A survivor’s tale of the 2002 LRA Omot massacre

October 22 elicits sad memories for the residents of Omot sub-county, in the Norther Uganda district of Agago for it was on this day, back in 2002 when rebel fighters belonging to Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) raided and massacred some 28 locals.

The victims were later cut into pieces and boiled in cooking pots in the full view of their kin, some of whom had been abducted.

For 57-year-old Josephine Akullu, a resident of Onyol central village, the impact is tragic that to this day, she lives with the consequences of the traumatic experience which cause anxiety attacks.

On the fateful day, 17 years ago, Akullu ended her routine chores with no thoughts of running into trouble.  But that very evening, tragedy struck. She and some of her family members were surrounded by about 30 men believed to be members of the LRA.

From home, they were taken to Opota Trading Centre, where five other male abductees were picked and laid by the roadside; their hands tied behind their backs.

In a blink of an eye, their lives were ended using hoes, in what the rebels said was a lesson to the village for the loss of their gun and 200 rounds of ammunition.

While the execution was being carried out, the abductees were told to look at it and never at any moment attempt to turn their eyes away.

Records indicate that 28 people were brutally killed in the attack allegedly carried out by the LRA rebels commanded by Okot Ngwinya Aye Rwota from the Sinia Brigade.

Akullu says that 13 of the victims were clobbered as she watched. Her clothes were littered with brain particles and bloodstains splashed from the victims.

The tale was just starting for Akullu and three other abductees whose lives were spared. In a horrific turn of events, they were asked what they usually do after an animal is hunted down and brought home.

And in affirmative they responded it’s prepared and cooked.

At that moment, the rebels chopped the head and thigh of one of the victims and told her to ensure that it’s cooked until it is ready for eating. Under pressure to avoid becoming another victim, Akullu dashed into a nearby building and picked an empty cooking pot and filled it with water. In this, the body parts were stuffed.

As she was about to light the fire to start off the cooking process, luck at about 5 am. government troops started firing at the rebels forcing them to flee from the scene.

While fleeing, Akullu was handed a basinful of salt to carry while others carried chicken and goats before being left at Agago River with a letter from LRA rebels warning them of another attack if they don’t recover their lost gun.

Akullu was part of a group of survivors of the massacre and their relatives that gathered on Tuesday at Wang Lobo Parish in Latin Ling village to remember the 17th anniversary since the brutal killings by the rebels.

Akullu, however, says the day still frightens her and rings back all the grim images of the killings she witnessed on a fateful night. Akullu has now found solace in salvation.

Sidonia Anek, 44, another survivor who narrowly escaped from the jaws of death on the fateful night was in her mother-in-law’s hut in Bara bili village, Lira Palwo Sub-county when suddenly; their door was knocked down by the rebels at about 1 am.

She was abducted alongside her two months-old-baby and other family members and taken up to Opota Trading centre where she witnessed inhumane killings of several people by the rebels. Those killed included her co-wife. She believes her life was spared because of the baby.

John Bosco Olanya, the Chairperson of Okony Too Ateda Widows and Widowers’ Association, a community-based organization formed for the massacre survivors said in an interview that most of their members are living with trauma.

He says the survivors never received any psychosocial support in the aftermath of the massacre.

The area has over the years recorded 19 suicide cases which were directly linked to the effects of the massacre according to Olanya.

He called for government support towards compensating the massacre victims arguing that it will be one step towards healing the aggrieved community members.