Uganda: Human rights violations by the National Resistance Army

December 3, 1991

Uganda: Human rights violations by the National Resistance Army

In June 1990 allegations were made that funds belonging to Kitgum High School Parent and Teachers Association and to the District were being embezzled by senior officials who had previously belonged to the UPC. Amnesty International is concerned that a power struggle for control of Kitgum RC V and the pursuit of these allegations of embezzlement may be the real reasons behind the arrest of Maurice Lagol, the District Education Officer, Hannington Opira, a businessman and RC V member, Philip Odwong, the headmaster of Guillio Pastore Primary School and an RC V member, John Ocira, the Chairman of Kitgum High School Parent Teachers Association and an RC V member, Penyamoi Ojara, Secretary to Kitgum RC V and Chairman of the Resistance Committee's Finance Sub-Committee, G.B. Ocan Acaa Lamola, a district tax officer and Chairman of Kitgum Town Central Ward Resistance Committee One (RC I), and James Olobo, a member of Kitgum town Resistance Committee Three (RC III). Those arrested include sympathizers of both the DP and the UPC. The majority had been involved in exposing and investigating the allegations of corruption.

Another Kitgum citizen, Tiberio Atwoma Okeny, the leader of a minor political group, the National Liberal Party, was charged with treason on 7 May 1991. He is reported to have been detained on 28 March 1991 by NRA soldiers at Puranga on the road between Kitgum and Lira. No official announcement was made about the reasons for his detention, although it was initially reported that the army was preparing a case against him for defaming the NRA. On 13 March 1991 Tiberio Atwoma Okeny had alleged that there was a deliberate policy of spreading Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the north through homosexual rape by NRA soldiers. His statement followed press reports making similar allegations. Tiberio Atwoma Okeny, who is thought to be in his late 60s, is an outspoken political figure from Kitgum District, frequently critical of both the Uganda government and the rebels. He has been a prominent proponent of peace in northern Uganda since 1986 and has been involved in efforts to mediate between rebels and the government. Tiberio Atwoma Okeny has often spoken out concerning alleged human rights abuses by both the NRA and rebels and is known to have been unpopular with government officials and threatened by some. Amnesty International is concerned that the real reason for his arrest is his outspoken criticism of the conduct of the NRA in northern Uganda, particularly his recent allegation about homosexual rape.

3.3 Other Northern Leaders

Three senior members of the Democratic Party (DP), two of them members of parliament, were among the accused who appeared in court on 7 May. Andrew Adimola, a veteran Ugandan politician, is the DP's Vice-Chairman. Zachary Olum is the DP's National Organising Secretary and NRC member for Nwoya County in Gulu District.(2) Irene Apiu Julu is Kitgum District's women's representative in the NRC. Perhaps the most prominent politician among those charged is Daniel Omara Atubo, who at the time of his arrest was the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and National Resistance Council (NRC) member for Otuke County in Lira District. The only one of the 18 from Apac District was R.T. Odur, the officer in command of Loro civil prison in the district. It is believed he was arrested in early April.

Andrew Adimola, who is in his late 60s, was arrested on 14 April in Gulu and held in Gulu military barracks. On 4 May he was released by the army in Gulu, which suggests that the grounds for his arrest were not known locally, but before he could leave the barracks he was re-arrested. On 6 May he too was moved to Lira. Andrew Adimola was eventually released on bail because of his poor health on 24 June. Daniel Omara Atubo, Zachary Olum and Irene Apiu Julu were arrested on 15 April 1991 in Kampala, the day after they had attended a meeting of northern politicians, which expressed serious concerns about the conduct of troops in northern Uganda. They were then flown to Lira in northern Uganda where they were kept in unlawful military custody for three weeks before being returned to Kampala to be charged.