Odek monument launch

How can the voices of Odek be heard?

26 July 2016 - 15:07

“How can the voices of our community be heard? and How can we challenge negative perceptions of our community?”

These are some of the questions people in Odek sub-county, part of the new Omoro district, discussed on 28 July, an event organised by Let’s Talk, Uganda. The dialogue was held at the community’s centre 61 kilometres away from northern Uganda’s biggest town, Gulu.

Back in June, we held a similar dialogue in Lukodi village outside of Gulu, also dealing with questions of justice and reconciliation. Both communities experienced brutal massacres by the Lord’s Resistance Army in 2004 and the challenges of life in internally displaced persons camps. Earlier this year, charges were confirmed against alleged LRA commander Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court. Dominic Ongwen is accused of having been responsible for leading both massacres.

Even though the two communities share similar experiences, people from Odek have very different stories to tell.

Since Odek is the ancestral of home of LRA commander Joseph Kony, people in Odek are eager to shed the weight of that association. So when we asked what topics they would like to discuss as part of the dialogue, the issue of challenging stereotypes and negative perceptions of people from the community was something that people were eager to discuss. Many people, they said, are still unaware that Odek went through a lot of the same experiences as many other communities in northern Uganda. Some people from outside of the area believe Odek was excluded from the brunt of the war.

In Lukodi, the discussion centred on whether reparations should be provided to survivors of conflict. Many people agreed that reparations are important. “If your life is repaired you can heal”, one woman in Lukodi said, “Something should be got to make us heal.”

One man in particular questioned who should provide reparations, suggesting that it is the responsibility of all people.

"My question is who is to repair lives? The first is our leaders. There are various categories of leaders. First of all, household heads. As a mother and father, you need to begin repairing your family’s lives from home. Make sure that people in your home and your house have repaired their lives. Secondly, our elected and cultural leaders - they should make sure that they find ways to help people repair their lives. As a leader find ways that can make the life of your people to be repaired. Most of the time, people ignore these issues. Our leaders at various levels should be agents to make sure that lives are repaired in all places. If that is not done then we shall just keep on talking that people’s lives should be changed."

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Lead image: Odek monument launch (Photo: Oryem Nyeko/Justice an Reconciliation)

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