By James Odong
AMURIA - The minister of State for disaster preparedness and refugees, Musa Ecweru, has apologized to children who are still in captivity in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) ranks and to those who have since returned home.
He made the public apology on Friday during the return and reunion of George William Ecodu who was abducted by the rebels on June 26, 2003 in their village in Ateuso village in Morungatuny sub-county, Amuria district.
The rebel group, led by Joseph Kony, is still at large. But it has previously been widely believed to be operating somewhere in the jungles of Central African Republic (CAR) or South Sudan or even the DR Congo.
Ecodu was reunited with his family and village mates on Friday after spending 11 years in captivity. His return was greeted by scenes of celebrations and endless greetings by World Vision.
“I want on the onset to apologize from the bottom of my heart in my capacity as one of the leaders from Teso region for not adequately protecting our children in 2003 when they were abducted in big numbers by LRA rebels,” said minister Ecweru.
He said that while it is true that as a leader of the Arrow Group that worked with the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF), they were able to rescue thousands from the LRA rebels, and that for that reason, he owed the children an apology.
“I strongly owe those children still in captivity my sincere apology for our failure to protect them, leading to their loss of innocence and enslavement while they were still children who deserved our protection.”
(PHOTOs by James Odong)
George William Ecodu returned home after spending 11 years in rebel captivity. Right is State minister Musa Ecweru
His return on Friday sparked off a scene of celebrations by relatives and friends
Minister Ecweru poses for a group photo with former LRA abductees
Kony was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2005 but has evaded capture.
He was forced out of Uganda in 2006 after 20 years of war in northern Uganda during which hundreds of people were killed, orphaned and displaced.
His group was once reported to be crumbling in strength.
Ecweru promised that the children who have returned will never go through what they experienced “because the peace at home is now durable”.
Commenting on the US combat planes which were sent by the US president Barrack Obama to boost the search for LRA rebels in the jungles of DR Congo and Central African Republic but are now parked at Soroti Flying School, the minister said the support came late.
“How I wish they had done it in 2003 before thousands of our children were captured and walked into enslavement but I wish them well to capture Kony and his rebels,” he said.
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Minister apologizes to children abducted by LRA