UGANDA: Rebels ask for forgiveness at scene of LRA massacre

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Representatives of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have visited the camp where 400 people were slaughtered by members of the Ugandan rebel group during a bloody attack considered the worst in nearly a decade.

LRA delegate Santa Okot said a team met the victims, widows and orphans of the February 2004 massacre in Barlonyo displaced people's camp, 20km north of Lira town, on November 16.

“We talked to the people there. Our message as everywhere has been reconciliation and forgiveness. The people accepted to forgive and they suggested the institution of a commission to handle compensation of the people,” she said by phone from Obalang as the team travelled to Soroti in northeastern Uganda for further consultations.

Northern Uganda politician and mediator Walter Ochola said the visit brought back bad memories.

“The [LRA] delegation came face to face with hundreds of orphans who gathered along with hundreds of people to listen,” he said. “They asked for forgiveness as people narrated the ordeal of the attack and its impact.”

In a three-hour orgy of violence, LRA soldiers stormed the camp, home to 4,800 people, at dawn and used sophisticated weaponry - rifles, rocket and grenade launchers and 12-millimetre recoilless guns - to kill and set fire to nearly 500 huts before they withdrew.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has already indicted some of the LRA leaders and one of the war crimes listed is the massacre at Barlonyo.

The attack is said to have been led by rebel commander Okot Odhiambo, one of the five LRA leaders indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity.

The LRA, active since 1988, has been widely accused of atrocities against civilians and the abduction of thousands of children, forced to serve as soldiers or concubines.

The visit was part of negotiations between the rebel group and the government, aimed at ending two decades of fighting that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced almost two million others.

Source: IRIN
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