Early this week, it emerged that only 9,414 former rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) out of the batch of 27,300 who were granted amnesty after denouncing armed rebellion against the government had been reintegrated back into their communities.
According to the chairman of the Amnesty Commission, Justice Peter Onega, many of those who have never been reintegrated continue to suffer stigma, depression, anxiety, paranoia, and post-traumatic stress disorder and a whole range of other disorders and psychological problems.
The disorders are, however, not confined to former combatants alone. There are hundreds of civilians who bore witness to killings or massacres, torture, loss of loved ones, loss of livelihoods and childhoods in the Acholi sub-region, who need support, which is not readily available.
The problem is not peculiar to the Acholi sub-region. It stretches to other regions like Teso where the Uganda People’s Army (UPA) operated, Bukedi where the Force Obote Back Again (FOBA) operated, the Rwenzori region where the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and in Busoga where Alice Lakwena’s Holy Spirit Movement (HSM) was annihilated by the National Resistance Army (NRA).
While it is true that some NGOs are involved in the treatment of trauma and other war-related psychological problems, these seem to have been confined to parts of northern Uganda and their reach.
Even then, their reach is limited, leaving a vast majority of affected persons to fend for themselves. Government, therefore, needs to make an intervention here.
Former combatants in parts of northern Uganda are also lucky that government has through the Ministry of Internal Affairs, released at least Shs4.5b to help the commission continue with the process of reintegration, but what happens to other parts of Uganda, which were also affected by insurgency at different points in time?
Former rebels of both UPA and FOBA have never been helped to get reintegrated back into the communities. They were left to their own means. Little wonder that many of them ended up dying so soon after the rebellions.
Former members of the Local Defence Units (LDUs), who fought alongside the NRA in Bukedi region before being demobilised, were also never helped to get reintegrated back into their communities and many of them are still struggling in many ways.
That is why government needs to take up the matter of providing psychosocial support and also to ensure that it is not confined to northern Uganda and former combatants.