Victims commemorate lives lost in war
As the country woke up to a normal day on 19th May 2004, the victims of Lukodi camp, (Gulu district in northern Uganda) despite the insecurity that was prevailing at that time also woke up to a daily camp routine. On this fateful day, with the UPDF soldiers patrolling the camp, no one could suspect the looming gruesome horrors that were to paint the camp red hot with human blood and fire. At sunset when the rebels attacked the camp, the civilians’ cries and pleas for their lives were drowned in the sounds of gunshots and blows of machetes, hoes, and axes on them with houses being lit up in huge fires. Fifty Six (56) people were found brutally killed and so many more injured with most not returning from hospital.
Every year, 19th May is set aside by the Lukodi community in honor of the innocent lives lost on that tragic day. AYINET, in expressing solidarity with war victims, supports memoralization events in the post conflict regions of greater northern Uganda. The memorialization events are platforms that encourage the reintegration, forgiveness, reconciliation and psychosocial healing of the war victims and survivors. This is in resonance with AYINET’s mission to mobilize and empower youth and communities in promoting healthy, peaceful and just society.
This year, the event was held in Lukodi Primary School with various stakeholders in attendance including; war victims community, Government representatives, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), International Criminal Court (ICC) representatives, Victims’ lawyers, Religious and Cultural Leaders with “Rwot” (King) David Onen Acana II of Acholi as the Chief Guest. Besides the psychosocial support in form of solace and solidarity with the victims and survivors over loss of loved ones, the event offered a great opportunity for all stakeholders to share opinions on core issues regarding post conflict community wellbeing. The dominant issues being centered on Justice and healing for the victims, reparations and ICC proceedings over the Ongwen Trial.
In a letter addressed to the Lukodi war victims’ fraternity by Fatou B. Bensouda, (Chief Prosecutor, ICC) that was read out at the event by the ICC representative, Paul Brandfield, The Chief Prosecutor mentioned updates on Dominic Ongwen (Alleged Brigade Commander of the Sinia Brigade of the Lord’s Resistance Army) Trial. According the ICC website https://www.icc-cpi.int/uganda/ongwen/pages/alleged-crimes.aspx
“Dominic Ongwen is allegedly responsible for seven counts of crimes allegedly committed on or about 20 May 2004 at the Lukodi IDP Camp in the Gulu District, Uganda, being three counts of crimes against humanity: murder, enslavement, inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering; and four counts of war crimes: murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, and pillaging.”
According to the letter, the ICC also memorize the people who suffered and were victims of the atrocity. Charges against Dominic Ongwen were confirmed and the prosecutors have made a request to the judges for the trial to commence in December 2016. She also encouraged the victims in Lukodi to now start healing and forgive each other so as to start a new life. She reaffirmed ICC’s commitment to bring to book perpetrators of the atrocities and justice to the victims.
Representatives from Government, Civil Society, Religious and Cultural Leaders share their opinions
“Unity and peace is vital in Acholi but there is no peace because of trauma and lack of healing in the society from the war.” Rwot David Onen Acana II
“Let us stand together as Acholi and make sure that the victims of war receive reparation from the Government of Uganda” Retired Bishop Baker Ochola, Kitgum Arch Diocese