 300 people were burnt in a train wagon. The victims were suspected of being rebel collaborators against the NRA regime, but there is little evidence to suggest that most of them were anything other than innocent civilians. Trapped in the crowded train wagon, trying not to trample on one another, the men struggled to breathe, and by the time they were released after more than four hours later, 69 of them had suffocated to death while 47 survived.
According to Kulaigye the perpetrators of these killings were punished and government has compensated all the victims. Amuge insists no one was punished for the Mukura massacre adding that some widows were given some money but not all other victims. She adds that they have tried to seek audience with the President in vain.
Kulaigye wondered why the matter was being taken to the President yet government had set up a Ministry of Teso to resolve such issues. Amuge insists, someone from government must go to Teso and apologize for their actions.
However, Susan Aceng, a war victim from Gulu says they are tired of truth telling and want a way forward. Aceng wondered what it would help if she told someone that she had killed their relative and questioned the importance of an amnesty certificate.
Aceng says they are tired of the entire process since it will not bring back her virginity since she was raped and her children go hungry because she is unable to feed them on certificates.
Victor Ochen, the director Africa Youth Initiative Network says they are looking for justice that will help victims heal as a nation.
Government plans to establish an autonomous body with an initial 10 year mandate to implement the transitional justice policy.
The conference brought together war victims from the 1986 – 1994 National Army for Liberation of Uganda (NALU) war in South Western Uganda, the Uganda People’s Army (UPA) insurgency in 1987, the Holy Spirit Movement of Alice Lakwena, the 1986 to date Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebellion, the 1990s UNLF II and West Nile Bank Front in West Nile, the 1994 to date Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
Other pre Independence conflicts in Uganda include the Lamogi rebellion against British rule, 1919 -1921 Rwenzururu insurrection against the Tooro Kingdom,the post- independent 1966 Buganda Crisis and the 1970’s Idi Amin regime.