Ms Monica Akello is among women returnees who expected warm welcome from the community and her family, after a decade in captivity, but says that the reception was cold and the environment remains hostile.
“Am abused with my children which haunts me a lot, it was not my own making but I found myself being in captivity,” she says with tears rolling down her chinks.
“Am doing odd jobs to make ends meet but am not sure of the fate of my children who have no relative on the father’s side, if I die how will they be able to trace their family, as in Acholi culture children belong to the man’s family,” she continued.
Akello currently rents a wattle hut where she stays with children since she has been denied any rights to family land, upon which she can erect her own hut.
“Am always told that my children have been fathered by the killers and my own brothers say that I do not belong there anymore,” she says.
She did not want to reveal the identity of the man who fathered her children whilst in captivity, for fear of any reprisals.
She says that together with other woman in her situation, they are on crossroads as to what their next move will be, since they are sitting in limbo without a present livelihood or a future.
Ms Grace Anena another woman who shares a similar plight added that by denying them land, their return has become a burden to their families and that the government has failed to address their needs, yet it was out of government neglect and a failure to protect them which has led to their suffering.
She said that they need to be fully reintegrated into the communities rather than distance them away by constantly reminding them about their past lives which not of their own making.
“We were not protected as children by the government because many of us were abducted when we were still young and forced to do things beyond our control, but it was not our will,” she said.
“The government should come to our rescue, why should we be treated like second class citizens yet we are Ugandans, the government should have a policy in place in regards to our well being, after all it is its duty to protect all citizens,” she added.
Acholi chiefdom responds on land and women rights
Girls have the right to land just like the boys do according to the Prime Minister of Ker-Kal Kwaro Acholi Mr Kenneth Oketta.
“People have become so greedy when it comes to land, that’s why many disown their own children and deny their grandchildren access to land,” he said.
“Greedy people are also tarnishing the name of the Chiefdom that the culture is failing girls to acquire land which is not the case,” he adds.
“Sensitisations are on-going in areas where there are conflicts in regards to land. Our communities have become the enemies of peace which will keep the region behind in terms of northern reconstruction,” he concluded.
The Legal Officer for The Federation For Women Lawyers in Uganda (FIDA) in Acholi Sub region Ms Pamela Akello said that all children have rights to land on both their mother and father’s sides.
“The children born in captivity have full rights to till the land on their mother’s side,’’ she said.
Ms Ketty Anyeko, whom is the team leader for Justice Affairs at Justice and Reconciliation Project in Acholi sub region, noted that for women to be denied land is yet another form of war, because at one point theses children will mobilize themselves and cause havoc in the communities.
“Guns have gone silent, but wounds and injuries inflicted by perpetuators are still fresh in the memories of the victims. Children with their mothers need to be settled,” she said.
“Unless reconciliation takes place, the peace we think that is there is not total peace,” she added.
There are over 300 women who have been denied access to land.
The retired Bishop Macleod Baker Ochola II said that it is the duty of government to address these challenges.
Speaking on behalf of the government, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) for Gulu Mr Chrisy Owor said that denial of land to persons coming from captivity will jeopardize the peace in the region.
“Acholi chiefdom should address these matters immediately, these children are a time bomb if they become landless,” he said.
“Parents and communities were crying for their lost children for the last two decades and if they have been able to be rescued, it’s high time for us to welcome them back home,” he added.
Stigma remains high
People who returned from captivity are continually faced with stigmatisation, more
especially women and their children.
Ms Evelyn Amony the chairperson of Women Advocacy NetWork reveled that their children are called names like “children of the bush,” “Kony’s children” or “killers” and said that this must stop because it tarnishes the very culture of forgiveness that the Acholi hold dear to their livelihood.
She said that, just like any other human being, they would love to be married off, but when men propose to them and they agree, there is resistance from the men’s families.
She added that, when you chose to get married, “you must also know that you are not allowed to stay with the child you returned with because they say that demons might By A Web design Company
attack the entire family.
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