Former Aboke Students In Fundraising Drive

2422 Views Kole, Uganda

In short
Former students of St. Marys College Aboke in Kole district have launched a fundraising drive to re-roof the school buildings in memory of their colleagues who were abducted by the Lords Resistance Army rebels-LRA. The old students had gathered at Aboke for memorial prayers to mark the 20th anniversary since the LRA abduction of 139 girls at the school in October 1996.

Former students of St. Marys College Aboke in Kole district have launched a fundraising drive to re-roof the school buildings in memory of their colleagues who were abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army rebels-LRA.

Under their umbrella of St. Mary's College Aboke Old Girls' Association, they raised more than 10 million shillings during the launch on October 10th at the school.

The old students had gathered at Aboke for memorial prayers to mark the 20th anniversary since the LRA abduction of 139 girls from the school in October 1996.

Mary Azore, the association chairperson says their decision to re-roof all the buildings in the school was to try to wash away the bad memories of the tragedy.

Azore says it is also to celebrate the lives of the girls who were abducted but eventually returned home as well as eulogising the lives of the five girls who died in LRA captivity.

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The function on Monday, started with mass led by Bishop Joseph Franzelli of Lira Diocese who urged the public to use the day to embrace unity and love amongst themselves so as the suffering of the girls who were abducted may not be in vain.

He says such commemoration should bring new life to the communities that suffered the brunt of the LRA rebels in the region.

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Unlike in the past when students, parents and visitors during such commemorative prayers would be grieving, this time round they were joyful. They sang and danced on the day many considered was for praise and thanksgiving since most of the girls who were abducted returned and that there is now peace in the school.

Dr. Alfred Alyai, the father of Catherine Ajok the girl who spent 13 years in captivity, says there was every reason to be happy on such a day. Dr. Alai says much as they are unable to completely do away with the trauma caused by the abduction of their daughters, they are happy that majority of them returned.

Ajok, who returned in 2009 is now in her second year of study at Kyambogo University.

On the night of October 9th, 1996, a group of LRA rebels raided the school and abducted 139 girls.

Sister Rachele Fassera, an Italian nun who was heading the school then, went into the bush in search of the girls. She met the rebels near a railway line in Acokora village, and pleaded with them. The rebels agreed to release 109 girls but retained 30.

The Aboke girls' abduction and Sister Rachele's heroic actions drew unprecedented international attention to the insurgency in Northern Uganda.

Sr. Rachele and the parents of the abducted girls formed the Concerned Parents Association to raise awareness of the abduction. In the course of their advocacy, the tale of the Aboke girls became one of the most widely known horror stories of the entire conflict.

Every year, the school holds a sombre ceremony on the anniversary of the raid. Like Sunday, students walk silently, holding candles from their dormitories to the memorial site.

Much as the new crop of girls have since enrolled at the school, the raid has not been forgotten among the younger generation.

Sister Anna Maria Spiga, the current school headmistress, says every evening after classes students are asked to pray for the abducted girls who never returned. She says after such prayers most students choose to enter the very same dormitories that were raided and conduct silent prayers to remember these girls.

Majority of those abducted have since returned although five of them including Susan Apio, Judith Enang, Jesca Anguu, Brenda Ato and Luiza Namathele are confirmed dead in captivity.

 

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.