Thursday, 21 April 2005
Five displaced women have been shot dead by UPDF soldiers in Kitgum District.
The women have been killed in Mucwhini Sub County about 15Km East of Gulu.
The soldiers allegedly mistook them for rebels. Four others were injured and rushed to Kitgum Hospital.
The women were from fishing in R. Aringa when the soldiers opened fire on them.
Northern Spokesman Lt. Tabaro Kiconco says the shooting wasn’t intended.
More to follow later...
Recent killings by the same UPDF...Was this also not intended?
Two days after being accused of mass rape of Acholi women and schoolgirls, destruction of properties, looting and violent assualt; soldiers of Uganda army shot dead five Acholi women, critically injured four others at Mucwini, 15Km East of Gulu in northern Uganda. The four injured Acholi women were rushed to Kitgum Hospital.
The nine Acholi women, five dead and the injured four were returning from fishing in River Aringa when soldiers of Uganda army opened fire on them. Speaking in Uganda parliament early this week, a Ugandan legislator, Kitgum Women MP Jane Akwero disclosed soldiers of Uganda `Peoples Defence Forces´ raped 15 Acholi women and schoolgirls, destroyed and looted properties, stole money and violently beat internally displaced Acholi in Padibe displaced persons Camp in Kitgum district north of Uganda.
Akwero narrated that soldiers of Uganda army who found people asleep, dragged Acholi women and school girls out of beds and raped them. Akwero further said one of the victims, an Acholi woman was raped by seven soldiers of Uganda army.
The persistent civil war between UPDF and LRA in northern Uganda that has shattered the economy, education system, healthcare infrastructures, eroded the Acholi culture and continues to inflict unbearable sufferings on the people is turning its callousness on the women's bodies.
As the LRA continues to ruthlessly attack civilians, burn and loot their villages, cut their lips and abduct their children, mutilate them, the UPDF who should be their protectors, on the other hand are busy raping and defiling the women and girl children while robbing them of their meager foods.
It was heart wrenching listening to a report by Uganda BBC correspondent- Will Rose about a gang rape by the government soldiers in Kitgum as alleged by the area woman MP Jane Akwero.
Just as Akwero posed the question to the speaker of parliament, that, when the battlefield turns impossible, should the soldiers turn their frustrations by abusing the women bodies?
With such revelations, how can government continue condemning the LRA's actions when her own soldiers are also great pains on the people's flesh?
It is big shames that bodies who are paid to enforce law, watch on as violations of human rights like in the IDP camps continues unabated.
Pauline, a woman according to Will Rose's story who was gang raped by the seven soldiers must be very traumatized and with no more self esteem. How will she ever walk with her head high? Although they say time heals wounds, Pauline's will never! It will always be fresh on her mind, as the replay of the rape torments her. Is that what the government means when she boasts of a professionalism in the army?
There are so many cases of sexual abuses on the IDP women committed by the mobile soldiers who probably keep on raping women wherever they go as they contract and transmit all kinds of STDs to people who cannot afford to treat them.
Reports from Lacor hospital indicate that northern region, now ranks in HIV/AIDS prevalence in Uganda. A medical officer at Gulu Hospital- (a government owned), revealed that most of the people who go for medical treatment of STDs when asked how they contracted the diseases, tell stories of being raped and defiled by UPDF soldiers.
"When you look into their eyes, you only see the pain and trauma they are fighting to suppress. Its so sad, girls as young as 12 being defiled. The government must do something to discipline the soldiers. They must protect the people not torment them," said the medical personnel who preferred anonymity.
Real fear exists on the part of the communities to report such cases to the concerned authorities. According to one of the camp leaders in the region, the people would rather suffer silently than be terrorized by the soldiers. He said that the people risk being brutally tortured if not killed if they dare report. Martin Opwonya, a local leader at Parabongo IDP camp in Gulu said that, cases of the soldiers sexually abusing both mothers and their daughters are very rampant.
The saddest thing is that, the husbands or fathers are always hands tied not being able to defend or protect their families. Opwonya said that the men are normally tortured if they try to safeguard the rights of their women or daughters. He said that when the soldiers are reported all they get are empty promises of 'investigations' and 'punishments' of the culprits. Opwonya said what normally happens after the so-called 'investigations', is that the culprits are instead transferred to another camp without being disciplined and they continue doing the same thing.
Human Rights Watch has constantly attacked the government on violations of human rights in northern Uganda. They have always cited cases of use of children in the army, sexual abuses and torture of civilians by the government soldiers. The government on her part has always adamantly but shamelessly denied such allegations.
But now with the sad facts by MP Jane Akwero a movement supporter at that, where even the soldiers went to the extent of almost raping a fellow man, what does the government have to say? Or what will be done to ensure that the IDPs are protected against such soldiers who have no sense of moral obligation. The Prime Minister, Apollo Nsibambi, said he was saddened by the soldiers' action and moved an immediate motion for an "investigation" to be carried out.
Shaban Bantariza told BBC that three culprits have been arrested due to the allegations. But lets hope that they will not be relocated to Gulu or Lira instead of being punished so that others may learn. Besides, sending army officials to investigate the crimes was not a good idea. It is only logical that the civilians cannot tell the truth due to fear. Independent bodies like human rights agencies should be the one to investigate.
According to Barney Afaku an advocate who some time back explained to the Acholi leaders about the ICC operation in the northern Uganda to investigate crimes committed against humanity, he said that cases of gang rapes in a war zone amounts to crimes against humanity and its penalty is live sentence if not death. The question we must ask ourselves, will justice transparently take its course?
Although there are cases of some of the women and girl children 'selling' their bodies to the soldiers to make ends meet, it is still unfair because their situations are vulnerable, and the soldiers must not take advantage of that! And as for defilement, the law is very clear, for any girl below 18 years with or without consent the penalty is death! The law if it is fair should not give audience to arguments that "the girls consented" it must consider their ages at the time of the defilement!
The voices and sufferings of the people of northern Uganda have been silenced for years, the world can not continue to sit back and watch the people especially children and women go through devastating experiences, it is now to act or never!