In the eyes of a former Lords' Resistance Army (LRA) abductee

Okot Dennis resides approximately 10 meters from Amuru sub-county offices in Amuru district in post-conflict northern Uganda. He is a former Lords’ Resistance Army (LRA) abductee and the leader of a group of at least 1,000 LRA returnees in Amuru. He knew about the ACORD Peace Committee at Amuru when he had a land conflict with the sub-county and needed assistance.

“I had a land conflict with the sub-county for many years. Even the land where this sub-county office block is currently built belongs to me. They just wanted to take it forcefully and they could not listen to me. I talked to a friend of mine who told me about the Peace Committee and so I went for help.

A meeting was held with the sub-county, my family and the Peace Committee representatives. I agreed to give some of my land to the sub-county where this block is now built, but I was compensated with another portion of the land. I am happy that at least I participated in taking these decisions and I am also at peace with the sub-county and my family.

As former returnees, we still have some other challenges especially with co-existence with other community members. Some mothers who returned from the bush with children are chased away because of the unwanted children they have. The women, especially the widows, have issues with land; they do not receive a share of the land that belonged to their husbands.

Sometimes, even when we show interest in community leadership, some community members cannot even select us because they say we are from the bush. The sub-county and the district do not have specific development packages for returnees anymore ever since we were welcomed back through the Amnesty programme.

Sometimes, it is better to isolate ourselves from the rest of the community to avoid memories of the experiences we went through while in the bush through the stigma we receive from the community. In fact, when we have an issue in the community, we are looked at as perpetrators even before people listen to our side, even if the other party is in wrong.

This Peace Committee is an opportunity for us to raise our concerns. I am happy they supported me with the land issue I had with the sub-county and I have continued to encourage the returnee groups I lead to approach the Peace Committee for support, especially on issues of land. It would also be very good if the Peace Committee was trained in psycho-social counseling to help address some of the challenges faced by former abductees.”

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