Landmine Victims Cry Out For Help

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In short
Close to 4000 landmine victims in Acholi sub-region are crying foul over lack of compensation.Uganda is a signatory to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention having signed it in 1997. Under the convention, Uganda was supposed to clear all landmines accumulated during the years of conflict between the army and insurgents in the northern and western parts of the country.

Close to 4000 landmine victims in Acholi sub-region are crying foul over lack of compensation.

The victims lost their limbs to the landmines during the Joseph Kony’s Lord Resistance Army-LRA insurgency in Northern Uganda.

As the guns fell silent in 2006, the camps for the former Internally Displaced People were dismantled and people ordered to return to their homes but one group, the landmine survivors, are yet to be resettled.

Hannington Odong, a father of nine children who hails from Koch-Goma in Gulu, says he has faced hardships in trying to resettle having lost his leg and eye to the landmine.

Odong, a former driver, explains that he lost his only source of income in 2002 when a landmine blew a passenger vehicle that he was driving from Gulu to Kitgum. He says since then life has never been the same for him and his family of nine children.

Odong says after leaving the camp he could not manage to build a house to accommodate his family having lost his eye and leg to the landmine. Eight out of his nine children have dropped out of school.

Odong is bitter that government failed to fulfill the promise of compensating the landmine victims. He explains that the government had promised to pay those who lost both the arms and legs five million shillings and three million shillings to those who lost either a leg or arm.

He accuses the Minister without Portfolio, Richard Todwong, of raising their hopes by registering them and then disappearing thereafter.

Patrick Odongo, another victim from Agonga village, Koch-Goma Sub-county who lost his leg to a landmine in 1999 while returning from School, says they feel government has abandoned them. He says he has since been surviving on handouts from Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) but has also ceased as the organizations are pulling out of the area.

Odongo says the biggest challenge facing the landmine victims is shelter because no one is willing to help them build a house. He says some NGOs tried to build for them houses but they only targeted their leaders.

Odongo also blames Minister Todwong, who is also Member of Parliament for Nwoya County in Nwoya district, for promising them compensation that has never been delivered.

Hundreds of people were maimed by the brutal LRA rebels in northern Uganda during the 20-year insurgency.

The region is trying to recover and one of the recovery programs that government had prepared for the region is the Peace Recovery and Development Program (PRDP).

The program has however faced challenges as billions of shillings contributed by donors were embezzled by the officials at the Office of the Prime Minister.

Minister Todwong could not be reached to respond to the plight of the landmine survivors.
 
In December last year, the Uganda government declared the country free of landmines.
 
Musa Ecweru, State Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, said plans were underway to rehabilitate and compensate the victims.
 
Ecweru said the Prime Minister’s Office was working with the Ministry of Gender to register more than 2,000 landmine victims who were maimed during the LRA war. According to Ecweru, the National Mine Action Programme worked with Danish Demining Group, to destroy at least 4,314 anti-personnel mines and 20 anti-tank mines.
 
Uganda is a signatory to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention having signed it in 1997. Under the convention, Uganda was supposed to clear all landmines accumulated during the years of conflict between the army and insurgents in the northern and western parts of the country.