By Andrew Irumba
Kasese: The government of Uganda has started rehabilitating hundreds of people who defected from Islamic rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), by equipping them with skills that can help them survive in the new environment..
Under this rehabilitation project, the former ADF fighters and abductees are subjected to counseling, psychotherapy and other forms of rehabilitation, such that they can transform from being the rebels they were into becoming normal Ugandans.
Sakatoa Kamwakogera, the chief mobilizer of the ex-ADF rebel abductees western Uganda revealed that the group, which has been granted amnesty, includes people who have witnessed violent actions like killings, rape, among others, and are in dire need of psychosocial integration to create a peace of mind in them.
The government is doing this exercise together with the Amnesty Commission, whereby they are providing psychotherapy lessons for former fighters of the Allied Democratic Forces –ADF, on top of equipping them with interpersonal skills. The lessons, taking place in Nyabirongo II, Kisinga Town Council are part of the process for the reintegration of former abductees and fighters in the community.
According to Sakatoa, Kisinga Sub County has over 200 ex-ADF rebels, most of who ended up in war through abduction. He stressed that the Amnesty Commission and the Ministry of Internal Affairs are also working together to train the ex-ADF rebel abductees’ in craft making and tailoring, to help them earn a living. Kule Zephanus, a resident of Kighuthu village in Kisinga Sub County who was abducted and taken to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1986, narrated that most of the people that were abducted got killed, others died of hunger and diseases. He says the experience was traumatizing for many of them who lived to tell the story. Kule, however, said some of their colleagues have remained traumatized owing to the evils that were committed under their watch. He added that most of the returnees do not have skills since some spent most of their crucial time in the jungles.
Msgr Thomas Kisembo, the amnesty commissioner in charge of western region challenged the ex-rebels to create peace within themselves, their neighbours and in the region. He said that without peace development is a myth. Kisembo also stressed the need for reconciliation because it is the human that man will one time hurt the other. Henry Basaliza, the demobilization and resettlement leader said that the victims have been called rebels basing on their looks, the way they speak, adding that it’s one thing they would like to erase from the minds of the people if they are properly rehabilitated. ADF is a rebel group that was initially led by Jamil Mukulu, who is currently jailed in Luzira, after being arrested in Tanzania three years back.
Kasese district, the former base of the Allied Democratic Forces has remained a volatile district despite a number of decades since the ADF were flushed out of Uganda. This unending violence has been partially attributed to the lack of rehabilitation programs to de-conflict the minds of veterans from various military groups in the area. Just a few years back, there were clashes between the UPDF and Omusinga Wesley Mumbere’s royal guards which left hundreds of people dead and others jailed. To date, the Omusinga is still under house arrest and was banned by government from ever stepping foot in Kasese again.