KAMPALA, Uganda — More than 5,000 people whose lips and ears were cut off by rebels waging a more than 20-year insurgency in northern Uganda will receive compensation from the government, a presidential adviser said Thursday.
Victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army already have begun signing up with the government, Richard Todwong told The Associated Press.
Alice Awuma said she was grabbed by LRA rebels after trying to flee when they attacked her village about 350 kilometres north of Kampala in December 2002.
They accused her of telling government troops about rebel sightings in the area two days earlier.
“I was made to sit on the ground with other women as my husband and several other men were beaten to death by rebels using axes,” she recalled. “They cut off our lips saying that they were punishing our mouths which reported them.”
Todwong could not specify when compensation payments would start being distributed to victims like Awuma, but he said that funds are now available.
“So far 5,000 have been registered but we expect many more,” Todwong said. “Some of those reporting for registration have wounds that have not yet got completely healed. We send such people to hospitals for treatment.”
Todwong said that 2,250 people with no lips, 2,600 without ears and 150 with neither ears nor lips have registered so far. He said that 3,000 of the victims are women, 1,650 are men and 350 are children.
The LRA has been waging one of Africa’s longest and most brutal rebellions, and its leaders are the subject of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant. Human rights groups say the rebels also have attacked civilians in Congo, Central African Republic and Sudan.
Human Rights Watch said in a report over the weekend that the Lord’s Resistance Army rampaged through at least 10 villages in Congo late last year, hacking people to death with machetes. The report said children abducted by the rebels were even forced to execute other children.
LRA official David Matsanga said Monday that there are no LRA rebels in Congo and blamed the massacres on Ugandan troops. A Ugandan army spokesman denied that allegation.
The 2009 massacre was only the most recent of a pattern of atrocities, human rights groups say. The rebels are also blamed for killing at least 865 civilians around Christmas 2008, according to Human Rights Watch.