Monday, 25 August 2014

The Hidden Skeltons of Museveni’s NRA : I was beaten, sodomised by soldiers - Namokora massacre survivor

I was beaten, sodomised by soldiers - Namokora massacre survivor

Ventorino Okidi Lomoromoi during an
Ventorino Okidi Lomoromoi during an interview at Northern Uganda Media Club offices in Gulu Town on Thursday. Photo by Julius Ocungi  
By Cissy Makumbi & Julius Ocungi

Posted  Sunday, August 24  2014 at  01:00
In Summary
Wrongly accused. Mzee Lomoromoi is one of the survivors of the 1986 massacre that claimed 71 lives in Kitgum after then NRA soldiers, accused them of being rebels. 

Gulu/ Kitgum-You can’t push away the sadness that engulfs you as Mzee Ventorino Okidi Lomoromoi opens up about his ordeal as a massacre survivor.
Twenty eight years ago, the 72-year-old says he was sodomised and tortured by then National Resistance Army (NRA) soldiers, now UPDF.
Mzee Okidi is one of the few survivors of the Namokora massacre that claimed 71 lives in Oryang village, Omiya-nyima Sub-county in Kitgum District in 1986.
The victims were accused by the NRA’s 35th Battalion soldiers of being Lord’s Resistance Army rebel collaborators at the time.
Today, Okidi looks strong outwardly, but the pain in he has endured over the years makes him a weakling inside.
“I am lucky to be alive and tell my story to the world. No one expected I would still be alive considering the injuries I got but God is still protecting me,” Mzee Okidi says.
A father of nine children, Mzee Okidi, was a primary school teacher at Lajok Ogayo Primary School in Kitgum District when he met his fate in August 1986.
“We were on our way back home in the afternoon with my fellow teachers after dispersing pupils following insecurity in the area, when a group of soldiers intercepted and ordered us to stop while referring to us as rebels who were most wanted,” Mzee Okidi narrates.
He added that they were tied up with ropes and severely beaten before being taken to a church in the evening where hundreds of other civilians were being held.
“The soldiers never allowed us to look up or at them. We crawled under benches to find space in the packed church. The stench of blood from fresh wounds filled the church while other people who sustained grave injuries passed on as we watched,” Mzee Okidi says.
Mzee Okidi said the following day, more than 98 people who were detained at the church were all herded on an army truck with promises that they were being taken to face the court martial to decide their fate.
“As people boarded the truck, the soldiers beat us while some were cutting us with pangas so that people would board the truck very fast. My testicles were pierced in the process and I sustained injuries,” he said.
Mzee Okidi says they were driven a few kilometers out of town but entered an ambush purportedly set by the soldiers to kill them.
“Soldiers started shooting at people indiscriminately. How I survived in that ambush remains a miracle to-date. Dead bodies littered the area as the soldiers intensified search on people that had managed to escape,” he says, adding that he also hid in the near bush.
Life after
Mzee Okidi said after the gruesome attack that left him with grave injuries and pain, he could not go to hospital for medical attention for fear of being found by the soldiers.
“I was treated with warm water and herbs, which my wife would collect from the nearby bushes. Due to insufficient treatment that time, I still have pain in my abdomen and I cannot sit or move with ease,” he says.

He added that his teaching job also ended because he never went back to teach following the immense pain he had.
He also says he has not been able to educate his children, since his job as a teacher was the only source of livelihood he had.
Mzee Okidi says he has for long waited for reparation from the government, but over the years, nothing has come his way.
“As a victim/survivor of the Namokora massacre, I expected the government to come to my rescue in terms of medical treatment and compensation for the damages the government’s soldiers caused in my life,” he laments.
Mr Gabriel Otuku-Tip, whose father was killed in his presence, says their education was cut short, leaving them with no one to fend for the family.

“After the death of our father, we dropped out of school. The government owes us a lot since it failed to protect us during the war,” he says.
But 5th Division Army spokesperson Telefphor Turyamumanya said the allegations need to be studied first, adding that as NRA (now UPDF), they do not condone any indiscipline.
Army wants evidence
“In case he has evidence, he should bring it to us for further investigation. As far as I know, these are individual behaviour that should not be blamed on UPDF as an institution,” he says.
The chairperson Namokora Sub-county, Mr Charles Onen, also chairperson Namokora United Relatives of the Massacred and Survivors Association, says the government should come up with a clear plan to address their needs especially in areas of health.

“Innocent civilians were butchered and up to now the government is silent about it.
Justice is not coming our way. We feel abandoned by the government. It failed to protect us and has failed to come to our rescue even when we have ailing health,” he says.
Ms Evelyn Akullo, the team leader documentation at Justice and Reconciliation Project said: “Women were raped in the presence of their children, men sodomised and up to now they have never regained their manhood.”
She says the government should speed up investigation of the incidents in which government soldiers involved themselves in abusing the rights of the civilians they were meant to protect.
She adds that at the moment, the Justice and Reconciliation Project has documented the Mucwini massacre in Kitgum (56 dead), Atiak Massacre in Amuru District (200 dead), Bucooro in Gulu (10 buried alive), Lukodi, Bungatira Sub County in Gulu (54 people killed by the rebels).
Others are Mukura in Teso region (69 people killed) and Omabchi (over 100 people killed in 1981).
Justice and Reconciliation Project, is a non-governmental organisation, that was established in Gulu District in 2005.
It aims at understanding and explaining the interests, needs, concerns and views of communities affected by the conflict and promote sustainable peace through active involvement of war affected communities in research and advocacy.
They raped women in Church- Mzee Okide

Mzee Lomoromoi, said at 7pm on the evening they were held, two soldiers who were manning the church forcefully took him out of the church and ordered him to remove his trousers saying, “we want to show you that you are like a woman”.

Mzee Lomoromoi says he was sodomised in turns by two soldiers, something that has left him with injuries that have not healed to date.
He adds that other men were also sodomised while women were raped in front of each other inside the church.
Museveni's admission
Investigating atrocities. While celebrating the 28th anniversary of the NRM government in Mayuge District in February this year, President Museveni, said the army would investigate cases of atrocities committed by soldiers in the early 1990s and punish the culprits.
Atrocities committed. However, the President’s statement did not go well with the local and religious leaders in the region.
Rtd Bishop of Kitgum Diocese Macleod Baker Ochola said is not fair for President Museveni to involve himself in investigating soldiers who committed these crimes, knowing very well he was their commander-in-chief and expect his ideas to be welcomed.
“There is need to establish a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the anomalies that the army did at the time,” he said.