With the guns finally falling silent in the 20 year brutal LRA war in northern Uganda many communities are looking for closure. In many places in northern Uganda there is a sense that the communities want acknowledgment for the many violations they experienced during the war.
A case in point is Odek sub-county, Gulu district. As the ancestral home of LRA commander Joseph Kony, the area suffered the stigma of that association, and many there claim that their experiences had been ignored over the years.
A similar feeling persists in Burcoro, a village in Awach sub-county, for survivors of an NRA (National Resistance Army, later renamed; Uganda Peoples Defence Forces -UPDF) operation where civilians, accused of being rebel supporters, were tortured, sexually violated, abducted and killed over the course of four days in April 1991.
With support from USAID SAFE Program, the Justice and Reconciliation Project (A Gulu based NGO) is supporting community memory projects in seven communities in Acholi and Lango sub regions. In Odek and Burcoro, monuments were constructed in memory of the violation experienced in the two communities. In Odek, at the sub-county headquarters, on a white-tiled block a one and half metre-tall plaque lists the names of 44 people that died during an attack by the LRA on an internally-displaced persons’ camp there on 29 April 2004. Clan chief Rwot Ocan Jimmy Luwala of Puranga and Gulu District Council Speaker, Okello Douglas Peter Okao, joined the community, survivors and relatives of the victims to officially launch this monument on 2 December 2015.
A week later, on 8 December, Burcoro Primary School – the scene of the NRA’s 1991 operation – also hosted community members, survivors and relatives to launch a monument in the shape of a tree for their experiences.
The tree symbolizes the community’s experiences, in particular the place where a man called Kapere Alfoncio, who was accused of being a rebel, was shot and killed by firing squad in the final days of the operation. The launch of the monument was also used to share JRP’s field note “The Beasts at Burcoro”, which recounts events that took place with the community.
The communities plan to host memorial prayers at their respective monument sites in the future to commemorate the events. They also plan to use the sites as Centres for their IGA projects and engage in activities that would promote healing among themselves as they wait to tangible program from the government.
“Many people were thinking that their plight was not known but now they feel relieved,” Otto Jimmy, a survivor of the Burcoro incident told JRP, “What was disturbing was the [fear that because the Burcoro incident was state-led] that if you exposed yourself as a victim, you may be in trouble.”