Barlonyo Survivors Drag Govt to Court

2017 Views Lira, Uganda

In short
In their application, the Barlonyo survivors claim in October 2003, government ordered people in war torn areas of Lira district to move to Barlonyo Internally Displaced Peoples Camp in Ogur Sub County.

More than 1000 survivors of the Barlonyo massacre in Lira district have dragged government to court for alleged failure to protect their lives and property. 

The survivors have filed a suit before Lira High court through their lawyer Abwang Otim and Company Advocates under their Umbrella Association of Barlonyo Massacre and Survivors Association - BMASA.
They are seeking compensation from government for the loss of their relatives, property and injuries during the attack by rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army-LRA.

In their application, the Barlonyo survivors claim in October 2003, government ordered people in war torn areas of Lira district to move to Barlonyo Internally Displaced People's Camp in Ogur Sub County.
The survivors say they willingly relocated to the camp on the pretext that government would guarantee their safety. However, they claim that government quietly withdrew the battalion of Uganda People's Defense Forces-UPDF, which was deployed to guard the camp and left the ill trained and poorly equipped Amuka militias to protect them.
They contend that on January 21, 2004, at around 5:30pm a group of LRA rebels raided the camp, overpowered the militia killed residents and looted their property. According to the survivors, 302 people were killed instantly while more than 1, 000 died weeks later.

They also claim the rebels raped women and brutalized residents. As a result, the survivors say they suffered grievous body harm and injuries, adding that government troops only surfaced four hours after the attack and didn't react vigorously to the attack.
They also claim that UPDF representatives visited the massacre scene the following day and ordered for the mass burial of the victims without the consent of their relatives. They claim government acted negligently.

//Cue in: ''The children…
Cue out: …crying quietly.''//

Michael Ogwal Achonga, the Association chairperson, says the survivors hold government liable for general damages and accordingly prays for judgment.

//Cue in: ''We want government…
Cue out: …of our citizens.''//

Lira high Court has set October 25th as date for the hearing the application. The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs has confirmed receiving summons to file defense.

Last year, President Museveni assured local leaders from Lango and Acholi sub-regions that government will compensate victims of the two-decade insurgency in northern region.

He was meeting local leaders including the district chairpersons and Resident District Commissioners from the two sub-regions at State House, Entebbe, on June 30.

However, the President told the delegation that not all the two million people affected by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) conflict will benefit from the compensation scheme, but only those that won the case against government in court.

Three groups - Lango War Claimants' Association, one led by Moses Ocip, the chairperson Central Division in Lira Municipality, and another led by Betty Akello, a farmer, sued and defeated government over compensation.

Ocip's group has already received part of the compensation, while the process of verifying the members of Lango War Claimants Association and that of Akello is underway. 

Also still in court are the Acholi Debt War Claimants Association and the Lango War Claimants Association, which are demanding 1 trillion and 2.9 trillion Shillings respectively in compensation.


About the author

Denis Olaka
Denis Olaka is the URN bureau chief for Lira, in northern Uganda. Apac and Otuke fall under his docket. Olaka has been a URN staff member since 2011.

Olaka started his journalism career in 2000 as a news reporter, anchor, and then editor for Radio Lira in Lira district. He was subsequently an editor with Lira's Radio Wa in 2004 and Gulu district's Mega FM.

He was also a freelance writer for the Daily Monitor and Red Pepper newspapers.

Olaka's journalism focuses on politics, health, agriculture and education. He does a lot of crime reporting too.