Oct 2014 10

Has the war ended in Northern Uganda?

Posted in News

By Okidi Richard Owor, GRG counselor

The war between Joseph Kony and the LRA against the Ugandan state lasted for more than twenty years with the grassroots populations suffering the most from the LRA techniques to terrorize ranging from abductions, forced sex, brutal and dehumanizing methods of killings, the burning of homes/properties and so on.  The extreme violence of these brutal acts forced people to flee their homes in to Internally Protected Camps (IDPs) turning people into refugees in their own land.  They survived on food rations and other supports provided by different international organizations since it was not possible to farm. However, towards the end of 2005-2006, peace negotiation began taking shape between the two warring parties.  This marked the beginning of the end of the frequent gun shots that had been rocking our northern districts for the last twenty years. This also marked the beginning of many NGOs and humanitarian organizations leaving the region as people returned from the camps to their original homesteads and villages.  Many came to the conclusion that there is no more war in northern Uganda and that peace has finally come to the region.

But did you know that the war continues up to today? People are still suffering in the villages though many urban dwellers believe that there is peace. What does this mean? This simply means the war has only changed shapes and forms.  Peoples’ hearts and minds have become “The New Battleground”! Peoples’ experiences (what they saw, heard and went through) are still very fresh as though it happened only yesterday.  Apart from that, while in the bush with the LRA or in internally displaced camps, people young and old, boys, girls, women and men got mixed up with the rebels and government soldiers and either had sexual relations willingly or forcefully which resulted in many contracting HIV/AIDS.  Today in the villages the death rates is still very high as a result of AIDS!  Unlike the 1980s and 1990s when high infection rates and deaths tended to be more concentrated in urban areas, today the highest infection rates are found in the rural villages in the north, in large part due to the LRA conflict.  The number of orphans and widows/widowers is ever on the increase day and night.  The number of new cases is more than that of the national statistics due to eroded traditional customs, and morals!  There is generally very high level of risky behaviors such as alcohol/drugs abuse often resulting to sexual abuse and domestic violence.  There are many cases of suicides, attempted suicides and other acts of desperation arising from the traumatic experiences and concurrent symptoms such as Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD), depression, manic episodes and other related problems. This was made clear in our recent and on-going counselling needs assessments with our groups. Out of the seven strategically selected groups data has been collected from five in September and the general themes that emerge were, but not limited to,: HIV/AIDS, Trauma, Domestic violence (and Sexual Gender Based Violence), Drug/Alcohol abuse, stigma and suicide to mention but a few!

At the moment, as the GRG counselor I am developing a group counselling models based on some of those themes to kick of a group therapy program by mid November 2014. The need for counselling services is urgent for the people (local communities) of northern Uganda to reconstruct the lives of the people.  While GRG is very fortunate to have received funding to initiate this more intensive psycho-social supports, we are still looking for donations and donors to help us expand this area of our operations.



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