Trading Center Replaces IDP Camp as Survivors "Rebrand" Barlonyo

4358 Views Lira, Uganda

In short
Once back in their community owing to the relative peace, the survivors have since established themselves in petty businesses that are gradually changing the outlook of Barlonyo from an IDP camp to a trading center. On a visit to the area, one is greeted by a line of permanent buildings with people trading in merchandise, ongoing construction and a general sense of business though on a small scale.

The community at Barlonyo may still be weighed with a past experience they all hope to forget someday but their resolve to turn the former IDP camp into a lively business centre is an inspiration that greets every visitor to the place.
 
The theatre of the 2004 massacre that left over 300 people dead is now a fast growing trading center with increasing permanent buildings.

Barlonyo, a Lango word for ‘Field of Wealth’ was a camp hosting displaced people numbering 11,643, who had all fled from their insecure villages that had turned into battle fields where LRA rebels committed gruesome atrocities at will.

At the camp, they felt secure especially with the few dozen government soldiers who were deployed to guard them. But all that changed at dusk on February 21, 2004 when a group of suspected LRA rebels overrun the nearby military detach and descended on the displaced civilians who were either shot dead or burnt in their grass-thatched huts. A few lucky people survived with bullet wounds and burns.

Eight years later, however, the only reminder of the incident are two concrete mass graves constructed in a semi circular form. A raised platform bearing a plague and some of the names of the people who died in the attack is erected in the middle of the semi-circular graves.

Faced with the hardship of losing all their possession, the Barlonyo survivors who later fled to Lira town and other areas, were forced to acquire new skills to cope with their situation. Many sought employment to provide manual labour in the town while others acquired technical skills to generate income.

Once back in their community owing to the relative peace, the survivors have since established themselves in petty businesses that are gradually changing the outlook of Barlonyo from an IDP camp to a trading center. On a visit to the area, one is greeted by a line of permanent buildings with people trading in merchandise, ongoing construction and a general sense of business though on a small scale.

Martin Otole, a 38 year old shop keeper says he feels that the business activity in the area will grow stronger than it presently is. He says they still lack people who can establish hardware shops to enable others constructing houses to buy the materials from within thereby reducing the cost.

Faustino Okello, a local at Barlonyo trading centre says the memory of the infamous attack may forever remain with them but the area will not remain the same. He said they hope to use their bitter past experience to bring hope to the area.

Molly Acio, a tailor says the businesses are growing in the area adding that she is able to earn between 100,000 to 120,000 monthly. Acio said many of them acquired survival skills at the time they fled to Lira town for safety. She said she had to learn garment cutting and tailoring, an activity that helped her earn a living while in Lira town. In Barlonyo, Acio has maintained her tailoring business to support her family.

Moses Ogwang, the former leader at Barlonyo IDP camp who is also the area LC1 chairman says that the population has grown to 4,816 presently. Barlonyo had over 11,000 people at the time of the attack but all the survivors fled the area following the massacre and only began to resettle around 2006. He says many people have stepped up agricultural production in the area that acquired its name owing to the fertility of the soil, which always brought bumper harvest. Ogwang adds that a weekly auction has since been introduced that attracts traders from outside the district.

//Cue in: Translation//

With this prospect, Ogwang says he is optimistic that Barlonyo will someday, live its name of field of wealth.