GULU - Former Lord's Resistance Army Rebel returnees could not hide their excitement after receiving news of Parliament approving their support from government.
"We thought that our President had forgotten about us. He has personally come out to our rescue on the issues that affect us. At sometime we thought he had forgotten us," said Lalam Stella, the founder of War Victims' Children's Networking, an organization that brings together LRA war victims.
Lalam said that after their return, fifteen years down the road, no support had been directed to LRA rebel returnees and most of them were instead rejected by their own parents.
News of their approved support was announced by Lyandro Komakech, the Member of Parliament for Gulu municipality who tabled the motion on the floor of Parliament on Wednesday last week.
The life changing document which was approved by about 400 legislators was titled; Motion for a resolution of parliament urging government to support former female abductees (LRA WIVES) and the children born in captivity during the LRA insurgency in Northern Uganda.
Issues at hand
During the parliamentary session which was chaired by Jacob Oulanyah the deputy speaker of Parliament, Komakech asked government to introduce appropriate special assistance programmes that will effectively enhance the welfare of the vulnerable victims.
The lawmaker tabled four demands before government. These include; identifying and profiling the affected victims, restructuring the current government financing by creating specific financing of former female LRA abductees and their children born in captivity with a view of enhancing their capacity, embarking on sensitization campaigns to closely have joint programmes with cultural institutions to ensure that the victims are socially integrated and protected to avoid stigmatization and discrimination perpetuated against them and expeditious adoption of the transitional justice policy.
However, the motion was later amended with priority given to the Acholi sub-region as a pilot project rather than the entire Northern Uganda and it would later be scaled up to the original plan of the motion mover.
Komakech also commended Kahinda Otafire the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs for convincing the President to accept the enactment of the Transitional Justice Policy which is now awaiting cabinet's approval.
LRA victims get hope
Lalam who travelled to Kampala to attend the tabling of the motion in Parliament said, for long, very many NGO's have used them in the name of helping them but all in vain.
"We have been asking ourselves whether we are Ugandans or not. Many NGO's have been writing our names but we've not seen any support." she added.
While the intended beneficiaries are in high mood to start receiving the support, Brenda Angom a resident of Kanyogoga parish in Bardege division, Gulu municipality suggested that each victim receives the financial support through the bank to avoid corruption.
Similarly, Patrick Odinga Ocen who was born in captivity and is now an adult says he doesnot know his parental background and clan which is a challenge to him as a grown up man.
But with government's support, Ocen is hopeful that his future will be bright.
"I had enrolled for my University degree but due to lack of fees, I could not continue. I would love to see this support be tailored into education, livelihood and land acquisition for people like me," he added.
Harriet Olanya, a lawyer with FIDA Uganda who has been working in unison with the Victims and Refugee Law Project, was happy to note that the motion was passed due to the thorough research, data and statistics gathered to convince the MP's.
Olanya said a number of targeted people are puzzled with several challenges that range from land wrangles, discrimination, stigmatization and sexual violence with so far 2,000 cases reported since 2014 in the districts of Kitgum, Lamwo and Gulu.