Post-Conflict Recovery Still a Dream for Some Gulu Residents

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Recovery from more than 20 years of war and upheaval is a hard process for many communities in Northern Uganda. In Koro Sub-County in Gulu district residents say that four years after the fighting stopped, they are still struggling to survive. At the height of the war in the late 1990s and early 2002s, Lacen Odinga village in Lapainat Parish, Koro, was base for the Lord's Resistance Army. The rebels regularly looted neighboring parishes, abducted children and killed anyone who refused to collaborate. In 2003 the UPDF moved in, gave the people of Koro 48 hours to leave their homes and moved them into a camp. Seven years later, the people of Lacen Odinga are living on a pittance. Constantino Okot, the area LC1 chairperson, says roads have never been prepared and the village has no water or medical services. He says the lack of basic amenities has made it extremely hard for people have returned home. Geoffrey Okello, the Lacen Odinga defense secretary, says the nearest health center is in Tetugo, several kilometers away. He says when one of the residents falls ill, there is no guarantee that they will receive treatment. During the rainy season, pupils of Lapiny Oloyo Primary School in Lacen Odinga have to cross over flooded rivers to get to school. There are makeshift bridges over the rivers, but they are prone to collapse in heavy rain. Ojara Oto, one of the residents, says the Gulu district authorities have abandoned Lacen Odinga. He accuses them of focusing on cheap politics instead of implementing simple strategies to develop Lapainat Parish. The Gulu secretary of works and technical services, Alex Otim, says the district needs 40 billion shillings to upgrade social services for returnees. He is confident that they money will be supplied through local revenue, conditional grants from the Central Government and the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan for Northern Uganda. Otim says the funds will be used to construct teachers' houses, drilling boreholes and construction of village roads. Ojara Oto says he isn't holding his breath to see this promise fulfilled. He says only time will tell if the district and government authorities are committed to developing Gulu. ###

 

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