Hundreds mark day of the disappeared

Relatives of missing persons and well-wishers march in Kitgum Town to commemorate the International Day of the Disappeared at the weekend. PHOTO BY JULIUS OCUNGI

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Disappeared. Nearly 10,000 people are missing in northern Uganda according to ICRC.

KITGUM. Hundreds of people, whose loved ones went missing as a result of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency in northern Uganda, on Sunday took part in commemorating the International Day of the Disappeared.
The national event, organised by International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was held at Kitgum Boma Grounds in Kitgum Town Council.
They made a procession through the streets of Kitgum Town carrying placards with names of their missing relatives. A candle light moment dedicated to the missing persons was also held as participants watched video clips of people around the world sharing experience of their missing loved ones.
Nearly 10,000 people, according to ICRC, have been missing in the north and are believed to have been abducted during the LRA war led by Joseph Kony.
The two-decade war led to deaths of 30,000 people with nearly one million people displaced. Also, a number of children were abducted and forced to become rebel fighters while the girls were subjected to sexual slavery.
Ms Alma Akongo, 35, a resident of Padibe East Sub-county, Kitgum District, said she has never heard about her husband Robert Ocitti, who was abducted in 2004 by the LRA rebels.
“It’s not easy living a life in which you don’t know what has happened to your loved ones. I do not know whether my husband is dead or alive,” she said.
She commended ICRC for the initiative of bringing together people whose relatives are missing adding: “Some of us get encouraged by the words we hear from other people, and it motivates us that we are not alone.”
To Ms Esther Apwonyo, 2003 is a dark year when her three daughters -- Betty Aringo, 13, Beatrice Lamwaka, 9, and Margaret Apoko, 15, -- were abducted by LRA from their home village in Paibwo Layamo Sub-county in Lamwo District. She has never seen them again.
She said coping with the grief of not seeing her three children for more than a decade has been terrifying and exhausting on her health.
“I once nearly lost my son who was also abducted in 1995 by the LRA rebels. However, after three years in captivity, he returned home,” said Ms Apwonyo. She hopes that one day, with the Grace of God, she will be able to see her daughters alive.
Ms Apwonyo and Ms Akongo are among some of the more than 1,000 people ICRC has been interacting with and have since been enrolled in groups where they share their experiences and get counselling to enable them cope with the disappearance of their loved ones
Relatives of the missing persons also tasked ICRC and the government to embark on tracing the whereabouts of their missing loved ones.
Mr Zoran Jovanovic, the head of delegation, ICRC Uganda, called on the government and stakeholders to do more to document fate of missing persons.


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