ResearchPDF Available

Remembering the Atiak Massacre

Authors:
  • Foundation for Justice and Development Initiatives (FJDI)

Abstract

On April 20th 1995, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) entered the trading centre of Atiak and after an intense offensive, defeated the Ugandan army stationed there. Hundreds of men, women, students and young children were then rounded up by the LRA and marched a short distance into the bush until they reached a river. There, they were separated into two groups according to their sex and age. After being lectured for their alleged collaboration with the Government, the LRA commander in charge ordered his soldiers to open fire three times on a group of about 300 civilian men and boys as women and young children witnessed the horror. This report recounts the events of the massacre.
Remembering the Atiak Massacre
April 20th 1995
Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP)
Field Note No. 4
April 2007
THE JUSTICE AND RECONCILIATION PROJECT: FIELD NOTES
Liu Institute for Global Issues and the
Gulu District NGO Forum
Field Notes, No. 4, April 2007
Remembering the Atiak Massacre
April 20th 1995
All of us live as if our bodies do not have
souls. If you think of the massacre and the
children we have been left with, you feel so
bad.1
INTRODUCTION
On April 20th 1995, the Lord’s Resistance
Army (LRA) entered the trading centre of
Atiak and after an intense offensive,
defeated the Ugandan army stationed there.
Hundreds of men, women, students and
young children were then rounded up by the
LRA and marched a short distance into the
bush until they reached a river. There, they
were separated into two groups according to
their sex and age. After being lectured for
their alleged collaboration with the
Government, the LRA commander in charge
ordered his soldiers to open fire three times
on a group of about 300 civilian men and
boys as women and young children
witnessed the horror. The LRA commander
reportedly in charge – the now indicted
second in command Vincent Otti – then
turned to the women and children and told
them to applaud the LRA’s work. Before
leaving, youth were selectively rounded up
and forced to join the LRA to serve as the
next generation of combatants and sexual
slaves.
1 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 1 March 2007.
Twelve years later, the wounds of the
massacre have far from healed. As the
survivor’s testimony at the beginning of this
report puts it, “all of us live as if our bodies
do not have souls.” Despite the massacre
being one of the largest and by reputation
most notorious in the twenty-one year
history of the conflict, no official record,
investigation or acknowledgement of events
exists. No excavation of the mass grave has
been conducted and therefore the exact
number of persons killed is not known.
Survivors literally live with the remains of
bullet fragments inside them. Although the
massacre site is only a few kilometres from
the trading centre, a proper burial of those
slaughtered 12 years ago is not complete: as
one survivor reminds us, “the bodies of
some people were never brought back home,
because there were no relatives to carry
them home.”
Failure to recognize and address the rights
and needs of survivors has left them with the
feeling of being abandoned, like rubbing salt
into the open wounds in Atiak. The situation
begs a transitional justice strategy. Although
the perpetrators of the massacre are known,
blame is apportioned to different parties
such as collaborators, the Ugandan army and
to the LRA. As this report notes, “the
civilians themselves were divided and
confused. There were those who had sons in
the LRA, and those who had sons in the
Field Note 4
3
NRA [the National Resistance Army, the
precursor to the present government army,
the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces or
UPDF]. As a result, local loyalty and
allegiance was divided, with some civilians
helping government soldiers and others
aiding the rebels.” Motivations behind the
massacre are not completely known.
However, circumstances point to the fact
that civilians were targets and pawns in the
conflict between the LRA and the
Government army: each seeking to destroy
popular bases of support of the other.
This report seeks to provide the first known
written record of events leading to the
massacre based on the testimony of 41
survivors and witnesses, as well as
prominent community members. It does not
claim to be complete, but rather provides a
partial record in hopes of prompting the
Government to begin an investigation into
the multiple massacres that have taken place
in Uganda. Ideally, this will lead the
Government to advance a transitional justice
strategy, together with civil society, that will
begin to heal the open wounds of Atiak. To
this end, recommendations are advanced in
the final sections of this report.
Following a narrative of the massacre, the
report documents and analyzes attempts to
keep the massacre in living memory,
focusing on the annual commemoration in
Atiak. Testimonies illustrate the powerful
impact of the ceremony and how it provides
a space in which to bring together diverse
actors. However, some survivors note that
politics and corruption have also crept into
the process, discouraging people from
attending. Indeed, only 600-1,000 persons
attended the 2007 commemoration despite
the fact the population in Atiak is in the tens
of thousands, and is one in which every clan,
family or individual lost someone of
significance. Drawing on the findings of a
recent JRP study on the potential role of
truth-telling at the community level in
northern Uganda, the report ends with a
series of reflections on steps that could be
taken to advance transitional justice,
including acknowledgement, truth-telling
and reparations.2
METHODS
Testimony was gathered in one-on-one
interviews with 41 witnesses and survivors
of the massacre and in five focus group
discussions with witnesses, survivors and
formerly abducted persons (group one, 10
male youths of ages 16-35; group two, 8
women of ages 27-80; group 3, 8 women of
ages 34 – 75; group four, 10 females of ages
28 – 62; group five, 12 formerly abducted
females of ages 12-28). Respondents were
purposively selected based on the
identification of victims, with the assistance
of a local leader (elder, Local Councillor or
clergy). This approach was then combined
with a random technique of selection
through cluster and snowballing methods.
Qualitative data was then coded according to
discernable patterns and themes, analyzed
and cross-checked by research officers to
determine an objective set of observations
and conclusions. The report was then
verified with a group of survivors in a
follow-up meeting in June 2007. The report
was produced out of a wider research project
of JRP to examine the possibilities and role
of truth-telling in local mechanisms in
relation to atrocities committed over the
course of the conflict in northern Uganda.3
All photographs were taken and used with
permission.
PRE-MASSACRE BACKGROUND
In 1986, the guerrilla movement known as
the National Resistance Army (NRA, now
called the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces
or UPDF) seized power in Kampala.
2 JRP. The Cooling of Hearts: Truth Telling in
Northern Uganda. Liu Institute for Global Issues
and Gulu District NGO Forum, Vancouver and
Gulu, Uganda. July 2007.
3 Ibid.
Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP)
4
Remnants of the Ugandan Army (composed
mainly of Acholi soldiers from the North)
retreated north and formed rebel groups,
including the Uganda National Liberation
Army (UNLA) and Cilil. When these rebel
groups were defeated, spirit medium Alice
Lakwena’s Holy Spirit Movement lead
resistance efforts in the North, only to be
defeated in turn in the late 1980s on its
advance to Kampala. A cousin of
Lakwena’s, Joseph Kony, then formed the
Lord’s Resistance Army which fought the
Government until the current cessation of
hostilities under the Juba peace talks.
Prior to the massacre, Atiak camp was a
small trading centre, with most of the people
living in homesteads in the outskirts. About
150 home guards protected the trading
centre and the area surrounding it, with
about forty government soldiers left to guard
the centre itself.
Respondents argued that when the LRA
came onto the scene in the late eighties and
early nineties, its relationship with locals in
Atiak was good. The LRA did not engage in
forceful abduction, nor did it kill civilians.
Instead, LRA soldiers asked local people for
food and recruited youth from willing
families.
The relationship between the local populace
and the NRA soldiers, on the other hand,
was reportedly poor. The NRA was accused
by respondents of harassing civilians who
came to the centre; asking them for
information regarding the rebels. Civilians
were divided and confused. There were
those who had sons in the LRA, and those
who had sons in the NRA. As a result, local
loyalty and allegiance was divided, with
some civilians helping government soldiers
and others aiding the rebels.
When the LRA discovered that some people
were collaborating with government soldiers
by revealing information regarding rebel
hideouts and the locations of weapons
caches, the rebels’ approach towards the
civilian population changed dramatically.
Indeed, they turned on the civilian
population with a deep vengeance. As a
result, most civilians moved closer to the
trading centre in order to escape the wrath of
the LRA. Others were harassed to move
there by government soldiers. However,
there were no clear geographical boundaries
for Atiak camp at the time of the massacre,
and most people settled as closely as they
wished to the trading centre.
Survivors of the Atiak Massacre. These men were
among the 300 persons shot en masse three times.
They continue to live with bullets embedded in their
bodies.
THE MASSACRE: 20 APRIL 1995,
ATIAK, UGANDA
5:00am
An unknown number of LRA rebels entered
the trading centre of Atiak, attacking
Government soldiers and home guards.
Civilian witnesses report that between the
hours of five and ten in the morning there
was an exchange of heavy gunfire and
grenades before the military was eventually
overrun by rebels. The LRA reportedly set
fire to huts and began looting from local
Field Note 4
5
shops. Individuals recalled that they sought
out whatever hiding places they could find
by fleeing to the bush, jumping into newly
dug pit latrines, or by remaining in their
huts. Despite efforts to protect themselves,
many civilians were directly caught in the
crossfire or specially targeted, with an
unknown number of casualties.
At dawn, we started hearing gun shots. At
about 8:00am the rates of the gun shots
reduced. We came to learn that the rebels
had entered the centre and were already
abducting people, burning houses and
killing people. Just as we were still trying
to get refuge somewhere, the rebels got us
and arrested us. They gathered us in one
place and when we were still in the centre,
we could see some dead bodies and
wounded people lying about the centre.4
Another woman recalled the following:
When the battle had raged for sometime,
the rebels headed for the barrack. On their
way they fired randomly at the
houses…One of my youngest children said
to me, “Ma get my books so that we can
run.” I was so afraid and I had to restrain
my kids. The boys in the other room got
out, two of them ran away. It was only the
elder boy who was too afraid to run
because he was a formerly abducted boy.5
He entered the house where we were. The
battle went all morning. When there was
lull, we tried getting out and making a run
for it. The [rebels] saw us and fired at us.
So we had to take refuge in the house once
again. Then I heard one of the soldiers
saying that the house we were in should be
set ablaze. I got afraid and got out with all
the children.
10:00am
4 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 28 February 2007.
5 It is common knowledge that persons who
escaped or abandoned the LRA were often
automatically killed if recaptured.
Once the LRA had captured the trading
centre, civilians were rounded up and forced
to walk into the bush. Some were forced to
carry looted goods:
The rebels told us not to run away. We
were surrounded and taken to a shop. I
was given a sack of sugar to carry, while
my eldest by was given a sack of salt.6
Another witness recounted their terror on
being forced to march into the bush:
They came and pointed a rifle at me. I
dropped the child I was carrying and
raised my hands. They asked me if all the
children were mine. I told them they were
my children. They told the children to go
home, and told them their mother would
follow later after carrying some loads. I
refused to surrender the child I was
carrying. They then told me to go with
them. When we had walked for about a
mile they ordered me to put down the child.
I refused. They pierced me with a bayonet
on the thigh. Then we went for another
mile and I was pierced again on the thigh.
We walked and when we had reached
Ayugi, I was again pierced in the neck. I
was now dripping with blood. Then we
walked and met with the rest of the people
who had been abducted.7
En route, military helicopters arrived on the
scene. The LRA rebels instructed civilians
to remove all light-coloured clothing and to
take cover under the brush to avoid
detection by the soldiers in the helicopters.
During this time, the LRA attempted to
bomb the Atiak Secondary Technical
School; the bombs narrowly missing the
dorms. Raiding the dormitories, students
were forced to join the group of civilians
who were rounded up in the town centre and
made to march into the bush. It is estimated
6 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 27 February 2007.
7 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 27 February 2007.
Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP)
6
that approximately 60 students, some also
from Lango and Teso, and a few from the
South of the country were among those later
killed. As the present chairperson of the
Atiak Students Survivor group recalled of
his former classmates:
We used to read together, play and sleep
together. In fact we grew up together in
the same clan and homestead. Together
we planned a bright future. Now they are
gone. They left in the morning when we
were awakened by the sounds of a bomb
blast in our dormitory. It was meant to hit
us. We were captured alive and were
heading to unknown direction when a
helicopter came and I escaped. My
friends didn’t. Two days later, I helped
their parents identify them among over
300 dead bodies.8
11:00am
The captured civilians arrived in a valley
called Ayugi, where there is a stream called
Kitang. There, able-bodied men and boys
were separated from women, young children
and the elderly.9 Vincent Otti, second-in-
command to LRA leader Joseph Kony,
lectured the civilians, chastising them for
siding with the Government. According to
one witness:
Otti told us that we were undermining their
power. He also said we people of Atiak
were saying that LRA guns have rusted. He
said he had come to show us that his guns
were still functioning. For that matter he
ordered us to see how his gun can still
work. He then ordered his men to shoot at
the civilians.10
8 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 28 February 2007.
9 It is interesting to note that the LRA they
targeted men and boys only. This gender
selective form of violence is repeated in other
cases during the conflict and is subject to a
forthcoming JRP Field Note.
10 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 27 February 2007.
According to another eyewitness, Otti
ordered his soldiers to kill “anything that
breathed”:
They then commanded children below
eleven years and pregnant women and
breast-feeding women to stand aside. I had
a sizeable child I was carrying. I shifted
with them to where they told us to stand. I
could not reach my little boy who was
seated with students of Atiak technical
institute. The remaining group of people
was then commanded to lie down. Then
they were showered with bullets. Nobody
got up to attempt running away. After the
bullets were silent, the soldiers were
ordered to fire a second time on the dead
corpses, probably to make sure. Then they
fired a third time to make sure all the
people had been shot. Then they turned to
us and asked us if we had seen what had
happened. We accepted that we had seen. I
was so scared because I had seen my boy
being shot. I wept silently and my children
told me not to cry…My boy had been shot
in the leg and was still alive when the
rebels came back. They finished him off
with a bayonet.11
Another survivor recounted:
They began by telling us mothers, pregnant
women and children below 13 years to
move aside. They told the rest of the people
to lie down and for us to look straight at
them - if you look at a different direction,
they can shoot you dead. They fired at the
people first and then again for the second
time to ensure that they are all dead…My
first-born child, mother-in-law, father-in-
law and my husband were all killed as I
watched them die. I returned with 4
children whom I am struggling to take care
of now.12
11 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 27 February 2007.
12 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 27 February 2007.
Field Note 4
7
After the massacre, others were forced to go
with the LRA to carry looted goods. As one
survivor explained after showing us the
scars on his face and back, many of those
abducted did not survive:
They selected 10 of us to help them carry
wounded soldiers. When we reached Kilak,
they beat me up and pierced me with a
bayonet. Of the 10 of us who were
supposed to carry patients, 9 died; I am the
only one who survived.13
Others abducted that day were initiated into
the LRA through brutal tactics and went on
to fight or act as sexual slaves for senior
commanders.
The total number of persons killed in the
massacre varies from anywhere between 200
and 300 persons. Some people disappeared
and their whereabouts are still unknown, and
because in the post-massacre confusion it
was not possible to identify all of the dead.
IMMEDIATE POST-MASSACRE
The bodies of some people were never
brought back home, because there were no
relatives to carry them home.14
In the immediate aftermath of the massacre,
Betty Bigombe (then Minister for the North)
arrived by helicopter with ‘many whites’
who wanted to photograph the massacre site.
Bigombe encouraged the people to go to
pick up the bodies from Ayugi and ready
them for burial. The process of recovering
bodies took several days, and not all could
be recovered.
13 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 27 February 2007.
14 Interview with Elder, Atiak Camp, 27
February 2007.
An elderly woman stands next to the graves of some
of the massacre victims.
Aid
Several organizations came in to provide
help for the survivors. According to the
camp authorities, about 2000 iron sheets
were delivered by the Government for
distribution to the surviving relatives of the
victims. Five hundred iron sheets got lost in
the process, and were suspected to have
been misappropriated. The other 1500 sheets
were distributed. Most of the sheets were
sold by the recipients. Survivors report
having also received blankets, maize and
iron sheets from the Government and other
organisations.
Survivors complained that although their
names have been recorded on several
occasions by non-governmental
organisations (NGOs), they have not
received material benefits. For orphaned
children, for adults who inherited orphaned
children, and for the disabled, poverty has
been pervasive. Many continue to display
signs of trauma, including reports of feeling
haunted by the ghosts of the dead, or the
inability to recover from feelings of loss and
fear.
I have a problem that has entered me due
to the massacre, I fear going under big
trees because I see very many dead bodies
lying there. This is because the people
were killed under a very big tree. My
children also have phobia for
Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP)
8
thunderstorms due to the experience they
had during killing. I keep imagining that it
might one time happen again. I saw the
killing with my own eyes; it has remained
in my memory and my eyes forever. Even if
I go to fetch firewood, I become energy-
less because I have phobia for bushes.15
Restriction of Movement and Forced
Military Recruitment
In 1996, a year after the massacre, the area’s
government-appointed Resident District
Councillor (RDC) decided that for the safety
of the camp, a boundary had to be created.
He therefore gave the command for soldiers
to knock down and burn any huts outside the
approved boundary and to restrict all
movement outside of it. Residents do not
recall any major battles after the 1995
incident and claim that the camp was no
longer prone to attacks.
Locals remember vividly, however, the
forced recruitment of youth by the UPDF in
order to boost the ranks of home guards for
the camp. On the 20th of June, 1995 the
UPDF forcefully recruited youth to join the
home guards at a place called Okidi.
Another forced recruitment followed a little
later, on a market day. The UPDF reportedly
swooped upon the unsuspecting shoppers
and in the scuffle that followed they
forcefully took youth.16
Motive and Responsibility for the
Massacre
In 1995, one big thing happened here that
beat the understanding of us elders. Our
own son gave us a very big shame. A real
15 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 27 February 2007.
16 These are unconfirmed incidents that warrant
investigation. The JRP research team was unable
to individually identify any UPDF soldier who
had been forcefully recruited.
shame to the extent that he killed his own
mothers, fathers, brothers [and] sisters...17
A number of different theories exist among
the local population as to why the LRA
perpetrated such a heinous massacre. Some
theories focus on the character of LRA
General Vincent Otti, the alleged
commander of the operation at the time. Otti
is a ‘son’ of Atiak. His home village is
situated a few miles out of Atiak camp, at a
place called Pacilo. In 1990, he reportedly
massacred 37 people – people who were his
very own flesh and blood. People in Atiak
have asked: if he could murder his very own
people, what could stop him from murdering
people who were not his relatives?
Other respondents believe the massacre was
a form of retaliation for supposedly
collaborating with the Ugandan army. At the
time, the LRA relied on local food
production to ensure their survival. The
LRA may have been angered by the
relocation of the population to camps, which
led to food shortages. To further frustrate the
rebels, the Government carried out a
scorched-earth policy by cutting down many
fruit trees the rebels depended on.
Another account pointed towards a
disaffected former NRA soldier. According
to the story, the soldier was stripped of his
command and handed a lesser position. In
anger, he joined the LRA and helped
organize the attack.
A collaborator called Luka who was a
shop attendant was also there at the scene.
I believe he is the one who was behind the
killing. The reason why I say this is that
this man was so close to Otii Vincent that
day. After people had been killed, he went
with the rebels to the bush up to now he
has not returned because he had already
17 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 26 February 2007.
Field Note 4
9
exposed himself and people would hurt him
if he had returned.”18
Yet others believe Otti’s main aim was to set
an example and make the message clear that
the LRA’s business was ‘to kill’. To set an
example for his troops, Otti chose to
massacre his own clansmen and village-
mates.
Some respondents declined to theorize as to
why the massacre took place. One woman
who declined to respond told researchers
that only Otti himself could answer this
question.19
REMEMBERING THE MASSACRE:
THE CEREMONY OF APRIL 20TH, 2007
The time of organizing the memorial
prayer affects me for the entire week both
before and after. I do not go to pray as it
reminds me and brings sorrow and
thoughts about it again as if it has just
happened.20
Memorials
A memorial stone constructed in memory of
the dead welcomes visitors to Atiak. It is a
short square concrete pillar with a pointed
top, and sits upon a platform raised in three
levels. It bears the inscription:
In Loving Memory of our Sons
And Daughters Massacred In
Atiak On 20-4-1995
May Their Soul Rest
In Eternal Peace
The majority of persons interviewed by JRP
indicated the importance of being able to
bury the dead with dignity, providing last
18 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 28 February 2007.
19 Comment by a local woman leader of Atiak
IDP camp, Atiak Camp, 19 April 2007.
20 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 27 February 2007.
funeral rights. However, not all could with
manage to do this, and as a result, look to
the memorial stone and annual assembly to
commemorate the dead as one means of
reaching out to them.
With support from different NGOs and local
camp leaders, an annual memorial prayer is
organized by the Acholi Religious Leaders
Peace Initiative (ARLPI) in commemoration
of those killed. In past ceremonies, survivors
have testified about the massacre.
Participants at the Atiak memorial ceremony.
The 2007 ceremony was held on the grounds
of the local primary school, where there
were plenty of huge trees to provide shade
for the large number of people attending the
gathering. A tent was set up to house the
religious leaders who led the prayers and the
other visitors who came from town. The rest
of the camp folk took their seats under the
shady trees. The ceremony was supposed to
have started at nine o’clock, but due to the
late arrival of guests, it commenced much
later at around noon. The guests started
trickling in at around ten o’clock.
There was a colourful mixture of guests,
ranging from politicians and members of
civil society organizations to the relatives of
the dead who were living in Gulu
Town or in other parts of the country. There
were also foreign nationals. They cut an
impressive figure among the local people as
the arrived in their cars. Among the
dignitaries was the Member of Parliament
for Kilak County, Hon. Michael Ocula, and
Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP)
10
the newly elected chairman of Amuru
district, who also happened to be returning
to Atiak for the first time since winning the
elections in 2006. The importance of the
occasion, both socially and politically, is
hence evident. In total, there were between
six hundred and one thousand people in
attendance.
As the people waited for the guests to arrive
and for the ceremony to begin, the two
choirs from the Anglican and Catholic
churches sang funeral songs, creating an
atmosphere of mourning. The proceedings
can be summarized as follows:
The opening
There was a procession as the religious
leaders filed in to lead the prayers. They
were representative of all the religious
denominations in Atiak. There was a
Catholic reverend, an Anglican catechist, a
born-again pastor, and a Muslim imam. The
prayers were led by the Catholic catechist.
He led the people through an opening prayer
and then announced that there would be a
procession to the memorial stone for the
second part of the occasion, which was the
laying of wreaths. The procession to the
memorial stone was led by students of
Lwani Memorial College, followed by a
choir, then the religious leaders who were
followed by the VIPs, and finally the general
public. It took about ten minutes for all
members of the public to get to the stone.
When everyone had gotten to the stone, the
people encircled it with the religious leaders
taking center stage at the front of the
memorial, flanked by the VIPs and the
choir.
Laying of wreaths
The laying of wreaths was perhaps the most
solemn and most earnest part of the
ceremony. After the religious leaders had
uttered a few words of prayers, the memorial
stone was sprinkled with holy water on all
the four sides by each of the religious
leaders, as the choir sang on in their sombre
notes. Then a basket of wreaths was
produced and laid by different categories
people. They included the local camp
leaders (The Local Councillors - or LCs - I,
II and III, the camp commandant, the
women councillor and a youth
representative), a survivor of the massacre, a
representative from one of the NGOs in
Atiak, a traditional leader, the Amuru
District Chairman, the guest of honour for
the day (Hon. Michael Ochula), the religious
leaders, and finally anyone from the general
public who wanted to lay a wreath. The
wreaths were made of banana fibre woven
into a circle and covered by red flowers.
About twenty wreaths were laid in total.
A district official lays a wreath at the Atiak memorial
stone.
As the people stepped out to lay the wreaths,
the choir accompanied them with songs.
Most of the participants laying wreaths
ceremoniously said a few words in memory
of the victims. Perhaps the most touching
words were those uttered by the traditional
leader representing the elders of Ker Kwaro
Acholi. He said, “I lay a wreath of flowers
today as a symbol of the life that you lived
and that we all live. Our lives are all like
flowers. We bloom, and then one day we all
wither away and die.”
He, like all the other people stepping out to
lay wreaths then led the congregation in the
funeral litany, “Kuc me labinaka mi ki gin
Rwot – Ki taa ma pe tum kalyel ki gin –
Guywee ki Kuc – Amen” (Eternal rest grant
them, Lord – And the everlasting light shine
Field Note 4
11
upon them – And their souls rest in peace –
Amen).
This prayer, usually uttered at all funerals by
the priest and mourners, was not new to
many of the people gathered there.
However, the solemnity of the moment and
the people for whom the words were being
uttered had a chilling effect on all the people
gathered there. Each time a person stepped
up to lay a wreath, the public tensed, with all
eyes fixed on him or her.
Launch of Atiak Lwani Development
Association (ALDA)
There was then the launch of the Atiak
Lwani Development Association by the
guest of honour, Hon. Michael Ochula. He
planted a tree next to the memorial as a sign
of the launch. According to the chairman of
the Association, this organization has been
created with the purpose of bringing
development to Atiak and to tackle a wide
range of developmental issues such as land
disputes, environmental concerns and
cooperative societies for farmers, and gender
development. The Chairman had been one
of the people behind the origin of Lwani
Memorial College and was now starting
ALDA, but ALDA was not in any way
connected to the memorial.
Conclusion of prayers
The procession then marched back to the
venue of the prayers, which were concluded
after readings had been taken from the Bible
and a sermon had been delivered by the
Catholic catechist. Some of the participants
dozed through it, while others paid no
attention altogether. This was probably an
indication that the most significant part of
the prayers – at the memorial stone – was
past for most of the people.
Speeches and Entertainment
Speeches were then delivered by selected
people. There was a welcome by the area
LC I Chairman. There then followed a
speech by the Chairman of ALDA, who led
a fundraising call for the new association. In
total, 219,400 shillings (US$130) was raised
in hard cash, with 100,000 (US$60) coming
from the guest of honour. The Chairman of
the district pledged 200,000 (US$120). One
of the survivors of the massacre, Samuel
Ocaya, then spoke, but his speech lasted not
more that two minutes and it did not dwell
much on the massacre, nor on the plight of
victims. The representative of ARLPI (the
event organizer) was also given a chance to
speak. Other politicians who spoke included
the woman councillor, the District
Chairman, and the guest of honour. The
speeches were punctuated by breaks in
which entertainment was provided for the
people by various drama groups which were
present. After, there was refreshment and
departure, and entertainment for those
willing to stay.
HONOURING THE DEAD:
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, JUSTICE
AND RECONCILIATION
The significance of memorial prayers
The prayers help in many ways, and it does
not only help the people of Atiak, but even
people who are outside, because even
strangers died in the massacre. Among the
students of Atiak technical institute for
example, there were people of other tribes.
The prayers try to unburden sorrows of
people who lost their loved ones because
they get to see that other people also care
about them and are united with them in
mourning for their dead people.21
The underlying question that needs to be
answered here is whether memorials of the
massacre that occurred in Atiak are of any
significance to the people, and whether they
are in any way helpful to survivors of the
massacre and the relatives of those who
were killed. Put simply, do the people of
21 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 28 February 2007.
Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP)
12
Atiak want memorials to acknowledge the
horrible killings that occurred in 1995 and to
honour their dead loved ones?
Based on observations of the memorial
ceremony and on prior interviews conducted
in Atiak, the memorial prayers is of great
significance to several people of Atiak, most
especially the survivors and the people who
lost their loved ones. Many of the victims,
survivors and relatives of the dead who
attended the function derived a great
satisfaction from the ceremony. To this end,
the efforts put in by the local leaders of
ARLPI and a few community members in
organizing the event is worth noting.22
People attended the prayers from places as
far as Kampala, which further shows the
significance of the prayers by bringing
together people from places far and wide.
The religious leaders who conducted the
ceremony did so in solidarity with
differences in theology set aside. The
Muslim imam sat next to Catholic catechists
and reverends, who in turn rubbed shoulders
with the Anglican catechists as they prayed
solemnly. In general, the day was successful
and achieved its symbolic end - which was
to remember those who had been massacred,
a view to which the head boy of Lwani
Memorial College agrees:
It is a good thing which should happen
every year because it helps us to remember
our colleagues who were killed and after
whom this school was named.23
22 The ceremony itself was largely funded by
community members through small contributions
in cash or in kind. The majority of names on the
contributions list for the ceremony were of the
community members themselves, despite the fact
that there were not more that 65 names on it.
Furthermore, the community members organized
themselves to provide voluntary labour for
organizing the venue for the prayers, providing
entertainment, and preparing the refreshment.
23 Comment by head boy of Lwani Memorial
College, Atiak Camp, 20 April 2007.
The monument, which was constructed in
memory of the dead, is a further testimony of
the need for memorials. To most of the
surviving relatives, this simple plain brick
and concrete structure with inscriptions on a
marble tile is the only benefit they have as a
memory of their loved ones. Finally, Lwani
Memorial College also serves a component in
the commemoration of the Atiak massacres.
The school continues to grow despite the
financial constraints it is having, which have
forced it continue being hosted in the
buildings at Atiak primary school.
Nevertheless, the students have increased in
number, and a new classroom block has been
put up at its new site on land donated by a
well-wisher. All the above are signs that
memorials are of significance to the people of
Atiak.
The shortfalls
They serve tea and sodas for big people at
the occasion. For us who survived we have
been neglected, they have not given us
anything. I, however, do not miss
[attending] the prayers because it is God
who saved my life. The only thing that
hurts me most is that I did not get any help,
yet I almost died. Even if it was something
like 1 bar of soap, it would make me feel
better. But the local leaders here in Atiak,
when anything is given through them to
support people, they sit on it. Usually
during such prayers also they give
something like soap to families whose
Field Note 4
13
relatives were killed, but not us who are
still alive.24
The annual memorial prayers themselves
reduce in significance each passing year,
partly due to social amnesia and partly due
to the way in which the ceremony itself is
organised - which has consequently led to a
number of people boycotting the prayers,
victims inclusive. The number of people
who attended the memorial on the 20th of
April was disproportionate to the population
of Atiak Camp as a whole, which is
populated by thousands of people. This is a
population in which every clan, family or
individual lost someone of significance. As
this year’s ceremony was taking place,
business boomed as usual in the town
centre; the mango sellers and food kiosk
operators as busy as normal. It was like any
other ordinary day in Atiak. Where one
would have expected a holiday declared,
shops closed, and the camps empty of
people, it was exactly the opposite.
Insofar as the prayer ceremony itself was
concerned, most of the speeches did not
dwell long on the massacre and what
happened. Most of the speakers, the majority
of whom were politicians, made mere
mentions of it and proceeded hastily to
deliver their speeches concerning other
topics. Even the survivor who spoke did not
dwell long on the massacre - he did not tell
his story as many people had hoped, and
neither did he give a testimony. He only
introduced himself, said that he was one of
the survivors, asked people to continue
commemorating the massacre and thanked
all for listening to him. His speech lasted
exactly two minutes, and those present
suspected that he had been instructed by the
master of ceremonies to save time. The
names of victims were also not read as many
people had hoped. An Italian national who
attended the ceremony had this to say:
24 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 27 February 2007.
I was surprised by the way the ceremony
was conducted because I expected that it
would focus on remembering what
happened here in the past. I felt the last
part of the gathering was political. It is
okay for politicians to make use of such
gatherings to address their people and
discuss their plans but they should not
have focused too much on that. The
importance of this ceremony is that the
people gather and remember what
happened. But today the focus was
diverted.25
Furthermore, the ceremony was also poorly
funded. The fact that meagre cash
contributions were made by not more than a
hundred people in a camp of thousands
further deals a blow to the significance of
the ceremony to the local camp folk.26 In the
beginning, the ceremony was probably
funded by NGOs, but it has now lost priority
for donors.27
The JRP representative spoke with one
survivor of the massacre who lost six of his
family members and now takes care of a
large number of orphans. He was sceptical
about the way the authorities organized the
ceremony. In his view, it had become a
fundraising event for associations such as
ALDA, and had been hijacked by politicians
who used it as an opportunity to get political
support. According to him, many people
were not happy about the way the memorial
ceremony was being used to achieve other
ends, which he considered selfish. Like
many other survivors, he had boycotted the
ceremony:
The memorial ceremony has lost meaning
to us. There is usually fundraising at the
25 Comment by a foreign national, Atiak Camp,
20 April 2007.
26 In fact, much of the food was contributed in
kind by the locals themselves.
27 According to the local authorities, a figure of
about 3.5 million shillings (US$ 2,100) would be
required for a successful organization of the
event.
Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP)
14
event but we do not know where the money
goes. We do not know to whose account it
goes. I feel the money should have been
deposited in a village account for victims.
Even the school that was constructed is for
business. The gathering in preparation for
this memorial is always held in town. We
victims have no knowledge of how much
money is raised for it and how it is used.
There is also a lot of politics involved in
it.28
The memorial stone
The Atiak memorial plaque.
The monument is not well maintained at
all. We asked the authorities to fence it but
they have done nothing so far. As a result
children are always playing on it. It is
always dirty and sometimes human feces
are littered around it. There are no flowers
planted around to make it look attractive.
This makes us very sad when we see how it
is neglected. We lost children who were
potential ministers, engineers and even
doctors in the massacre. That monument is
all we have left to remember them.29
Signs of neglect and lack of maintenance are
evident. The site is unfenced; the concrete is
beginning to wear away as humans and the
weather take their toll around it; children are
always playing around it; sometimes human
waste is dumped next to it by residents who
28 Comment by a survivor of the Atiak Massacre,
Atiak Camp, 20 April 2007.
29 Comment by a survivor of the Atiak Massacre,
Atiak Camp, 20 April 2007.
live nearest to it; the surface of the concrete
itself is dirty; and there is always debris
lying around or on the platform itself. When
the JRP representative visited the stone on
the eve of the memorial prayers, the bushes
which had flourished around it – all year
round it seems – had not yet been weeded.
Three men and a woman, who were
supposed to have been weeding the bushes
and cleaning the stone, were found drinking
local brew. They offered their assurances
that the memorial would be clean the next
morning. True to their word, the next day
the platform had been swept clean, and the
weeds around it had been cleared. Alas, they
had forgotten to wipe the white marble
surface bearing the inscription
aforementioned. It seems someone noticed
their blemish sometime during the course of
the prayers at the stone, because on the day
after the prayers it had been wiped clean at
last. However, the concrete surface still
remained dirty. The neglect of the stone by
the local authorities is something which
troubles some civilians greatly, most
especially those who lost their loved ones.
To them, the stone is much more than just a
piece of concrete. It holds a dear place in
their hearts because for most of them, it is
the only tangible indicator that the world
cares and remembers about their loved ones.
It therefore breaks their hearts to see the
stone poorly maintained.
Lwani Memorial College
Constructed in memory of the dead people,
the college continues to flourish. The
number of students has increased, and
recently a classroom block was constructed
on land donated by a well-wisher. It is the
pride of Atiak, and most of the students are
sponsored by the Government under the
Universal Secondary Education program.
The College, however, faces financial
hardships, and some members of the
community view it as a personal business
for the man who was at the forefront of its
founding.
Field Note 4
15
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR
REVAMPING THE EXISTING
MEMORIAL STRATEGIES
By 2010, the number of the people
attending the ceremony may dwindle down
to one hundred if nothing is done.30
If the annual prayers are to continue having
any significance at all, the flaws concerning
how they are organized must be corrected.
Although the lack of a guaranteed financier
means that funding for a successful event is
meagre, a lot can still be done by the local
authorities concerning the way the ceremony
itself is organised.
For one, the local authorities should ensure
that the overall focus of the memorial
ceremony is on the massacre that occurred.
Apart from the laying of the wreaths and the
preaching by the religious leaders, there was
no other indication that the ceremony was in
memory of the massacre which occurred.
The organizers need to find a way of cutting
down on the politics in the speeches of the
politicians, and replace them with
testimonies from surviving victims and
relatives of those massacred. The authorities
also need to make sure that the ceremony is
attended by survivors, and the surviving
relatives of the victims. There should also be
other acts such as reading of the names of
those massacred, and the fundraising should
be directed at helping survivors and victims.
The monument needs to be properly
maintained with the respect and dignity it
deserves. Rather than waiting all year round
for when the memorial ceremony is to be
held and then rushing to clean up the
memorial, the local authorities should ensure
that it is constantly weeded, cleaned and free
of waste. Then they need to ensure that it is
fenced and, if possible, a few flowers
planted around it. Most importantly, the
local authorities should explore the option of
30 Comment by a survivor of the Atiak Massacre,
Atiak Camp, 20 April 2007.
inscribing the names of the victims onto the
monument.
Lwani Memorial College also requires more
funding; it has progressed quickly – as
witnessed by the growing number of
students and, most recently, the successful
construction of a classroom block.
Transitional Justice
The three existing memorials, (the
monument, the annual memorial prayers,
and the construction of Lwani Memorial
College), leave a lot to be desired. To date
there has been no official acknowledgement
of the massacre; there have been no attempts
at establishing the truth about what
happened; there has been no discussion of
who should be held accountable; and most
importantly there have been no attempts to
make reparations to the survivors of the
massacre or the surviving relatives of the
people who died. The existing mechanisms,
much as they have been helpful to some
degree, therefore pale in comparison to the
task which still remains to be done if justice
is to be served for the people of Atiak. There
must be:
a) Acknowledgement;
If Otti should ever return, then he must
speak out. He should say “I was fighting
against the Government, but I took people
from here and killed them in the bush with
my fighters.” He must admit to this.31
According to Alex Boraine, Chairman of the
International Center for Transitional Justice,
“the process of reconciliation has often been
hindered by the silence or denial of political
leaders concerning their own responsibilities
and the failure of the state. On the other
hand, when leaders are prepared to speak
honestly and generously about what their
own involvement or at least, the
involvement of their government was, then
31 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 28 February 2007.
Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP)
16
the door is open for the possibility of some
reconciliation amongst the citizens.”32
Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela elaborates that
“public acknowledgement requires that
perpetrators and those in whose name they
committed the acts must account publicly.
That is to say, beyond simply saying these
are the things that happened. The
accountability must be at the level of
recognizing the hurt and the pain that was
committed – recognizing that these deeds
resulted in pain to another person. Once that
happens, the perpetrator, the person who is
acknowledging publicly that these things did
happen, recognizes the pain of the victim.”33
Inasmuch as the perpetrators are concerned,
the victims and survivors we spoke with
emphasized their desire that the LRA and its
commanders acknowledge the atrocity and
ask for forgiveness:
Otti should first ask for forgiveness on
return. He should kneel down before the
people of Atiak and ask them for pardon
because he killed his own brothers and
sisters. He should come and tell us why he
killed people, what angered him to kill, he
should also tell us why he went to the bush
and came back to kill his own people.34
There has never been a formal
acknowledgement of responsibility by either
the Government of Uganda or the LRA
rebels for their part in the incident that
resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives.
32 Alex Boraine, “Transitional Justice” in
“Pieces of the Puzzle: Keywords on
Reconciliation and Transitional Justice” Edited
by Charles Villa-Vicencio and Erik Doxtader.
Cape Town: Institute for Justice and
Reconciliation, Compress, 2004. p 70
33Dr Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, “The role of
apology, acknowledement, and forgiveness” in
Alex Borraine and Sue Valentine Et al,
“Transitional Justice and Human Security,”
Chapter 4: Reconciliation, Co–existence and the
building trust. pp 79-82 International Center for
Transitional Justice, Cape Town, 2006
34 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 28 February 2007.
While it is no secret that the attack was led
by Vincent Otti, or that the command could
have been issued by Joseph Kony, the LRA
has yet to come out and publicly claim
responsibility for the incident, or even
acknowledge that it happened at all. The
LRA either stands by its act or apologizes to
the people of Atiak for the needless killings
which resulted in the death of several
hundred innocent civilians, and has left a
population traumatized and affected by the
after-effects of the killings.
The Government, on the other hand, needs
to apologize for having played the role of
bystanders in one way or another, because it
was charged with the responsibility of
protecting the people; a task it failed to
perform. According to an ex-home guard
soldier serving with the UPDF at the time of
the attack, about only 40 soldiers were
available to guard the local detach when the
rebels pounced. These forty soldiers were
easily outnumbered, not surprisingly,
because they did not have enough guns to
arm all of them at once.
Despite having delivered a little aid in the
aftermath of the massacre, the bitter fact is
that the Government has never publicly
acknowledged its responsibility in the Atiak
massacre. Other acts such as the
construction of the memorial stone, the
holding of memorial prayers and the
construction of Lwani Memorial College
reflect just a small percentage of the whole
that must be done to publicly acknowledge
what happened. Besides, as already noted,
these existing mechanisms have certain
problems that must be addressed.
Public acknowledgement on the part of the
LRA will facilitate reconciliation, because it
will be a sign that its ranks are penitent and
ready to seek forgiveness from the victims.
For the rank and file soldiers or those who
‘simply obeyed orders,’ it will be an
indication that they are accepting
responsibility for their acts and are sharing
in the pain that they meted out to their
victims, thus creating a change in the way
Field Note 4
17
the victims feel about them. According to
Gobodo-Madikizela, it makes “the
perpetrator to appear to be the one who is
wounded, who is begging to be re-admitted
into the realm of humanity.”35
b) Truth-telling;
To us the Acholi, if by some mistake you
get involved in any crime then you have
to get cleansed to see to it that the bad
luck that might unfold after such has been
committed does not. It’s only after you
have been able to bring out the truth that
eventually then you can see for
reconciliation unveil. The Acholi
traditional practices allow for the truth to
first be established through a voluntary
means before the reconciliation process
proceeds. Like for my case I would be
more comfortable to reveal this kind of
truth to my parents.36
According to Alex Boraine, “from truth-
telling, victims can obtain significant
benefits that may include a sense of closure
derived from knowing the fate of loved
ones, and a sense of satisfaction of the
acknowledgement of that fate.”37 In a 2007
quantitative study conducted by the JRP
with 1,143 internally displaced persons, a
resounding 97.5 percent of the persons
responded “yes” to the question “should the
truth about what happened in the conflict be
known?” War-affected persons identified at
least four main reasons why a truth-telling
process should be implemented: 1) To
understand the root causes of the conflict (in
particular, why the LRA or the Government
took the actions they did) in order to teach
future generations and prevent future
35 Ibid
36 Focus Group discussion with 8 male youths,
Atiak Camp, 28th February 2007, comment by a
25 year old male
37 Alex Boraine, “Transitional Justice” in
“Pieces of the Puzzle: Keywords on
Reconciliation and Transitional Justice.” Edited
by Charles Villa-Vicencio and Erik Doxtader.
Cape Town: Institute for Justice and
Reconciliation, Compress, 2004. p 71
conflicts; 2) to learn what happened to loved
ones who are still missing; 3) to be able to
move towards reconciliation (mato oput). In
this case, ‘forgiveness’ under the amnesty
law is not viewed as an end, but a first step
in a process that should lead to truth,
acknowledgement, compensation and finally
reconciliation; and 4) and to lay the spirits of
the dead to rest and cleanse the region of
future misfortunes.
For any crime, no matter the gravity, in
Acholi culture the truth about what
happened must first be established before
reconciliation or a cleansing can take place.
In the event that perpetrators of the Atiak
massacre other than Vincent Otti can be
identified, and the ceremony of mato oput
carried out, the truth of what happened
should therefore first be known. Apart from
reconciliatory purposes, it is important that
the truth is known in order to understand the
motive behind the massacre.
I do not know why they killed very many
people like this, we just conclude inside
your heart but you cannot know the
reasons.38
Other questions that were posed to
respondents concerned the dynamics of any
potential truth-telling process, such as: Who
should tell the truth? Should the process be
voluntary or forced? Should it be in public
or in private? What fears would the
participants have about participating? Who
would participants trust to be in charge of
the process? Many of the respondents felt
that perpetrators and victims should take a
lead role in telling the truth, which should be
a voluntary process held in public and
spearheaded by local people (such as
traditional leaders). Several fears were also
cited, such as fear of retaliation from
perpetrators.
38 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 27 February 2007.
Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP)
18
c) Compensation
Those who lost relatives were given iron
sheets but the survivors got nothing...I
never got any assistance from anywhere
after all that occurred to me.39
Alex Boraine argues that “in the absence of
other positive and tangible manifestations,
truth by itself can be considered an empty
gesture – as cheap and inconsequential as
talk.”40 In five days of research by the JRP
in Atiak IDP Camp, one of the questions
that was posed to the victims and survivors
who were being interviewed was, “Is
knowing the truth about what happened to
your loved ones enough to bring you
healing?” The majority of the respondents
argued that the truth alone was not enough,
and they went ahead to outline a variety of
things that they thought could be done in
addition to knowing the truth about what
had happened to their loved ones. While
some of the victims said they wanted the
lives of their loved ones compensated and
the ceremony of mato oput held, others
called for community or collective
reparations:
It is not possible for Otti to pay
compensation for all the people who died;
they killed very many people. Even me who
lost someone, I cannot ask Otti to pay
compensation, but he has to ask for
forgiveness and he is forgiven.41
In a 2005 study conducted by the JRP,
several elders agreed that mato oput could
not be pursued on a case-by-case basis
because so many people had been killed and
because the nature of the killings (such as
39 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 26 February 2007.
40 Alex Boraine, “Transitional Justice” in Pieces
of the Puzzle: Keywords on Reconciliation and
Transitional Justice. Edited by Charles Villa-
Vicencio and Erik Doxtader. Cape Town:
Institute for Justice and Reconciliation,
Compress, 2004. p 71
41 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 27 February 2007.
ambushes) make it difficult to identify who
killed whom or who should mato oput with
whom. The same is the case in the Atiak
massacre, where the name most often
mentioned as the commander is that of
Vincent Otti. Even if Otti were to admit
responsibility for the killings, it is not in the
least bit possible that he would be able to
pay up for all the lives lost at the massacre -
let alone accept to participate in the over
five hundred ceremonies of mato oput which
will be awaiting him.
The biggest problem we have here is there
are very many orphans in the Camp. I wish
these records could be forwarded to the
Government so that we are assisted. Many
parents were killed in this conflict leaving
behind very many orphans to the extent
that many have grown up into
undisciplined children. I have photos of 5
girls who were defiled by the UPDF. This
took place in January this year but the
soldiers have been relocated to another
place. Very many children have become
thieves due to lack of guidance as their
parents were killed in the war, especially
the 1995 massacre. For us, the local
leaders think these children are displaying
anger, some of them even say they are
useless - that is why they are neglected. If
they grow up like this then we are in
problems.42
Some elders have therefore advocated for
other measures, such as collective or
community compensation in the form of
having schools, hospitals, and other
community amenities built as reparations for
the people of Atiak. It must be remembered,
however, that on a case-by-case basis, many
people in Atiak have personal problems that
may not be addressed by collective
reparations. On a personal level, due to
financial constraints, many of the people
have never decently buried their dead
because they do not have the resources to
conduct the last funeral rights (which are
42 Interview with Atiak massacre survivor, Atiak
Camp, 26 February 2007.
Field Note 4
19
elaborate and expensive ceremonies in
Acholi; held as a final honour to the dead
person).
There are also the children orphaned by the
massacre and the women widowed by the
loss of their husbands, who were in most
cases the bread-winners for their families. In
the former case, many of these children live
with other relatives who may not care for
them appropriately, while in the latter, many
of the widows are rendered vulnerable and
have to struggle by all means available to
provide for their children. In general,
victims and surviving relatives from the
massacre continue to live in extreme poverty
- and this just does not allow the ghosts of
the past to go away. Compensation for the
massacre, either individually on a case-by-
case basis, or communally in form of better
social services, is not an option, but a ‘must’
which will have to be considered by policy-
makers. For many people, the truth has to be
backed up by some form of tangible
compensation, which they believe will make
them feel better.
LAYING THE DEAD TO REST: THE
WAY FORWARD IN ATIAK
While a dozen years have passed since the
mass murder at Atiak Camp, the horrors of
war are still part of the everyday reality in
Atiak and northern Uganda. The local
populace widely acknowledges Vincent Otti
to have commanded the brutal massacre, but
neither can it absolve the Government of its
sins: the failure to protect its own citizens
and its indifference in the face of their
suffering. In the context of the ongoing
peace talks in Juba and in particular agenda
item 3, dedicated to accountability and
reconciliation, stakeholders must recognize
local-level atrocities and ensure that victims
and survivors receive the support (material
and moral) they deserve.
The Justice and Reconciliation project,
through its interviews and dialogues with
survivors, has identified a deep-seeded
desire for government acknowledgement, a
wider truth-telling process in northern
Uganda and compensation to victims and
survivors. In addition, the perpetrators – the
active and the passive alike – must be held
accountable. Only through the concerted
effort of parties to the Juba peace talks can
the people of Atiak lay the dead to rest and
move forward with their lives.
Field Notes is a series of reports by the JRP.
Each issue features a new theme related to
Acholi cultural justice practices based on
research carried out with war-affected
persons in camps and special justice issues
that arise during the course of JRP work.
Drawing directly on the experiences and
initiative of victims, Field Notes are
intended to inform and improve local,
national and international policies and
programmes on justice and reconciliation.
The JRP field office is hosted by the Gulu,
District NGO Forum.
This issue was researched and written by
Owor Ogora Lino and Erin Baines, with the
assistance of Letha Victor. It was
researched by Owor Ogora Lino with the
assistance of Ojok Boniface, Anyeko Ketty
and Komakech Emon. All photos were taken
with the permission of subjects by Owor
Ogora Lino. With thanks to the survivors of
the Atiak massacre and local authorities. In
appreciation to the Catherine T. and John
D. MacArthur Foundation, the Royal
Embassy of the Netherlands and the
Compton Foundation.
For more information please contact:
Erin Baines erin.baines@gmail.com
Lino Owor Ogora ogoralino@gmail.com
www.justiceandreconciliation.com
Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP)
20
Survivor of Atiak Massacre, 20 April 2007.
www.justiceandreconciliation.com
Article
In exploring the changing role of amnesty in Uganda, this paper will begin by analysing the background to the conflict in northern Uganda, before exploring in Part 3 the crimes and motivations that have characterised this conflict, including crimes committed by both the LRA and the Ugandan state. Subsequently, in Part 4, the current amnesty arrangements will be analysed, including how the amnesty was enacted, implemented and subsequently amended, and the impact that it has had to date within Uganda. The conflict between the Amnesty Act and the indictments issued by the International Criminal Court will be explored in Part 5. Part 6 will then discuss the peace negotiations at Juba and Part 7 will provide an overview of the various transitional justice approaches that were negotiated in the Agreement and Annexure on Accountability and Reconciliation. Finally, some suggestions will be made on the role that amnesty can play during the political transition, if the peace agreement is signed by Joseph Kony and President Museveni.
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