..the soldiers who found people asleep, started raping women and schoolgirls.Some of the women were reported to have been taken out of beds then shared with their husband at gun point.."one soldier forced the muzzel of his AK47 in my anus"
When people were trying to forget this sad drama, 15 women are once abused by soldiers of the Uganda People's Defence Forces.
Kitgum Woman MP Jane Akwero told Parliament that on March 25, soldiers from the 91st battalion attacked a camp in Padibe sub-county where they beat up men, raped women and robbed them of money and property.
She read names of 18 victims including a woman (names withheld), who she said was raped by seven soldiers. The soldiers also stole sh10,000 from her.
Akwero said another woman, Betty Achola, was reportedly beaten and robbed of sh15,000.
Nsibambi said, “I am saddened by what I have heard and I have no hesitation to direct the minister of defence to investigate the matter and report back within 10 days. It is a serious matter.”
Akwero said the soldiers were from an operation in Larach hills when they went on rampage and pulled out women, some pregnant and others with their husbands, and took them on a raping spree.
She said two soldiers were arrested and the rape victims were able to identify them from the barracks.
The House burst into laughter when she said the soldiers also carried away a man wrapped in a kikooyi (cloth) thinking he was woman and beat him up when they realised he was a man.
“When the battlefield turns to be the women’s bodies, where will the women turn to?” Akwero asked.
“Many women said they were raped. Some are now being rejected by their husbands,” she said amid murmurs.
Defence minister Amama Mbabazi and his deputy Ruth Nankabirwa were not in the House at the time.
The Chief war criminal was seen last weekend thanking his fellow criminals for the dirty work they are doing and encouraged them to continue doing the same when no one is seeing..
Akwero said the following morning all soldiers of the 91st battalion were transferred to Lukwiny.
The MP said the Chairman of the Disaster Management Committee wrote, Mr Alexessius Bongomin, had written to the area Resident District Commissioner on March 26 saying, "It was quite a sad moment to the people of Padibe when our own UPDF beat, raped and forcefully took property of women, school girls and men."
Akwero said such acts were known to be committed by the Lord's Resistance Army rebels.
"For our own forces to go on rampage is disturbing and uncalled for," she said. "For some elements of the army to turn their vengeance on civilians is unfortunate."
She said she took long to report the incident because she wanted to first verify the information.
This is the first time such claims of abuses by the UPDF are being brought out in the open in Parliament.
The army has been accused by several rights groups including Amnesty International and New York based Human Rights Watch of carrying out severe human rights abuses on the civilian population in the north of the country.
The rights organisations through several reports have accused the army and other government-related military security agencies of committing multiple abuses including summary execution, torture, rape and child recruitment.
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BY UGANDAN GOVERNMENT FORCES (UPDF) AGAINST ACHOLI AND THE PEOPLE OF NORTHERN UGANDA
UPDF forces and officials of other government-related military security agencies have committed and are still continuing committing multiple abuses against the human rights of northern Ugandans, including summary execution, torture, rape, child recruitment, and inhuman conditions of detention in unauthorized detention locations. They are rarely prosecuted for crimes committed against civilians. Even when UPDF abuses have been investigated, the investigations have sometimes been kept internal and therefore have created an appearance of impunity, which has not improved public trust.
UPDF responses to allegations of abuses against civilians, such as rape, unlawful killing, and torture, range from the crime going unpunished, to being "punished" by transferring the accused, to the court martial of some individual soldiers without proper investigation, all the way to the rare court martial. Often it appears that the action followed, or the punishment meted out is at the sole discretion of the individual UPDF field commander.
For example, the storming of Gulu Prison by UPDF Soldiers.
The UPDF has committed summary (extra judicial) execution and torture of captives since Operation Iron Fist began. Since the last time when four UPDF mambas (armored vehicles) full of UPDF soldiers raided Gulu Prison under the command of the head of military intelligence of Operation Iron Fist, Lt. Col. Charles Awany Otema. According to eyewitness reports by prison inmates and confirmed by the assistant superintendent of Gulu Central Prison, prison authorities (wardens) refused entry to the soldiers after the UPDF officers failed to produce a search warrant or any other document permitting them to enter.
During the raid, the UPDF soldiers beat and pushed aside the prison wardens, as they forced their way into the prison. Captain Rugadia, of the intelligence division of Internal Security, ordered twenty-three prisoners by name out of their cells. A UPDF officer singled out a prisoner known as "Yumbe," Peter Oloya, who was accused of planning to escape from the prison. That officer then ordered the soldiers to shoot Peter Oloya.
The prison wardens rejected this accusation and tried to stop the killing, arguing with the UPDF that no one would try to escape from the prison with so many soldiers present, and therefore there was no reason to shoot any prisoner. Nevertheless, the UPDF soldiers shot Peter Oloya in the back, with the bullet exiting his chest. Everyone panicked and another prisoner was almost shot.
The UPDF soldiers hastily loaded the twenty-two prisoners, together with the dead body of Peter Oloya, on the mambas, ordering them to lie down flat. They took the prisoners straight to the quarter guard at the army barracks detention center in Gulu. The UPDF took Peter Oloya's body away and has not released it to his relatives for burial as of the writing of this report. The UPDF claimed it had to move the prisoners from Gulu Prison based on military intelligence's discovery of a planned rescue attempt by the LRA.
This event, and the subsequent torture of the prisoners at the Gulu barracks, has generated a number of civil suits, and actions by many human rights bodies such as UHRC, Amnesty International, etc. Leave alone many unreported arrest, detention, killing of civilians by the UPDF soldiers.
These days is even worst under the command of Operation Iron Fist, Lt. Col. Charles Awany Otema, because the UPDF soldiers would falsely suspect you of being a rebel or rebels collaborators. On suspecting you, they will arrest you, torture or ill-treat and detain you in the military barrack. Sometimes they arrest you and dress you in military uniform and begin claiming that they caught you in the battlefront fighting against the government alongside the rebels. This happened to so many people who are civilians, some even students. The best-known case of this kind occurred in Nwoya county last February 2005 where a man by name Opoka, a farmer was accused first of growing crops for rebels and later after he was arrested by UPDF soldiers from his garden even when digging in his cassava plantation by the UPDF soldiers. They arrested and dressed him in army uniform, and they later killed him, then they fabricated a story and reported that Opoka was a rebel and he was killed in a battlefront fighting on the side of LRA.
Another case was a boy named Odida Churchill from Awac, a student of Awere senior secondary school. Odida was arrested when he was coming from school and he was even carrying his books, but he was arrested, taken to Gulu military barrack, and later UPDF soldiers said he was arrested in a battle fighting alongside rebels. He was tortured to death by UPDF soldiers, and so many others.
Non-stop Torture and Ill-Treatment by the UPDF
The UPDF soldiers ever since has been arresting, torturing and detaining civilians in Gulu military barracks. Aida Lagulu was arrested and gang-raped during her detention there. Tony Kitara, the local councilor-III of Bungatira, Gulu district, reported that he was tortured in Gulu barracks. AbuOpoka was arrested, tortured and detained in Gulu Military barrack on so many times for being a mother of suspected rebel collaborator. Recently she was found shot with other women whom the UPDF soldiers claimed they shot them unintended because they (UPDF) thought they were rebels.
In a separate case, Stephen O, a twenty-five-year-old man from Layibi in Gulu municipality, lost a leg after UPDF soldiers shoot him outside a shop and later they came back to make sure he was dead. Stephen went on his bicycle to the trading center to buy paraffin. Just before he entered the shop some UPDF soldiers ordered the shopkeeper to close up. Two of the soldiers came up to him, placed him under arrest, asked him about his home, and started beating him with the butts of their guns.
One soldier, addressing Stephen in Kiswahili, ordered him to run but Stephen did not understand him and ignored the order. The other soldier, from Teso in eastern Uganda, told him (in a language he understood) to run "otherwise I would be shot. I started to run and they shot at me. They hit me in my leg."
The Teso soldier ordered many people around the shop to leave. stephen lost consciousness and woke up three hours later and started crawling into a nearby hotel. He heard the soldiers coming back to check on him and one said, "I told you the guy's leg was not shot properly, so he escaped."
Stephen hid under a bed in a hotel room but the soldiers, after more searching, found him and took his identification card. He played dead. More soldiers came in and argued over whether Stephen was dead or not. Searching his belongings, they took 1,000 Ugandan shillings from his pockets, and left. Two soldiers came back, dragged Stephen from the room, and threw him into the bush. Early in the morning, he managed to reach a nearby house and ask for help.
Stephen's leg was amputated in Lacor hospital in Gulu but he did not take his medical form, describing his injuries, to the police afterward. He did not see any reason for doing this because, "There are so many people who were shot by UPDF in my area and nothing happened, nothing will happen when I bring the form to the police because even police is part of them."
Torture is inflicted on some people held in military detention facilities by UPDF soldiers. After David O. was arrested for alleged collaboration with rebels, UPDF soldiers under the command of a second lieutenant, whose name David provided, burned David O. by pouring melting plastic from a jerry can over his shoulders and back.
The incident was reported to a local human rights organization. According to the report, David O. was initially arrested by members of the Kalangala Action Plan, and the torture allegedly took place in their presence. Subsequently the case developed its own momentum. The UPDF arrested and reportedly tortured members of David O.'s family inside the army detachment to force them to disclose the name of the person who had reported the case to the human rights group. Under coercion, they provided the name of the paralegal of Olwal IDP camp, who was then arrested and kept in detention at the army detachment in Olwal camp.
David O., the torture victim, was asked to pay 35,000 Ugandan shillings for his release. He was later sent to the hospital for treatment of his back, which was badly injured.
A sixteen-year-old Peter O. who was abducted by the rebel of LRA but managed to escaped from the rebels was shot at by the UPDF when he was approaching a roadblock, even when he was pleading that he is a civilian. The soldiers kept shoting at him three times, but failed to hit him. "I started rolling and then raised my hands in surrender, so the commander ordered them to stop shooting."
The UPDF beat him badly. "They started beating me in the barracks, loaded me on a vehicle and took me to Miajakulu detachment" where he said he was kicked and beaten "until they were sure my backbone was broken. I was tied in the three-point ‘‘kandoya’’ way and kicked.
Arrests of Alleged Rebel Collaborators
The Gulu branch of the Legal Aid Project received complaints that Ugandan government authorities, mostly the UPDF, had arbitrarily detained people on treason charges, illegally detained persons in UPDF military barracks, conducted arrests without warrants, and denied detainees access to the judiciary.
Suspected civilians were arrested and kept in military barrack instead of police detention, investigations and collection of evidence were rare, torture and ill-treatment of suspects were rampant, living conditions were unsanitary and overcrowded in many cases, and some of the persons carrying out the arrests had no authority to do so. Suspects have been arrested by the UPDF, the LDUs, the police, the KAP, the CMI, and officers from various intelligence agencies connected to the Internal Security Organization (ISO). Many people arrested for alleged rebel collaboration in northern Uganda were arrested in their villages or fields, pursuant to an order whereby the government restricted movement from the internally displaced persons camps as described above.
This order resulted into a precarious situation for the population of northern Uganda. They were restricted to camps where they were vulnerable to UPDF and LRA attacks and famine (food shortages due to little space in which to garden and LRA attacks on relief food convoys), or they risked arrest for alleged rebel collaboration for trying to return to their homes and fields to plant or harvest food crops.
UPDF soldiers also on many occasions go to people gardens or plantation and destroy their crops, claiming they are doing that because people in the villages are growing crops for rebels. They also claim most Acholis are rebel collaborators.
Many supporters of the political opposition are arrested, detained or killed, depending on God luck. In a region where the support for President Museveni in the last presidential elections allegedly did not exceed 20 percent, the arbitrary practice of the UPDF and security organs of arresting and incarcerating civilians created an atmosphere of fear and political repression. According to one of the Gulu prisoners,
I was politically outspoken and I had told the president [Museveni] during a rally in Gulu that he will not win 87 percent of the votes in Gulu as his campaigners promised. I had been in and out of prison for my political convictions since Museveni's NRM and political organization came to Gulu in 1986.
Others are detained for treason or on rebel collaboration charges and others belong to political opposition organizations. Some were reportedly members of Uganda Young Democrats, campaigners for Kiiza Besigye's losing presidential campaign, supporters of opposition candidate Lt. Col. Okot Alenysio in his electoral campaign for local councilor-V, or campaigners for government opponent Kerobino Uma for the district chairmanship elections.
A credible source from Palatjera IDP camp reported that more than sixty people from that camp were arrested on allegations of rebel collaboration. According to him there was an arrest list in circulation with an additional 400 names on it. A human rights defender from the Ulwal IDP camp in Lamogi sub county told Human Rights Watch that arrests from the camp increased after Operation Iron Fist started, and that there were ten Luwal people charged with treason being held in the Fourth Division barracks in Gulu. The ten, all males, were arrested and some were killed and others upto now some of them are still missing. According to a credible source from Atiak camp, "In Atiak and Anaka camps every week somebody is picked up as a rebel collaborator. Some are released, others remain in the military barracks."
Rape and Sexual Abuse inflicted on mothers, sisters and young girls by UPDF soldiers.
Sexual violence, including rape and defilement, appear to have risen in the north as a result of the current conflict, with adolescent girls at greatest risk. A survey found that in Gulu, girls identified "rape and defilement" as their third most important concern behind "insecurity, abduction and murder" and "displacement."
The apparent increased incidence of rape is associated with the increased presence of the UPDF and the vulnerability of the displaced population. Girls are vulnerable to sexual assault when traveling from IDP camps to work in the fields of their original homes, and when traveling into town in the evenings as "night commuters." Young boys are also at risk.
There is a social stigma attached to being raped. The perception that abused women should feel guilty and might have seduced the rapists is still prevalent in Acholiland, according to the program coordinator of Caritas' women's desk, Sister Margaret Aceng. People's Voice for Peace reports documented several cases where women were abandoned by their husbands or communities after they reported being raped to the police.
The case of Mrs. Paska, forty-eight years old, mother of eleven, and a widow, exemplifies the dilemma of many raped women. She found herself grief-stricken over being raped by UPDF soldiers and also over the death of one of the twins born as a result of the rape. She was painted by her in-laws' comments that "`I knew the soldier or else how could he come to me.'" She stated, "My in-laws do not want this child and even my older children do not want this child."
Even when the family of the rape victim is supportive, the perpetrators identified, and the case reported to the police, the result is discouraging because many women do not want to draw more attention to themselves. In addition, women may be discouraged from reporting cases of rape by soldiers because most reports are not followed through, the violators are transferred to another unit, and the case might be stuck at the local police or army detachment where it was reported.
Also two young girls who are cousins, ages thirteen years and nineteen years, were raped by two UPDF soldiers. Joanna A. and Alice O. went with Joanna's mother from the displaced persons camp where they lived to their garden in the early morning to work. Returning to the camp at about ten o'clock in the morning, they met two uniformed UPDF soldiers at a junction in the road. The soldiers told them to sit on the ground. Then they asked if they had chickens at home. The mother replied in the affirmative, and one soldier then said, "If they are there, let's go and get them."
Although the mother wanted to return to the camp on the regular path, the soldiers wanted to move through the bush. At a certain point, one of the soldiers stopped and began to prepare the ground, stepping on the grass. According to one of the teenagers, Joanna A.,
‘‘He said to sit down and then ordered us to take off our clothes. First we refused, and one of the soldiers said that if we didn't, he would shoot us. Then he told us to lie down. When Alice [her cousin] didn't, one of the soldiers kicked her in the chest. My mother said "don't mistreat my children; they are very young." The darker soldier took Alice a short distance away, while the other one stayed with me. He threatened me with a gun and raped me. I was just crying. The other soldier raped Alice. Then the darker soldier who had raped Alice called me to him and raped me too, while the other one raped Alice.’’
Upon release, Joanna A., Alice O., and Joanna's mother immediately reported the rape to the camp's local councillor, the local army commander, and the local police. One of the soldiers was apprehended and taken back to the barracks, where he was reportedly beaten. The other returned to the barracks that night and family members of the rape victims were told he was beaten also. However, two days later, the unit was transferred out of the area. That is what they normally do. They transfer the rapist and killers as a means of punishment.
The soldiers don’t use condoms, and both survivors were fearful that they were infected with the HIV virus. Joanna said, "People tell us we will die. They say the soldiers may be infected. I think about it a lot."
Both Joanna and Alice were tested for the HIV virus after the rape, and the results were positive.
Lt. Paddy Ankunda, the public relations officer (PRO) for the Fourth Division of the UPDF in Gulu, denied that there was a lack of legal redress for the rape victims. He insisted that, "In all cases of harassment of civilians by the army the culprits are brought to the book. We take action and follow the case. There are no cases where rapists were transferred."
In Matere, Kitgum district, according to a women's rights activist, a group of women visiting a mother and her newborn were gang-raped by twenty UPDF soldiers. They had been followed to the home of the new mother by the group of soldiers. The soldiers entered the compound and ordered the women to lie down, at gunpoint. They raped the women there and threatened them with death if the women reported the rapes: "Should we hear anything about you, you are all dead."
The local councillor (LC-I) of the area witnessed and reported the case, but no identification of the soldiers was made.
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