UGANDA: DEPUTY CHIEF JUSTICE SEES VALUE IN ACHOLI TRADITIONAL JUSTICE SYSTEMS

owiny dollo

Uganda Deputy Chief Justice, Alfose Owiny-Dollo, on Acholi Traditional Justice Systems

“I see value in our traditional justice systems”

“’Cairo’ is actually the name the Lwos gave to ‘River Nile’. The Lwos called the Nile ‘Kiro’. Their home was the Nile Delta”

“When they came to ‘Khartoum’, they found another branch of the Nile. It was here that they fought a bitter war with another migrating group, the ‘Hermits’. They named that place ‘Ka-tum’, which is a Lwo phrase meaning ‘this is where we shall all die’”

AMURU-UGANDA: The newly appointed Deputy Chief Justice of Uganda, Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo Chigamoi, has stated that he sees value in traditional justice systems of the Acholi tribe which should be promoted to supplement formal courts.

“I see value in our traditional justice systems”, says Justice Owiny-Dollo.

He made this comment recently during the sixth anniversary of the coronation of Rwot Richard Santo Apire as the Cultural King of Attiak Kingdom, one of the 54 kingdoms of the Acholi tribe.

Justice Owiny-Dollo says the Juba Peace Talks between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and Uganda government from 2006 to 2008 presented an opportunity for Uganda to set up the first court in Africa to try International Crimes, something equivalent to a center for International Criminal Court (ICC), but it missed that opportunity.

He was also instrumental in pushing for Transitional Justice law in Uganda during the Juba Peace Talks to try the numerous land related cases before formal courts.

“We recommended the establishment of a transitional justice court system in Uganda. Land conflicts need not go to formal courts”.

According to the former chairman of Acholi Parliamentary Group, Mr. Reagan Okumu, his group sponsored the Transitional justice bill in parliament in 2015 which should have addressed the issue of accountability and reparation for the Lord’s Resistance Army war.

Unfortunately, this bill has been shelved in parliament.

Acholi justice system emphasizes compensation to victims of wrongs, reconciliation between warring parties and harmonious living in society as opposed to the Western Justice system which emphasizes accountability without impunity.

Their ritual of “Mato Oput” (drinking of the Oput shrub) is known internationally as one of the best method of solving complex murder cases.

“The colonial masters found that the Acholi tribe had no prison facilities because our elders knew how to solve conflicts”, says Justice Owiny-Dollo.

Acholi tribe, one of the Lwo ethnic groups, currently occupies part of northern Uganda and South Sudan. They speak similar language with other Lwo/Luo ethnic groups in Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Acholi is also the origin of many traditional institutions in Uganda.

Justice Owiny-Dollo, who has studied the history of migration of the Lwo ethnic group extensively, says the Pharaohs, who were rulers in Egypt during the first civilization, were actually Lwo.

“’Cairo’ is actually the name the Lwos gave to ‘River Nile’. The Lwos called the Nile ‘Kiro’. Their home was the Nile Delta”, asserts Justice Owiny-Dollo.

According to Justice Owiny-Dollo, the Lwos started to trace the source of river Nile by migrating southwards up to its source at Kira in Jinja in eastern Ugandas.

“When they came to ‘Khartoum’, they found another branch of the Nile. It was here that they fought a bitter war with another migrating group, the ‘Hermits’. They named that place ‘Ka-tum’, which is a Lwo phrase meaning ‘this is where we shall all die’”, says Justice Owiny-Dollo.

He says when the Lwo reached the source of the Nile, they gave it the same name ‘Kiro’ which they gave in the Egyptian city, ‘Cairo’, which was corrupted from the word ‘Kiro’; and in Jinja the word ‘Kira’ is actually corrupted from the word ‘Kiro’, the name the Lwo gave to the Nile right from the Delta.

 

 

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UGANDA: “NO LEADERSHIP CRISIS”, MUSEVENI IS “ABLE AND CAPABLE”-PRIME MINISTER

 

Dr.Rugunda

Uganda Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana-Rugunda (in red tie and glasses) being shown around Attiak Kingdomm cultural site.

“Uganda is not in leadership crisis. Instead, it is making steady progress because all institutions like parliament, judiciary and the executive are working well. The country is moving on the right course”

“President Museveni is still able and capable of leading Uganda. There is no dispute about that. He is a reference point in neighboring Burundi and South Sudan conflicts”,

AMURU-UGANDA: The Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr. Ruhakana-Rugunda, has denied claims by a section of opposition politicians that there is leadership crisis in Uganda, saying the country is moving on the right course.

“Uganda is not in leadership crisis. Instead, it is making steady progress because all institutions like parliament, judiciary and the executive are working well. The country is moving on the right course”, Dr. Rugunda said.

The Prime Minister made the remarks on Sunday, September 3, 2017 from Attiak sub-county in Amuru district in Northern Uganda during the celebration to mark six years since the enthronement of Rwot Richard Santo Apire of Attiak cultural kingdom. He was the chief guest during the celebration.

Rwot Apire was enthroned as the 21st King of Attiak cultural institution on September 3, 2011. This kingdom is one of the 54 recognized cultural institutions in Acholi sub-region; which operate under the leadership of Lawii Rwodi, Rwot David Onen-Acana II.

Dr. Rugunda says that Ugandans elected and endorsed the leadership of President Museveni for the next five years and there is no dispute about his ability and capability.

“President Museveni is still able and capable of leading Uganda. There is no dispute about that. He is a reference point in neighboring Burundi and South Sudan conflicts”, Dr. Rugunda said.

He appealed to Ugandans to support the leadership of President Yoweri Museveni because he is a tested leader as evident by his track records.

Dr. Rugunda was forced to make this comment following earlier remarks by Kilak North Member of Parliament, Mr. Anthony Akol, who said that Dr. Rugunda was “fit to be the President of Uganda” instead of President Yoweri Museveni.

He hailed the people of Acholi for supporting and sustaining their cultural institutions which demonstrate the value the people put in cultural their institutions.

“I salute Rwot Apire for organizing Attiak Kingdom in an impressive manner. This is a magnet to attract more people and friends to support Attiak. It demonstrates the value the people put in Acholi cultural institutions”, Dr. Rugunda said.

Acholi is the origin of many traditional institutions like Bunyoro, Toro and Buganda in Uganda.

Dr. Rugunda saluted the cultural, religious and political leaders of Acholi for supporting the peace process in Uganda which made it possible to expose the fallacy which was being paddled around that government was not interested in resolving the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebellion.

He challenged the people to consolidate and maintain the peace by utilizing the fertile land to grow crops, not only for consumption, but for export trade by adding value to what they produce.

“Let poverty be a thing of the past. You should use the fertile land and produce crops to attract value addition for export trade. The region should not produce only raw materials”, the Prime Minister said.

Traditional cultural institutions were abolished by former President Dr. Milton Obote in the 1967 Constitution but restored through Article 246 of the 1995 new Uganda Constitution.

Section 3(e) and (f) of Article 246 states that “a person shall not, while remaining a traditional leader, join or participate in partisan politics” and “shall not exercise any administrative, legislative and executive powers of Government or local government”.

According to Rwot Apire, Attiak cultural institution has developed a ten-year development master plan which focuses on education, health, environmental protection and agri-business, among others. The institution has support from an American Non-governmental organization-Alliance for Africa Assistance and Rotary Club of Gulu.

The Prime minister laid the foundation stone for the construction of Teresa Ayiko International Hospital and commissioned an office block of the kingdom.

Acholi Paramount King, Rwot David Onen-Acana II, appealed for funding for cultural institutions from government in order for them to resolve conflicts related to land.

UGANDA: WHO CAN SAVE “TRUE OWNERS” OF AMURU LAND FROM “NEW UNSCRUPULOUS LAND OWNERS”?

 

Payot

Locals of Lakang village, Amuru district sit under a tree waiting to be addressed by Acholi Paramount King, Rwot David Onen-Acana II

“What is happening in Amuru should not be happening in the 21st Century. It is worst than what happened during Dictator Idi Amin’s regime. I know they can use force now, but if regime changes, we shall claim back our land”

“There must be a fresh process of validation, verification and audit of all the people registered as land owners in Lakang village in Amuru district in order to weed out new unscrupulous land owners who have moved in the village to grab land from people who don’t want to give their land for the sugar cane plantation”

AMURU-UGANDA: A group of locals were already seated on the grass under a tree in the community Payot Primary School compound, Lakang village in Amuru district by the time the convoy of Acholi paramount King, Rwot David Onen-Acana II, arrived at about 3.00 pm local time (01.00 GMT) . This was on Wednesday, August 23, 2017.

This village was a no go area for local leaders two weeks ago as police force, led by no less than a police commissioner, had cordoned off the place as a group of government surveyors were busy surveying  land of those locals who were willing to offer their land for a sugar cane plantation.

Inside a large tent erected by the Uganda police personnel on the bushy school compound, a group of people had lined up waiting to register their land to be included among those willing to offer their land for a sugar cane plantation wanted by government on behalf of Madvhani group of Companies.

On the convoy of the Paramount King, were two members of parliament from Acholi sub-region, Mr. Samuel Odonga-Otto and Mr. Gilbert Olanya; and Mr. Michael Lakony, Amuru district chairman.

Others included two religious leaders, retired Anglican bishop Macleod Baker Ochola II and Vicar General of Gulu Catholic Archdiocese, Msgr. Mathew Odong.

Amuru has been on the spotlight lately for two un-related land conflicts of Apaa and Lakang.

The first case involves a 40 square kilometer land boundary dispute between neighboring Adjumani district and Amuru at Apaa village in Amuru North constituency which has claimed thirteen lives so far since 2006, but its resolution is not in sight.

The second conflict involves 10,000 hectares of land wanted by Madvhani Group of Companies for sugar cane plantation in Lakang village in Amuru South constituency. The requested was contested in courts of law and has since drawn a lot of resistance from local leaders.

This is a rich fertile land which is heavily populated by locals who rushed to acquire land there in 2006 after the resolution of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebellion.

There have emerged two types of land owners here; the first group is those willing to offer their land for Madvhani to grow sugar cane and the second group is those who do not want to lease their land. But the question still stand, how can the surveyors succeed in surveying 10,000 hectares block of land belonging to the willing people without affecting those unwilling who are freely mixed up in between?

Since the minister of Lands, Ms. Betty Amongi-Akena, announced more than a month ago, that government will use force to survey this land, many National Resistance Movement operatives and crime preventers were ferried into Lakang village. They intimidate those who are not willing to offer their land.

This group of locals are now so scared that some of them have been compromised while others lost part of their land to the crime preventers and operatives.  People fear that the NRM operatives who are roaming the areas claiming to be rightful land owners yet they were not members of the community.

“Why must police mount road block to stop us, leaders, from visiting our electorates if government is doing a clean job?” Says Ochira David, the Local Council III chairman of Amuru sub-county

“There must be a fresh process of validation, verification and audit of all the people registered as land owners in Lakang village in Amuru district in order to weed out new unscrupulous land owners who have moved in the village to grab land from people who don’t want to give their land for the sugar cane plantation”, says Prime Minister of Acholi chiefdom, Mr. Ambrose Olaa.

“What is happening in Amuru should not be happening in the 21st Century. It is worst than what happened during Dictator Idi Amin’s regime. I know they can use force now, but if regime changes, we shall claim back our land”, says Mr. Lakony.

Msgr. Odong condemns deaths being caused by land conflicts in Acholi sub-region in general and appeals to Acholi community to rally behind Acholi paramount King in order to solve their grievances against government.

Bishop Ochola reminded the people of their constitutional duty to change bad governments through the ballot.

“Land matter is a matter of life and death. Acholi land has sucked a lot of innocent blood of the people. There is no public or free land in Acholi”, says Acholi Paramount King, Rwot Onen-Acana II.

 

UGANDA: CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP DR.ODAMA BLASTS ADVOCATES OF FEMALE PRIESTS

 

Bishop John Baptist Odama (1)

Archbishop Dr. John Baptist Odama on the topic female priests in the Catholic Church

“The Catholic church gets priests from men. There should be no more debate over the subject of female aspiring to be priests also. Jesus Christ was a man. If Christ wanted female priests, he would have ordained his mother, Mary, first, but he did not do that.”

 “I am becoming increasingly convinced that the inequality of women becoming priests is becoming a major issue and a major challenge facing the Catholic Church.”

AMURU-UGANDA: The Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Gulu, Dr. John Baptist Odama, has castigated advocates for female priests in the catholic faith saying there should be no more debate on the subject because it is causing tension in the church.

“The Catholic church gets priests from men. There should be no more debate over the subject of female aspiring to be priests also. Jesus Christ was a man. If Christ wanted female priests, he would have ordained his mother, Mary, first but he did not do that” says Archbishop Dr.Odama.

Archbishop Dr. Odama made this remarks on Saturday, September 19, 2017 from Pabbo Catholic Parish in Amuru district, northern Uganda, during the priestly ordination of Reverend Father Simon Ongwech.

Archbishop Dr. Odama, who is a conservative, has always opposed priests marrying wives and women ordained priests.

“I have a lot of quarrel with this call for female priests. It is bringing a lot of tension in the church”

According to the Daily Beast, an online publication, a group of devout Catholic women marched near St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican in June 2017 with a big pink cardboard telephone booth marked “Door to Dialogue” trying to draw attention to the taboo topic of female priests. The group included the 40-year-old US-based Women’s Ordination Conference and the 20-year-old Women’s Ordination Worldwide.

They also hung 100 giant posters of women priests, including that of 70 self ordained priests in an attempt to highlight what many see as a blatant misogyny within the catholic hierarchy. All these female priests who broke the Vatican Law have been excommunicated.

“I am becoming increasingly convinced that the inequality of women becoming priests is becoming a major issue and a major challenge facing the Catholic Church”, says Father Tony Flannery, a male Irish priest who supports female priests, to The National Catholic Reporter newspaper, adding “unless this is addressed, the church will continue to become more sidelined and little more than a sect”.

The fact that this group of women secured permit to demonstrate in Rome can be described as a “miracle” since this is a city that normally sides with the Holy See. This is also the first time that these groups of women were allowed near the Vatican.

In May 2017, Pope Francis told a group of 900 nuns that he would create a commission to study the concept of ordaining women deacons.

“Opening a commission to study the diaconate for women would be a great step for the Vatican in recognizing its own history. This is something to celebrate”, says McElwee, one of the women marchers.

Archbishop Dr. Odama thanked the parents of the new priest, Mr. Tobia and Mrs. Joska Oyoo, for accepting that their son should be ordained priest which is against Acholi tradition which insists that their children must raise families.

He appealed to the new priest to be obedient to his superiors and to preach the Word of God to all in whatever place he would go to. Father Simon Obngwech was posted to Patongo Catholic parish in Agago district.

Archbishop Dr. Odama says the major challenge the church is facing today is having few priests yet the number of people who want their service is huge. He appealed to parents to send more children to join the seminary for boys and convent for girls in order to join the church ministry.

 

 

 

 

 

Uganda: War Ravaged Gulu City Hosts East African Games

Below; Rwot Acana, second right, visits rehabilitation work on Pece Stadium

Rwot Acana at Pece“I have travelled across the length and breadth and have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief, such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of that caliber that I do not think we  would ever conquer this country unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural  heritage and therefore I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the African think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation”-Lord Macaulay is quoted to have said.

GULU-UGANDA: Although the northern Uganda colonial regional city of Gulu was ravaged, and nearly destroyed by wars between the army of President Yoweri Museveni and the various rebel groups opposed to his government between 1986 and 2006, the city has since transformed and ready to host the East Africa Secondary Schools Games, come August 17- 27, 2017.

This game brings together secondary school champions from the East African Community member states of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Burundi and South Sudan.

About six thousand visitors are expected in Gulu to grace the games, where Uganda President, Yoweri Museveni, is expected to officially open it on Monday August 20, 2017. His wife, also minister of Education, Science, Technology and Sports, Ms. Janet Museveni, will close on August 27, 2017.

The city has been undergoing rehabilitation works for the last ten years following cessation of hostilities and signing of permanent ceasefire between the warring parties in 2006. New investors are putting up structures and setting up businesses while the government is concentrating on infrastructural rehabilitation of schools, roads, health units and markets among others.

The last facility in Gulu which has been neglected by the government is Pece War Memorial Stadium, the main venue of the games. It is now undergoing a 700 million shillings (about $197,000 dollars) rehabilitation using contributions from the local community, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the business community readying it for the school games.

As you read this, the government has not yet contributed any money towards the rehabilitation of the Sports facility, built by the British Legion in 1956, which has a seating capacity of 3,000 fans, yet the game is two days away.

The site Engineer, Engineer Gideon Gumusireza, says rehabilitation works on the stadium still needs about shs.100 million shillings (about $28000 dollars) to complete.

“Hosting this event means a lot for Gulu and we cannot run away from it” Gulu district chairman, Mr. Ojara Martin Mapenduzi, is quoted to have said in a local media. He is the man behind the rehabilitation works, which started about six months ago.

St. Joseph’s College Layibi, where a shs.300 million ($84000 dollars) swimming pool has been specially constructed for the games, and Sacred Heart Girls’ School, are the two other venues where the sportsmen and women will reside during the championship.

“People can now run on the track. We are left with lining the lanes where athletes will run”, says retired FIFA referee, Mr. Dennis Ojwee, who is the technical advisor to the committee rehabilitating the stadium on Tuesday August 15, 2017.

Mr. Ojwee says the main disciplines which will take place at the stadium are only athletics. Other disciplines will be held elsewhere in schools and other public places within the municipality.

Gulu, which is a cosmopolitan town, has a population of 152,276 people, according to the 2014 Census report. People speak mostly the local Luo dialect, English, Luganda and Kiswahili languages.

The name “Gulu” comes from a luo name for a “pot”, a reference to Gulu’s location in the depression of pre-historic floodplain.

Acholi cultural leader, Rwot David Onen-Acana II visited the site where rehabilitation work was going on, on Thursday August 10, 2017 and praised the local community for donating generously towards the rehabilitation of the stadium.

He says such unity should be replicated to other developmental works in the region on self-help basis instead of relying on government, which is not reliable at all times.

“This is a good sign of development. If we come together, we can make things work. Let this good gesture not end with the rehabilitation of Pece stadium alone. This is how we shall chase away poverty from the community”, says Rwot Acana.

President Yoweri Museveni must have read what Lord Macaulay told the British Parliamentarians in 1835 that if you destroy Acholi culture and their self esteem then “they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation”

Just give ten more years of peace in Acholi, and then the region will look quite different from the time when rebellion ended ten years ago.

Their lost glory will be fully restored.

 

 

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UGANDAN THREATENS TO TAKE GOVERNMENT TO THE PERMANENT COURTS OF ARBITRATION (PCA) OVER LAND

Below: Acholi Prime Minister, Mr. Ambrose Olaa

AMBROSE OLAA“We are advising the government to refrain from the current activities on land matters. If this message is ignored, we shall not hesitate to refer the case to the International Arbitration Courts of Justice (Permanent Courts of Arbitration) and we will line up lawyers to prosecute the case”

“This is the opportunist position of government over Acholi land. They have understood the vulnerability, disunity and weakness in leadership in Acholi and are taking advantage of that to grab customary land. Give yourself fifty years from now; there will be no more customary land to talk of”

GULU-UGANDA: There is no love between the government of Dictator General Yoweri Museveni and members of the Acholi community on the way government is handling land matters. This is especially on how government is appropriating customary land system which is widely practiced in the region and turning it to public land.

One such voice is a Ugandan living in the United Kingdom, Colonel Wilson Owiny-Omoya, who has threatened to take government to the Permanent Courts of Arbitration (PCA) if government does not stop its illegal activities on Acholi land.

PCA is an International organization located in The Hague in the Netherlands which provides arbitral tribunals to resolve disputes between member states, international organizations or private parties arising out of international agreements.

“We are advising the government to refrain from the current activities on land matters. If this message is ignored, we shall not hesitate to refer the case to the International Arbitration Courts of Justice (Permanent Courts of Arbitration) and we will line up lawyers to prosecute the case”, Colonel Omoya.

Colonel Omoya wrote this advice to the Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda on Monday, August 7, 2017.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Ker Kwaro Acholi, one of the cultural institutions in northern Uganda, Mr. Ambrose Olaa, has said that government is downgrading customary land tenure system instead of putting it at par with other tenure systems like leaseholds as enshrined in the constitution because it wants to grab customary land.

Mr. Olaa, says whenever an investor buys large swaths of customary land from individual land owners in Acholi, government gives leasehold title certificates instead of customary land titles certificates. This will turn such land from customary to public land, which will be vested in the hands of government after such lease expires.

“This is the opportunist position of government over Acholi land. They have understood the vulnerability, disunity and weakness in leadership in Acholi and are taking advantage of that to grab customary land. Give yourself fifty years from now; there will be no more customary land to talk of”, says Mr. Olaa.

On Tuesday, August 1, 2017, Mr. Olaa called Uganda’s minister of Lands, Ms. Betty Amongi’s, statement attributed to her in the media that the government will use force to survey a contested 10000 hectares piece of land in Amuru district for sugar cane project as “unfortunate, uncivil, reckless and a typical sign of unchartered arrogance”.

Government is set to go to Amuru district, accompanied by police and army personnel, to forcefully survey the contested land on Thursday, August 10, 2017 to give way for sugar cane plantation but is meeting resistance from both the local community and leaders in Acholi.

“We believe the issue should have not reached a level to threaten unleashing security forces. Such statements only create situations where violence would beget violence. We believe opportunities for dialogue were still open after all the land would still be there”, says Mr. Olaa.

On May 18, 2017, Mr. Olaa appeared before the Commission of Inquiry into Land matters in Uganda on behalf of Acholi Kingdom in which he stated that the Acholi viewed land as “a common good, a priceless commodity upon which every Acholi could access and use for the purpose of life’s sustenance”.

The Commission of Inquiry is headed by Lady Justice Catherine Bamugumereire and is mandated to travel throughout the country to investigate the rampant land conflicts and make recommendation to government how to resolve them.

“The great historical, philosophical understanding of Acholi societal construction places land as one of its central elements that are bounded together with people in a divine relationship. Land is therefore considered as sacred and its desecration has serious consequences”, warns Olaa.

Acholi sub-region encompasses about 28,500 square kilometers of land with a total population of over 1.8 million people. Most of the people lived in concentration camps (baptized as Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camp for the better part of President Yoweri Museveni’s administration.  They returned to their villages after cessation of hostilities between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group in 2007. Northern Uganda’s vast, rich, and fertile land is the envy of other nationals and foreigners alike.

All the above concerns came despite the fact that Acholi Paramount King; Rwot David Onen-Acana II met Uganda’s Prime Minister on April 10, 2017 and put matters which are intricate and deeply held by the people of Acholi which may “affect relationship with government”.

He lists appropriation of land in Acholi, security and respect of Acholi boundaries, the confused implementation of the land law and land policy, the issue of delayed cattle compensation, the problem of wildlife and the influx of South Sudanese refugees as some of the things which may affect relationship with government.

 

 

UGANDA: WHERE CHRISTIANS RESORT TO PRAYERS TO CURE MENTAL ILLNESS AS SUICIDE CASES ARE ON THE RISE

 

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A mentally sick woman in Koch Goma, in the foreground, during prayers to heal the sub-county of suicide tendencies. 

“We are declaring freedom from death, violence, poverty, adultery, idolatry, sorcery , hatred and jealousy”

“Koch Goma is burning (on fire) because the devil has laid his foundation here. You can even witness for yourselves; very few people have turned up for this very important prayer yet they were mobilized for it”

“Suicide tendencies are not recent developments in the region. It was recorded sometimes back in 1935, which was caused by depression, post traumatic disorder and some are inherited from genes”

NWOYA-UGANDA: “We are not here to try to pray. Prayer is the only solution to premature deaths due to suicide cases in Koch Goma. We are declaring a day of Freedom. The land of Koch Goma is blessed from now onwards. We are declaring freedom from death, violence, poverty, adultery, idolatry, sorcery, hatred and jealousy” declares Pastor Patrick Okecha on Friday July 28, 2017.

Pastor Okecha is the chairman of the Gulu based “Born Again Faith Federation”. This is the social harm (Community Based Organization ‘CBO’) of the Pentecostal Churches of Uganda, which is operating in Koch Goma sub-county in Nwoya district to address community needs.

The Community Based Organization (CBO) has been conducting a research on suicide cases and premature death which are on the increase in Koch Goma sub-county. The CBO recommended that prayers for healing be conducted in all the nine villages in Koch Goma; and July 28 was just the launch of their initiative.

Local media report indicates that at least 21 people have died in Koch Goma as a result of suicide alone this year (2017).

According to the Sub-county Local Council III chairman, Mr. John Bosco Okullu, Koch Goma needs God’s favor through conducting prayers in order to save it from the devil’s claws.

“Koch Goma is burning [on fire] because the devil has laid his foundation here. You can even witness this for yourselves; very few people have turned up for this very important prayer yet they were mobilized for it”, laments the chairman.

Suicide is defined as a deliberate act of killing oneself while attempted suicide is an act of injuring oneself with intention to die.

Committing suicide is an offense under Uganda Penal Code act, section 210. The offense is referred to as misdemeanor, and if convicted, it is punishable by five years jail sentence.

Dr. Henry Oboke of Gulu University Medical School conducted a research in 2014 in Koro and Lakwana sub-counties in Omoro district in northern Uganda to find the leading cause of suicide.

He found out that the reasons why one commits suicide is complex, but it includes conflicts-the over 20 year Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) war, losses, shame, illness and hardships. Beneath the act is lack of problem solving skills, impulsivity, drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness, among others.

“Suicide tendencies are not recent developments in the region. It was recorded sometimes back in 1935, which was caused by depression, post traumatic disorder and some are inherited from genes”, says Dr. Oboke.

Is suicide curable or preventable?

According to Dr. Oboke, prayers alone cannot stop suicide tendencies if it has elements of mental illness and therefore has no cure but can be controlled through medications and psycho-social support.

“If the depression is not so deep and the patient agrees to put all the problems depressing him before God, then prayers can work; but you need medication and counseling to redress the problem”, says Dr. Oboke.

According to records of Mental Health Unit of Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, between 700 and 900 patients with mental problems visit the unit on a monthly basis. However one hardly gets cases of attempted suicide reporting since they fear that police will arrest them.

According to Dr. Oboke, suicide in Koro and Lakwana has been controlled because they trained Village Helpers (VH) and Health Workers (HW) and deployed them in every parish whose main task is to identify families whose members are likely to commit suicide and give them psycho- socio support.