Acholi Had A Just Cause In Defending Themselves – Renegade Col Samson Mande

Col Mande Samson

Col Mande Samson

In continuing with our theme on human rights violations by the army in northern Uganda, Acholi Times brings you a statement from the first NRA Commander who “liberated” Gulu, Col. Samson Mande.

The NRA advance to the north that I happened to lead was swift in capturing the Northern Uganda territory due NRA superiority in political and military strategy, tactics, cohesion and discipline. The UNLA saw no reason to continue fighting after all the population had advised them to join with the new NRM government.

The NRA had won the hearts of the population. Some elders and church leaders secured the voluntary surrender of hundreds of UNLA officers and other ranks. By February 1986 Gulu the heart of the Northern Uganda which had been turned into the alternative General Headquarter for the UNLA was secure and in the hands of the NRA.  Relationship between the NRA and the people of the Northern Uganda remained cordial until changes in the leadership of the NRA in the region that brought in new troops and new leadership.

The new Brigade Commander of the NRA troops (David Tinyefunze) was arrogant and vengeful. He blamed me for “handling the Acolis with kid gloves.” He also begun the collective condemnation of the Acoli people in the same way they were usually demonised in the campaign against the UPC government and added, “They killed our people and looted our property, why are you handling them with kid gloves”.

Every Acoli was thus labelled a thief, a killer or a rapist including the civilians who had never joined the army or been to Luwero and the children that were not yet born during the war in the Luwero triangle.  He ordered that all the “looted property be recovered and that all UNLA  members be rounded up.

All the former UNLA soldiers that had come out to and surrendered peacefully were herded on trucks and driven southwards to an infamous reorganisation camp in the western Uganda called Kiburara. Several of them jumped of the  speeding trucks on the highway and committed suicide. Most of them have not returned to Gulu and are feared to have been killed. The former soldiers then started hiding themselves instead of coming out to surrender. Arbitrary arrests and crude methods of torture the three piece kandoya invented in the Luwero triangle i.e tying tightly ones arms backwards until the chest in front may burst  became the method of work. Because the civilians could not stand the torture they started revealing the where about of the former soldiers. The soldiers found themselves going to the bush with their guns to protect themselves as their relatives continued to be molested killed and humiliated.

This situation provoked them into war against the NRA. It is justifiable for any one else to believe it was self defence out of necessity sparked off the war. It became difficult to convince the population in northern Uganda that the NRA was not an occupation force sent to exterminate them.

You hear responsible people like Uganda leaders, our ambassadors and members of developed and democratic countries say “Uganda is peaceful country” when millions of Ugandans in the North and far East of the same country are getting extinct in camps in conditions worse than slaves, wild animals, the jews in the holocaust ever lived in.

Has Uganda ceased to be one country or the northern Uganda is a different country but under occupation of Uganda?  No wonder then Jan Egelund the UN representative for humanitarian affairs has described the Northern Uganda Conflict as “the most forgotten, most neglected human catastrophe of the world today”.

Judging from the response the international community has made on the new crisis in Dafur and the old ones in Burundi, the DRC and Somalia one would be inclined to think that because of the hate and demonisation campaign against the people of the northern Uganda perhaps the world has forsaken them.

All the former UNLA soldiers that had come out to and surrendered peacefully were herded on trucks and driven southwards to an infamous reorganisation camp in the western Uganda called Kiburara.

Several of them jumped of the speeding trucks on the highway and committed suicide. Most of them have not returned to Gulu and are feared to have been killed. The former soldiers then started hiding themselves instead of coming out to surrender.

The NRA troops were deployed to hunt them with little success because they could not easily identify them. They started beating the civilians (women, parents and grand parents) in order to force them to reveal where their children were hiding.

Arbitrary arrests and crude methods of torture the three piece kandoya invented in the Luwero triangle i.e tying tightly ones arms backwards until the chest in front may burst became the method of work.

Because the civilians could not stand the torture they started revealing the where about of the former soldiers. The soldiers found themselves going to the bush with their guns to protect themselves as their relatives continued to be molestedly killed and humiliated. This situation provoked them into war against the NRA.

It is justifiable for me or anyone else to believe it was self defence out of necessity. It became difficult to convince the population in northern Uganda that the NRA was not an occupation force sent to exterminate them.

I and the troops under me , the 15 Batalion tried to prevent the conflict in vain and when the conflict started i tried to advise the government to resolve the conflict politically or use  acceptable methods in fighting the insurgency but all in vain because my government refused to be on my side. I remained caught up in between defending the people and my government.

At that time I was being fired at from the front by the insurgents and from the back by my superiors and allies, i couldn’t tell who the enemy was. I could not be of help to the people I had convinced to surrender and join the government. I saw them being molested and herded on  trucks  to the Kiburara prison farm in the southern Uganda where many did not make it back to the North.

By Col. Mande Samson