Hundreds of the LRA war victims matched at Barlonoyo refugee camp in Barlonyo village in Lira district to commemorate those that lost their lives during the 2004 massacre at the hands of bandits
By Andrew Masinde
Hundreds of the LRA war victims matched at Barlonoyo refugee camp in Barlonyo village in Lira district to commemorate those that lost their lives during the 2004 massacre at the hands of bandits.
The group was led by Victor Ochen, a Ugandan activist who was nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.
Barlonyo camp is a massacre memorial site where 301 people were buried and a post-conflict community where victims and survivors of war continue to search for justice.
Recounting the memories at the camp, Moses Ogwang, a former camp leader, described the three days of terror the rebels spent their camp as sorrowful when IDPs were burnt alive inside their homes, while others were hacked, stabbed or shot dead.
War victims in Lango matching in commemoration of the Barlonyo massacre victims. Photo/Andrew Masinde
"I saw pregnant women being slit open, and their babies thrown into the fires. Those who were not killed were abducted and marched north into Acholi land where many died in captivity," remembered Ogwang.
He added that "When I see people match to the site with joy and happiness, I feel peace now prevails in the area and my prayer is that this continues forever."
The deputy Resident District Commissioner Lira district, Emmanuel Mwaka Lutukumoi said: "It is with joy to witness the people of Barlonyo smile and dance after the incident that happened 11 years ago. Over 301 people died here and were buried in this field; people were traumatised but they have lived with it".
Ochen (with flag) matching with the residents. Photo/ Andrew Masinde
Mwaka however noted that the government is working tirelessly to see that people in Barlonyo are rehabilitated.
"Government has built for them a sh1.5b vocational school where victims of Barlonyo can educate children and those who at the time were not born," he explains.
He explained that it is the responsibility of government to protect people and their property for better settlement.
Meanwhile at the camp, Ochen, standing atop the monument marking the Barlonyo massacre, raised the Global Goals for Sustainable Development flag for Goal 16 as a symbol for Peace and Justice.
The SDGs succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which lasted from 2000 to 2015.
"Raising the flag in Barlonyo is a sign of acknowledgment of the pain and trauma and underscores the global commitment to ending wars and conflicts around the world. The reality of peace is now closer as a result of recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of humanity," Ochen said
He explained that Africa, in comparison to the rest of the world, has had a number of challenges in its journey towards the MDGs that include high poverty rates, gender inequality and low quality of education which continues to plague the continent even as the MDGs deadline nears.
"There has also been significant progress in light of achieving these goals," he added.
Ochen noted that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offers a renewed opportunity for Africans to make further gains by demanding accountability from their governments and leaders as people cannot demand what they do not know or do not understand.
"Embracing Peace and Justice, along with good governance, is essential to combating poverty, inequality and climate change, and Uganda and the rest of Africa is ready for the challenge," he explained.
According to Ochen, Peace is a precondition to development and without it; none of the goals will be sustainable adding that commitment to the Global Goals should be more than just an announcement.
Anna Acheng, a Barlonyo victim, recalls the trauma she went through when she was beaten and abducted by the rebels who torched her hut at 9:00pm.
"They made me walk to Amina Swidi in Pader district that night. I was meant to carry heavy luggage all through the journey. I still feel pain in my chest because of the beatings. But today I am happy that we are having a peaceful match," she explained
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