Gulu. Farmers’ Party of Uganda presidential candidate Benon Biraaro has defended the National Resistance Army (NRA), now UPDF, against allegations of committing atrocities in Acholi during the LRA insurgency.
More than 200 people are believed to have been massacred at Bucooro in Paicho Sub-county, Gulu District in 1990 by the then NRA soldiers while more than 50 others were killed by the 35th Battalion in Namokora Sub-county, Kitgum District in August 1986, seven months upon the NRM taking over power.
Addressing journalists at Northern Uganda Media Club in Gulu Town on Wednesday ahead of his Thursday’s campaign rally in the region, Maj Gen (rtd) Biraaro said the ongoing allegations have no basis to pin UPDF.
“I don’t want to be an apologist because evidence is evidence, it should come and once it comes out, it should be listened to. By far and large I can defend the UPDF on all the allegations with exception of Mukura incident in Soroti District,” he said.
More than 70 people were suffocated to death by the NRA soldiers on July 11, 1989 in a train wagon at Mukura on accusations of supporting the Uganda People’s Army rebels (UPA) of the deposed president Gen Tito Okello.
Gen Biraro said he was one of the people who were in the army and apart from the Mukura incident; he has no clue of any atrocities committed by NRA soldiers against civilians anywhere in the country.
“I remember when I was then serving as special district administrator in Kitgum District, the late Mzee Tiberio Okeny approached me and said my soldiers were killing people in the district at Gang Dyang in Kitgum Town,” Biraaro said.
He said when he told Okeny in the company of journalists to lead them where people had been killed and buried, he shied away and instead claimed Gen Biraaro would kill him.
Asked whether he would investigate the massacre claims once elected president, Maj Gen Biraaro said a unity government would be formed to pursue reconciliation rather than investigations.
“When we came from Luweero, there were those who urgently wanted to victimise the people of northern Uganda for the roles of their former leader, but we handled the victimisation. It is the same way my government will handle these allegations,” Maj Gen Biraaro added.
The presidential candidate, however, promised to help the victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency through mechanised agriculture and restocking of lost livestock to generate income.