28 January 2013

Uganda: All Is Not Rosy in Kitgum

Although the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) guns have been silent for over five years in Acholi, there are still unresolved grievances among the people that are now threatening the peace.

In Mucwini sub-county in Kitgum, for example, about 300 members of the Pubec clan are still stuck in former Mucwini Internally Displaced Person's camp.

The people of Pajong clan, with whom they share Pajong parish want Pubec to compensate them with 728 head of cattle or sh145.6m and 168 goats or sh8.4m for their 56 relatives whom the LRA massacred in July 2002.

The Pajong allege that LRA rebels massacred their relatives after Katende Otim from Pubec, who was one of the LRA rebels, escaped.

In a retaliation attack, the rebels followed Otim and killed whoever they found in Pajong. It is alleged that while in the bush, Otim claimed he belonged to Pajong clan.

Besides the cattle and goats, the Pajong also want either the Government or the Pubec clan to raise sh7.9m towards reconciliatory ceremonies as demanded by Ker Kwaro Acholi.

"Each of the dead people is to be compensated with 13 head of cattle and three goats or their equivalent. We have forwarded the request to support this reconciliation and compensation ceremonies to President Yoweri Museveni and we hope he will respond.

The district organised several mediation meetings to resolve this conflict between the two clans and the agreement was that compensation and reconciliation must be conducted before members of the Pubec clan can return to their ancestral home," said Luka Nyeko, the Kitgum district chairman.

Part of the letter to the President, dated September 7, 2012 states: "You might recall that in July 2002 during the LRA insurgency in the north, the LRA massacred 56 people in Mucwini sub-county.

The incident was allegedly triggered by one member of Pubec clan, who was one of the LRA rebels after his escape. Since then, the Pajong people maintain that the cause of the massacre was this man.

The Pubec clan members have never been able to return to their land at Pajong parish for fear of retaliation by the Pajong clan members."

The request was submitted to the President through the office of the foreign affairs state minister, Okello Oryem, who is also the MP for Chua county.

Relatives angry

Ensio Onyango, 57, who lost his brother and father during the massacre, said: "According to Ker Kwaro Acholi, compensation for such killings is 13 head of cattle and three goats or its equivalent of money.

Currently, cattle go for sh600,000 and above and goats are sold between sh100,000 and sh150,000. The Government can convert these cattle and goats into money and pay us."

Without this, he argues, there can be no peace between the two clans. Samuel Ongom, the uncle of Otim, says in March 2010, when he tried to clear his ancestral home at Pajong parish, the people from Pajong clan cautioned him not to dare return.

"Pajong clan are determined to get revenge if no compensations are made. When we fled to the camp following the LRA massacre in 2002, the Pajong people torched 72 huts and granaries belonging to Pubec people," alleges Ongom.

However, Onyango says they do not want to kill anyone they just want compensation. Onyango says the situation has been worsened by the land dispute that existed between the two clans even before the massacre took place.

They are also angry at the fact that the Government relocated Otim to Bweyale and built him a house.

However, Collins Okot, 52, of the Pubec clan, argues: "They claimed that the LRA attacked and massacred their people because our son escaped with a gun from LRA captivity.

Mucwini community met and agreed that their demand for compensation is too much for us the Pubec people and it should be the Government to compensate them."

Pubec still stuck in Mucwini

Many of the Pubec people are renting land for cultivation from other people. Some of them are being hosted by well-wishers and friends.

"We are stuck in the camp. We cannot return to our land. Now we rent land for about sh20,000 for cultivation annually," says Okot.

He adds that because of this conflict, their children are scattered all over the place. Nasaneri Kibwota, 70, wonders for how long they will remain prisoners in their own sub-county.

"The Government should help us to talk to the Pajong clan to allow us return as they continue with the arrangements to make compensation."

Nekolina Acan, 42, whose husband and father in-law were killed, appeals for support through education scholarships for the orphans. "My husband and father-in-law were tied together and killed. Today, I have 10 orphans under my care

The owner of the land where we now live has asked me to leave and I have nowhere to go," says Acan.

Local leaders speak out

The district councillor for Mucwini sub-county, Geoffrey Oguti, says the biggest problem faced by the Pubec people is lack of land for cultivation.

He is, however, optimistic that the conflict will be resolved peacefully. "The Pajong people have already given land for the construction of a monument and polytechnic school."

Nyeko says the district does not have the capacity to get relief food for the people stuck in Mucwini. "We ask the people of Pajong not to attack the Pubec people as we await the President's response," said Nyeko.

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