Soroti, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Amidst the glimmer of hope and unwavering determination, the Teso war victims continue to resolutely fight for their rights to property ownership and protection. Since 2006, these claimants have been seeking justice through the legal system, sacrificing their hard-earned resources for transportation, meals, accommodation, and legal expenses.
Despite their physical challenges, with some relying on walking sticks, crutches, or wheelchairs, these war victims faithfully appear at the Soroti High Court circuit for nearly 15 years whenever their case is scheduled. The group comprises mostly elderly individuals with gray hair, totaling over 205,000 people, united in their pursuit of compensation for livestock, property, and lives lost during the insurgency in the Teso sub-region between 1986 and 2009.
The case before the Soroti High Court has dragged on for over 15 years without a conclusion. The Uganda government has faced accusations of failing in its duty to protect its citizens and their property during the period from 1986 to 2009. Among the enduring voices is Muzee Papras Imodot Edimu, 85 years old and the former Iteso Paramount Chief, who represents the collective struggle of the 205,000 individuals still battling in court for justice over their lost livestock, property, and lives in Teso. Under the jurisdiction of Justice Henry Adongo, the case has entered its hearing stage.
On May 25, 2023, the government presented two witnesses, who failed to provide the necessary court-requested documents and were instructed to retrieve them from Kampala for the next session. Justice Adongo tasked Paul Musale, 56 years old and the Under Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, to return to court on June 8, 2023, with the required documents, including a comprehensive list of all verified war claimants in Teso, the total number of claimants who have received government payments, and the amount disbursed to them.
Musale informed the court that a total of 33,664 members from the Teso Animals and Property Company (TAPCO) group were verified in 2016 and have started receiving payments. Each lost livestock was valued at UGX 1 million, and the beneficiaries will be compensated accordingly based on the number of animals lost. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni launched the payment and compensation exercise for war victims from Acholi, Lango, and Teso on March 26, 2022, at Soroti University.
The event, held in Soroti City, was attended by dignitaries such as Vice President Jessica Alupo, Speaker Anita Among, Cabinet Ministers, Acting Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Muruuli Wilson Mukasa, and Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka. On May 25, 2023, the courtroom overflowed with hundreds of claimants from different parts of Teso, attentively following the proceedings until the case was adjourned until June 1, 2023.
Papras Imodot Edimu, 85 years old, emphasized his determination to fight and ensure that the people of Teso receive their deserved compensation as citizens with the right to life, protection, and property ownership. He expressed disappointment in President Museveni’s unfulfilled promises of compensating the Teso people with cattle, particularly during times of political campaigns.
Patrick Okubu from Amuria district affirmed their commitment to pursuing the matter until justice is served, even at great personal expense to meet the costs associated with court appearances. Grace Atim, 56 years old from Kumi district, reflected on the significant financial toll she has incurred, unable to calculate the total amount spent on transportation and other court-related expenses.
Patrick Elobu Angonu, the media representative for Teso War Victims raised alarm over the high expenditure of the war victims especially, paying the legal team, transport, meals, and accommodation whenever they are called upon to appear before the court. The government was represented by the acting Principle State Attorney Eric Mukisa and Senior State Attorney, Diana Mudola. Two of the four witnesses lined up to defend the government have already testified.
The other two will appear during the next session on 1st June 2023. Richard Omongole of Omongole and Co. Advocates Ltd represented the Teso War victims and wishes that the case is concluded soon in the interest of his clients.