A section of elders from Acholi sub-region is seeking to meet President Yoweri Museveni in regard to mistakes committed by his National Resistance Movement (NRM/A).
Last month, Museveni, while presiding over a crusade organized by his daughter, Patience Rwabwogo Museveni said as NRM, they take full responsibility for all the mistakes that were made at various levels throughout the sub-region region.
“As the top leaders of the movement, we're here to take full responsibility for all the mistakes that were made at all various levels, forgive our failures, and the failures and mistakes of leaders we entrusted with various responsibilities throughout this sub-region,” Museveni told the congregation.
While addressing mourners at the reburial of Brig Gen Pierino Okoya in Gulu district last Friday, chief justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo Chigamoi commended the president for owning up to the mistakes made during his regime tenure. He says the president’s gesture is in sync with the Acholi traditional justice system where the head of a family takes responsibility for mistakes that are committed by children even when they might not have been ordered to commit them.
"Recently you were in Gulu, there was a crusade organized by one of our pastors in this country. You came out clear, there was no mistake, it was unmistakable, you came out and said, you apologized to the Acholi people for the mistakes that were done during your tenure in office. You have done many things, but one of the many things that I have given high moral ground is that statement coming out. You don't have to be culpable, you don't have to have done something yourself but if you're head of family it is in sync with our tradition and the Acholi justice system that the head of the family takes responsibility. Even when you have not sent your children to do the wrong, you take responsibility," Owiny-Dollo said.
Owiny-Dollo said against this background, Acholi leaders have asked him to lead them to the president to have a round table conversation on his remarks about forgiveness and owning up to past mistakes by the NRM government.
"Your excellency, I have been asked, and soon I will be bothering you to meet a team of Acholi elders who want to come and converse with you over that statement...I remember this is not the first time you have given this apology. I remember when I was state minister here and delegate here in 1980, we went to Amuru IDP and you said 'I'm so sorry to find you in this situation'. And you saw the response, you saw the response, you saw the applause," he said.
According to Owiny-Dollo, the time is ripe now for the country to have a honest conversation with one another and talk about peace building especially in the Acholi sub-region without any fight that would lead to further devastation.
"The time is now for us to speak to one another in this country. The time is now for us to talk peace, to converse. Here in the Acholi sub-region, it is this building, elsewhere you might be averting a possible problem but here it is peacebuilding. At a personal level, at a collective level because we're a tribal society. At the state level, let us speak to one another. Let us build this culture of sitting down and speaking. We don't have to fight for 20 years. The war Kony did here and then he invited me to go and meet him in Garamba. I sat with him for 6 hours. If we had spoken the week he went to the bush or soon thereafter, all this devastation here would not have taken place," added Owiny-Dollo.
Owiny-Dollo’s remarks came after some political and cultural leaders in the region lauded the president for taking a leap forward to fostering reconciliation and peace-building between the government and natives of the region. Pageya Clan Chief Rwot Yusuf Adek noted that while other past presidents notably Apollo Milton Obote, Yusuf Binaisa Lule, Idi Amin, Tito Luwa, and Godfery Lukongwa Binaisa all failed to honor Brig Okoya with a decent reburial except Museveni.
Rwot Adek said the region has been yearning for total healing from the heinous crimes committed against people in the region and noted that the president has started the process that will fully heal the region from its dark past. Museveni on Friday didn’t make a response to the request by the Acholi elders but said he had taken note of the information shared by Owiny-Dollo.
Commenting on Brig Okoya’s murder, Museveni said those who committed the assassination haven’t lived to succeed in life, arguing that most of them were punished. Museveni commended Okoya for his services to the country and described him as a person who had potential in life.
Okoya was accorded a state reburial with an 11-gun salute along with his wife Akello at their ancestral home in Bongo-tyet village in Palaro sub county, Gulu district, nearly 53 years after their gruesome murder.