How the people of Odek are remembering the past and honoring their loved ones

A sign for Odek Primary School in Gulu District.

A sign for Odek Primary School in Gulu District.

Memory refers to the processes that are used to acquire, store, retain and later retrieve information. It is also the process of creating meaning over the past events. In lay man’s term I can say that ‘making the past becoming part of me i.e. looking at the past conflict events positively’. Memorialisation is honoring the lives of people or events by preserving memories which is one of the key parts of transitional justice that is vital for promoting recognition and acknowledgement of past violations of human rights and also bringing healing, reconciliation to those whose rights were violated.

Odek is a sub-county located in the eastern direction of Gulu District in northern Uganda near to the border between Lango and Acholi that was also severely affected by the two decade war. It is also the birth place of the LRA leader Joseph Kony the LRA leader. This is one area that also experienced two remarkable massacres that were perpetrated by both government soldiers and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Last year, JRP documented the experiences of the community in its field note, “Forgotten Victims”.

For long, the people of Odek have spoken about wanting to honor their loved ones who were massacred during the conflict. This year, with support from USAID-SAFE, the Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP) is working with Odek as one of seven northern Ugandan communities that will be supported to implement a memory project.

To do this a Community Reconciliation (CORE) team, a team of five people that were selected to represent Odek community from the Kica Ber (forgiveness is good) group, were trained on various topics and among which was Memory and Memorialization. During the training, the team went through a process to come out with what their ideal memory project would be, which they chose as the construction of a monument.

During our recent monitoring and support visit, the chairman Local Counselor (LC) III of Odek said: ‘For long the community of Odek has desired to have a monument constructed here and at last we are going to have one. I am very grateful to JRP for their interventions here in Odek. The first one was the documentation of the Odek massacres that created awareness to other groups like the ICC [which] has now visited Odek to seek our opinion on Dominic Ongwen’s case.’

JRP will continue to work with Odek as part of the project ‘Across Ethnic Boundaries: Promoting Regional Reconciliation in Acholi and Lango Sub-Regions’ which aims to promote conflict memory and promote reconciliation at community and regional level through community and public dialogues as well as training on transitional justice. Other communities JRP is working with are Lukodi, Burcoro, Atiak, Parabongo, Abia and Barlonyo.