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Remembering the Mukura Massacre of Eastern Uganda

In September 2014 I had an opportunity to be part of a team drawn from the larger great lakes region, that took part on an oral history journey from Kampala to Gulu, through Soroti. One of the stop-overs called Mukura in the larger Teso sub-region of eastern Uganda. It is an important historical site, not necessarily because of the beautiful landscape and welcoming people. No. Because of the massacre that happened there over two decades ago. We listened to tales and stories of how innocent people; peasant villagers fell in the hands of government soldiers – people sworn to protect them. They were to be rounded up, shoved in an empty train caravan (container) and suffocated to death. But a few survived to narrate the stories of anguish and painful deaths.

The fateful day was July 11, 1989, when the dreaded 106th battalion of the National Resistance Army (NRA)1 rounded up 300 men from Mukura and other surrounding areas and incarcerated some of them in train wagon number C521083. These men were suspected of being rebel collaborators against the NRA regime, but there is little evidence to suggest that most of them were anything other than innocent civilians. The NRA regime had just come to power about three years earlier through a bloody battle and the young regime was as scared of anything as it was brutal. Trapped in the crowded train wagon, trying not to trample on one another, the men struggled to breathe, and by the time they were released after more than four hours, 69 of them had suffocated to death, while 47 of them survived. I was lucky to meet some of them and we talked. It was painful. The struggle for memory, it is.

Twenty-two years on, nothing significant has been done to the people of Mukura. Apart from a memorial mass grave in which the dead were (re)buried, the construction of the Mukura Memorial Senior Secondary School and a building to host a public library in memory of those who lost their lives, nothing much has been done especially to the victims and survivors. In fact, the structure erected by the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF), the current “edition” of the same NRA that murdered the people in cold blood is largely sub-standard. By 2014 the structure was yet to be completed, leave alone equipped but yes, it already had numerous cracks with clear indications that it would come down before it got finished! The president of Uganda has in a number of occasions given several unfulfilled promises to the people of Mukura, most of which come around election period. Little has been done substantively to redress victims of one of Uganda’s most cruel murders of the people by the state.  in order to bring the concerns of victims to the attention of the Government and other stakeholders. I am yet to go back and see what if any progress has been made so far. But I choose to remember the victims and survivors of Mukura in the 22 years of pain and suffering.  Nothing as powerful as memory. The only other language that none can rob a victim. 

Remembering the Mukura Massacre of Eastern Uganda Remembering the Mukura Massacre of Eastern Uganda Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on July 12, 2016 Rating: 5

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