By Joyce Namutebi and Henry Sekanjako
Members of Parliament have called for psychosocial support, rehabilitation and a special programme for people affected by war in northern Uganda.
This proposal came during debate on a motion for a resolution of Parliament on the plight of formerly abducted children and persons affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) moved by Reagan Okumu (Aswa) last week.
Okumu’s motion followed two petitions to Parliament by abducted children and persons affected by the war, seeking intervention from the Government.
In one of the petitions signed by hundreds of women from Acholi sub-region handed over to Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) in March, the women said: “We were adversely affected by the conflict between the LRA and the Government in northern Uganda. Some of us were abducted, tortured, raped, mutilated, forced to become wives of rebel commanders, provided forced labour in rebel camps and were also forcefully conscripted to engage in combat. We were forced to bear children under harsh and deplorable conditions.”
Debating Okumu’s motion, Flavia Kabahenda (Kyegegwa) and Medard Ssegona (Busiro East) stressed the need for psychosocial support to the affected persons. “Communities need to be educated to accept these children,” Kabahenda said.
To observe the proceedings from the gallery were political and religious leaders from Gulu, some of the affected women and representatives of civil society organisations involved in assisting war affected communities.
Okumu broke down as he narrated to Parliament the ordeal of the captives and children born in captivity.
He revealed that he had received information from returnees that three of Joseph Kony’s children; Simon Salim Saleh born in 1993, Ali Lalobo Bashir also born in the same year, and Ocan Chandiru, born in 1998 are still in active combat.
Jovah Kamateeka (Mitooma) said the abducted children did not have a say as far as joining the war is concerned. She urged the Government to take special interest to make sure that children who are still in Sudan are returned home and to put in place a reparations fund to offer direct assistance to the victims.
Godfrey Kiwanda (Mityana north) said that although Kony is miles away from Uganda “the problem is still with us.” He commended UPDF for their work in the Central African Republic (CRA) where Kony is said to be, and appealed to UN to come in and help the troops.
Alex Ruhunda (Fort Portal Municipality) called for motivation of Uganda’s troops in CAR to go an extra mile and do all that is necessary to get Kony. He also said there is need for specific properly budgeted programmes for people affected by war in northern Uganda.
Jessica Ababiku (Adjumani) observed the need to review existing programmes in northern Uganda. She also asked the Government to review operations of civil society organisations and NGOs.
Latif Sebaggala (Kawempe North) said: “Unless we have affirmative action for the people of northern Uganda, we are losing a generation of people who are detached from the rest.”