Julius Okwera: A Survivor’s journey through pain, despair and hope!
There is nothing more powerful in life than a resilient human spirit and resolve. Mzee Julius Okwera’s story demonstrates why. Okwera a male survivor of rape from Northern Uganda was a victim of the infamous “tek-gungu” or “bend over” a term used by the locals in northern Uganda to describe the rape of men by some soldiers of the then National Resistance Army (NRA), current Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) in the early 1990s. Okwera is one of the many victims/survivors supported by the Refugee Law Project (RLP), under its Conflict, Transitional Justice & Governance (CTJG) programme.
The CTJG programme aims to facilitate individual and community repair and social healing through a range of interventions including provision of medical and psychosocial support initiatives.
When the NRA captured the northern based districts of Gulu and Kitgum following the overthrow of the then Miitary Junta of Tito Okello Lutwa, some of its soldiers orchestrated a retributive campaign targeting families and former soldiers of the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) majority of whom hailed from Northern Uganda and in particular Acholi sub-region. Several other rebel groups emerged in the sub-region including the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM) led by Alice Lakwena and later the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) under Joseph Kony. Other rebel groups equally sprang up in Teso and West Nile sub-regions to defend their people and repel the NRA invasion. Civilians living in northern Uganda were presumed to be supporting the rebels and became subject of routine attacks and violations, the rebel group’s equally targeted civilians for allegedly cooperating with government forces. One morning in April 1987, the LRA fighters camped at Julius Okwera’s homestead against his will. When the government forces, the NRA learnt of this, life was never to be the same again for Okwera’s family. This story recounts Okwera painful but hopeful odyssey.