Francis Okwonga Alero, is one of the budding farmers in the new district of Nwoya. With hundreds of hectares of crops ranging from sunflower, simsim, millet and soybeans, Okwonga says he looks forward to a bountiful harvest and huge earnings.
Okwonga is one o the former LRA rebels who have embarked on large scale farming in a bid to rebuild their lives.
Okwonga was captured in 2004 by the UPDF soldiers after a fierce gun battle that not only left him handicapped but also ended his eight year stint in the LRA rebel ranks where he is alleged to have been serving as head of intelligence.
The 48 year old man says he is not willing to allow the memories of the sad past to cast a shadow his future. Although he was part of the managers at Labor farm, a government project for former LRA rebels that closed due to mismanagement, Okwonga has since established what he calls Langwen Mixed Farm where he grows many crops and keeps pigs.
Okwonga says he first worked at Labor farm where government had established a 40 million shillings farming project for the former LRA rebels. He however explains that he resigned from the project after conflicts emerged among his colleagues and himself over management.
However, in 2007, Okwonya says he cleared land and begun his own farm. Located at Langwen village, Nwoya district about 120 kilometres west of Gulu town are huge green plantations of crops that has now become Okwonga's preoccupation.
He says last season he earned about 27 million shillings from the crops. Okwonga says that he has managed to build a ten room commercial building in Gulu town. He explains that the proceed also helps him to tuition for two of his children in university besides fending for his family of 4 wives and eighteen children.
Okwonga says he plans to acquire a tractor and other modern arm implements to ease his work. Presently, he says that he hires a tractor at fifty thousand shillings to plough an acre of land. In the absence of the machines, Okownga relies on hiring labourers from Lebngec IDP camp, about 20 kilometres away from the farm.
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Other former LRA rebels also engaged in large scale faming include Kenneth Banya, Sam Kolo and Ray Apire who were all granted amnesty by government from the roles in the northern insurgency.
However, according to Okwonga farming is not all that he dreams to pursue. He says that he also plans to contest for the position of the village local council chairperson because he says hi education level is not sufficient for enable him contest for higher elective positions. Okwonga says that when elected he would mobilize the community and help them engage in productive farming to boost their household incomes.
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Other former LRA rebels have expressed interest in politics before. In August, Sam Kolo, the former LRAA chief spokesman was elected unopposed as the NRM vice-chairman for the veterans league in Nwoya district.
Presently, a final-year student of business administration at Gulu University, Kolo said he hopes to contest to become the Member of Parliament for Nwoya County in 2016. In the same elections, Jackson Acama another former LRA rebel was elected NRM party secretary for publicity for people with disabilities.
Mary Okee, the Amnesty commission's Demobilization and Reintegration officer in Gulu says that there has been mass sensitization encouraging the community to embrace the former combatants adding that as a result, the former rebels were easily fitting into new life.
former lra rebels