As northern Uganda is now embracing peace after the departure of the LRA rebel fighters, USA embassy in Kampala organized a reintegration festival to appreciate the contribution of various actors in bringing peace and ensuring that reintegration and reconciliation is achieved at all levels.
One of the wives to Joseph Kony how ever has narrated how one of the most brutal rebel leaders in Africa saved her life from death on several occasions.
Evelyn Amony one of the wives to Joseph Kony and chairperson women advocacy network said that she was abducted while still a primary pupil at Pachilu village in Atiak sub county in 1994 at a time when the rebels had attacked the area.
She says that the Stock brigade headed by Rascas Lukwiya were responsible for her abduction and when she was in their captivity the soldiers begun fighting for her and at one point one of them was shot dead.
This angered their commander Lukwiya who ordered for Amony to be killed, Immediately the soldiers begun beating her to a point that they hit her head badly that she thought it couldn’t heal as they headed to a place to kill her.
Amony narrates that while the soldiers struggled to have her killed Joseph Kony surfaced yet earlier he made orders that abduction should stop, after Kony looked at the indiscipline and mess his soldiers got involved in and one dead, he ordered for Amony to be set free and instructed the indiscipline soldiers to be punished.
The soldiers were punished even more than how they beat me and at one point I felt sorry for them, and Kony said that I should witness what happens to all those who are indiscipline noting that in his army there is no room for disobedience.
Amony also narrates another encounter that Kony saved her while they were crossing river Aswa, she says that while crossing the river the LRA use ropes and this time waters were full and the rope broke and she started drowning.
Most of the soldiers refused to dive to save her life as they considered the spot very dangerous but Kony who is well versed with swimming dived in to the waters and for the second time saved my life.
I was removed from the water and first aid was applied and I regained my life that’s why I was able to come back alive the two encounters couldn’t have left me alive, Amony noted
She says that on top of Kony saving her life the rebel leader also taught them how to work hard as women, how to keep clean and ways of protecting yourself as a woman.
Kony doesn’t want dirtiness and understanding him is very difficult, he likes laughing, lives a very simple life and his characteristics is the reason I keep thinking about him like a brother and I pray that he also comes back home.
At the festival delegations from other countries such as Niger were in attendance listening to the stories of those formerly abducted and learning lesson on how an affected community can embrace perpetrators as well as forgiveness and reintegration.
Secretary General Ministry of justice from the Republic of Niger Ms Bibata Baubacar Adamo who is in an exchange program to northern Uganda to try and understand the traditional justice mechanism used to end the LRA war and initiatives of Uganda government to have total amnesty for former combatants stated that in their country they are faced with a challenge of Bokoharm who operate as terrorist using indoctrination and human beings as booms.
‘‘We are here to learn how an affected community can forgive perpetrators in order for peace to prevail in our country’’ Adamo stated.
In Niger the country is in dilemma concerning reintegration of former terrorist because some are condemned to life in prison and others are living in isolated camps without being reintegrated in their communities.
We want to see amnesty for the terrorist as well as sensitizing the Niger population about embracing traditional justice systems which fosters forgiveness.
Adamo says that revelations by victims from the bush creates sympathy from community members which is essential in reintegration, and the terrorist put in the isolates camps Niger government needs to provide for them education, skills training and psychosocial support and treatment just like what the Uganda government has done to northern Uganda.
The challenges in Niger community has rejected the terrorist which is a bad sign of reintegration, Niger government needs to take a leaf from Uganda government in order to ensure end of conflicts.
Salama Magnuson working under the operation conflict stabilization US bureau stated that she congratulates Uganda government for ensuring the peace returns.
This has not been only the efforts of the government but all stake holders have been responsible in ensuring that peace returns political leaders, religious leaders, civil society, and cultural leaders.
Reintegration needs all partners because this reenergizes dialogue discussion and it’s very rarer to see such like the one in northern Uganda that forgives and seek different methods for reconciliation.
I have never seen such a community in the world who are doing amazing things working for defectors reintegration which is a path way to peace.
The executive director Anchor Patrick Munduga, the organization working in the democratic republic of Congo and Central African Republic sending messages to former abducted to return home stated that the LRA shouldn’t be under looked as a rag tagged rebel group but they have several methods they are using to continue holding the abductees including the propaganda.
But due to continued pressure both military and advocacy letting the abductees understand they should come back home, people have decided to leave the LRA ranks.
The Reintegration festival is to celebrate achievements reached and use of messages (leaf lets) to reach out to those in captivity, but what’s more challenging is what goes on after talking about reintegration and supporting returnees to be productive.
As development is on-going the community should not forget about children born in captivity and the women who have been raped as well as how we should deal with such traumatic experiences.
By Ronnie Layoo.Gulu.