Call for Reconciliation during the 8th Annual Mucwini Memorial Service

Call for Reconciliation during the 8th Annual Mucwini Memorial Service

By Nicole Enns Fehr                                                                                                                    August 24, 2010

Memories of a night of massacre on July 23th 2002 and of those killed that night are at the forefront of the Mucwini community’s memory at this time of year. On August 14th, an Annual Mucwini Massacre Memorial Service happened and was attended by the community, massacre survivors, family members, religious leaders, political leaders and NGO members. The memorial service is a time for the families of those lost, the survivors of the massacre, and others converging in supporting the community to come together to remember and to strive for a peaceful pathway forward.

In 2002 the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), in an act of retribution, killed 56 members of the Mucwini community, resulting in one of the largest LRA massacres. Unimaginable memories are held by those who survived the night. One particular

anonymous survivor willingly shared his experience of that night in an attempt to make sure the experiences are not forgotten. He recalled being woken in the middle of the night, LRA soldiers dragging him outside and throwing him to the ground. As a machete came down he rapidly moved to the side receiving the blow to his shoulder rather than at the neck as was intended. During a period of distraction, he managed to slip into the bush, thus surviving the night. However, that night he lost fourteen family members. Today, eight years later, he is ready to forgive, but with the condition of receiving compensation. Others experienced and were forced to participate in horrors beyond imagining that night, including some mothers being “painfully forced to participate in clubbing to death their own children” (Statement by the Mucwini Massacre Memorial Committee). 

Not only a deep sense of collective and individual trauma has resulted from that night, but also a deep rift between the Pajong and Pubec clans. A people that previously lived together on the same land are now deeply conflicted over both the massacre and the land they previously shared. The massacre itself was an act of retribution against an abductee who had taken a gun with him in his escape from the LRA. The massacre was committed against the family and clan he had claimed as his own, unfortunately he had given the LRA the names of a rival family/clan (Pajong) rather than the names of his own family/clan (Pubec). The practice of using a different name and village as identification was common among abductees in attempts to protect their communities and families. In this case however, it has resulted in a deepening of resentment between the Pajong and Pubec clans, with one blaming the other for the massacre against them. There have been ongoing efforts to mediate between the communities, led by Rtd. Bishop McLeord Baker Ochola, member of the ARLPI Governing Council. The community has also appealed to the government for compensation, which has yet to arrive. 

 The District Chairman of Kitgum, Hon. Komakech John Ogwok, appealed to the Government of Uganda to come up with a law guaranteeing quick compensation for those who experience such atrocities in order to erase the perception of selective compensation by the government. Currently the Government has given compensation to the victims of the 1989 Mukura massacre and is currently compensating victims of the 11th July 2010 Kampala bombings, but Mucwini has been overlooked.  

In his sermon during the memorial service Bishop Ochola pled for reconciliation between the communities. He cited Ephesians 2:14 noting “Christ has broken down the wall that separated them” and petitioned the community to “choose to be different,” to choose to be an example of reconciliation by bridging the barriers that now divide them so that they can heal together from the yet festering wounds of the massacre.  He requested that local leaders become visionaries for peace by taking time to imagine reconciled communities and that the Rwodi bring back traditional pathways to reconciliation. He noted that Acholi culture does not call for an “eye for an eye,” but for rituals of compensation and healing to be conducted. He appealed to NGOs to plan their work carefully so that it may bring people together again rather than divide.

ARLPI, through our Strengthening Community Reconciliation Project (SCORP) with funding from MM Holland, is piloting the project aimed at empowering the community to be able to resolve conflicts collectively and non-violently. Thirty-six community members/leaders comprising of religious, cultural, women and youth leaders have been trained and are working together with the local leaders to resolve conflicts.

SCORP’s Project Officer, Mr. Ochan George, noted “the Pajong/Pubec issue is one of the major conflicts in the area, but other smaller conflicts are also eminent. There is need for wholesome and joint work towards attaining total reconciliation among other clans too.”

The pathway to peace is slowly widening, but there is a long journey yet for the Pajong and Pubec communities of Mucwini. The memorial service was supported and organized by the community, Justice and Reconciliation Project, World Vision, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative and other individuals.