War and silent genocide
The conflict in Northern Uganda (NU) started 25 years ago and was the main catalyst that forced 2.5 million Acholi people to seek refuge and shelter in government squalid Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps to avoid pandemonium foray of Lord Resistance Army (LRA). Today there is less than a million Acholi people in NU. The genocide committed in NU has never been exposed to the world because of the fear of retribution. Acholi people do not have a voice and there are limited or not well-resourced Acholi communities in Diasporas, hence unable to influence the international community for support.
The two decades of conflict have had vast arrays of catastrophic effects on humanitarian and economic stability of NU. In memory of the silent genocide and mass killing, four memorial sites have been erected in different parts of the region. Eyewitness accounts and published studies reported that the LRA carried out massacres in a systemic and widespread manner. In addition to killing civilian, LRA killed the captives often by crushing them to death, dismembering them, cooking or burning the captives alive and feeding the corpses to other captives (Uganda Human Rights & United Nations Human Right 2011). The LRA acts of torture or cruelty included inhumane raping of women and girls, cutting and burning of women and girls’ breasts, castration of males and dismemberment as well as cutting body parts. The LRA perpetrated children abduction and forced them to kill loved ones in front of family members and community members or captives. The primary targets for LRA’s forced recruitments were boys and girls between 10-18 years of age (Uganda Human Rights & United Nations Human Right 2011).
These problems ranged from countless loss of lives, collapse of local economy, dilapidation of civil infrastructure, loss of property (livestock and homes), breakdown of healthcare and education facilities, loss of cultural structure and norms, loss of skills among youth and dependency on hand-out from international donour organisations. Moreover, the squalid IDP camps were breeding grounds for diseases, rapists, pedophiles and abductors that caused the death of over 1,500 people weekly resulting into thousands of orphans (Uganda Human Rights & United Nations Human Right 2011). For more than two decades, they waited for the war to end, meanwhile, their villages, crops, and livestock were destroyed and or looted.
In 2008, the Ugandan government forced Acholi people out of the IDP camps to go home. The camps were torn down, forcing the people back to their land where they had no food, animals, schools, hospital, and or homes to go back to. They also brought back something even more insidious: a disease that began attacking thousands of children between the ages of 5-15 years old, known as Nodding Syndrome (NS). The number of NS victims as reported by Lancet (2006) are over 3500 but the actual numbers of victims are unknown due to poor healthcare system in NU.
Nodding Syndrome is a debilitating medical condition that affects cognitive ability, causes cerebral palsy, decreased physical ability with no emotional and or social ability to interact. There is some anecdotal evidence purporting that chemical weapon might have been used during the conflict in an attempt to eradicate Acholi people from NU. However, research indicates ingestion and exposure to toxins and toxicants in food provided in the IDPC might be responsible for the spread of NS in NU. Presently, a large proportion of children are born healthy but when they turn 5 years old, they develop NS disease.