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War Victims Relive Stories of Suffering as ICC President Visits Gulu

War victims in northern Uganda relived their harrowing experiences at the hands of the Lords Resistance Army LRA rebels while meeting the president of the International Criminal Court ICC Silvia Fernndez de Gumerndi.
ICC President Judge Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi listening to a testimony from one of the LRA war victims.
War victims in northern Uganda relived their harrowing experiences at the hands of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels while meeting the president of the International Criminal Court (ICC )  Silvia Fernández de Gumerndi.

Judge Fernandez de Gurmendi and officials of war Victims' Trust Fund are in Gulu to interact with the victims of the 20-year insurgency.

At Awach Sub County headquarters in Aswa County this morning, the ICC president listened with sorrowful feelings as the victims from 13 sub counties in Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro districts narrated what they went through during the war.

The victims told stories of suffering in the hands of the rebel group leading to trauma, broken bones, permanent disabilities, sexual violations and loss of livelihoods amongst others. They told of how the wounds they suffered started decomposing due to lack of facilities to treat some of the injuries in major hospitals in the region.

With the establishment of the Trust Fund, some of the victims are undergoing treatment at St. Mary's Hospital Lacor in Gulu and Kumi Hospital in Kumi district.

Innocent Akello, a resident of Odek Sub County said she suffered an open fracture to her right thigh during an ambush she entered while on her way to school on October 16, 2006. She told of how she struggled to find treatment for many years with a decomposing wound as she continued her education with lots of pain.

Many of the victims told of how they now have hopes due to support of the Trust Fund for victims through the implementing partner, Gulu Women's Economic Development and Globalization (GWED-G). Most of them had to wait for many years before starting treatment due to lack of facilities for specialised treatment in the region. Some of them continue to walk on crutches.

Ojara Samuel Baker, a resident of Idobo parish in Lalogi, Omoro district said he was abducted in 2002 when he was very young and taken to the bush where he was trained to shoot and kill. He was one of four children abducted from the same family.

He too suffered broken bones from an ambush. “I was shot on both legs and my right arm got struck. I fed on my own urine for two weeks before the UPDF soldiers rescued me. I was too wounded to move,” he narrated.

Ojara said he ended up at Koch Goma Health Centre III where he got first aid and admission. He said what followed was very traumatic.

“I was isolated because my wounds smelled. Health workers and family members never wanted to come close to nurse my wounds. I had a swollen stomach until a lady from the community volunteered to massage my wounds with warm water.”

Ojara ended up in World Vision Uganda rehabilitation centre from where he met other former abductees. He underwent rehabilitation and subsequently reintegrated into the community without proper healing.

“I continue to live with the wound to date,” he said. Ojara is currently receiving treatment at Lacor Hospital with support of Trust Fund for Victims.

Pamela Judith Angwech, the Executive Director of GWED-G says the organisation uses music, dance and drama as a vehicle for alternative dispute resolution in areas of land disputes which remain so rampant after the war.

Mama Koite Doumbia, a member of the Board of Directors of Trust Funds for Victims said she was so moved by 30 minutes of testimonies she heard from the victims. “I commit to be your advocate forever,” she stated.

The ICC president started her Uganda visit on February 23. She is due to visit Lukodi IDP camp, one of the many case locations for which former warlord Dominic Ongwen is on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Jimmy Otim, the ICC Field Outreach Assistant for Uganda says the visit is meant “to provide the Trust Fund Board members and the ICC President with a first-hand experience of the activities of the Trust Fund for Victims projects supporting victims under its assistance mandate".

Created under article 79 of the Rome Statute, the mission of the Trust Fund for Victims is to support and implement programmes that address harm resulting from genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes through implementation of court-ordered reparations and providing physical, psychological, and material support to victims and their families.

In Northern Uganda, the Trust Fund for Victims has supported five projects with more than 2 10.3 billion shillings to undertake medical rehabilitation of war victims, treat mental health needs, health and dignity restoration and integrated physical and psychological rehabilitation amongst others.

The projects are scattered in Acholi, Lango, Teso and West Nile sub regions.