The memories of the Columbine High School shootings are still rich and painful in many of those who lived to hear about it or viewed it in person. It was on April 20, 1999, when 25 students were injured, twelve students’ lives were taken, one teacher was killed, and the two murderers, also students, took their own lives.
What many people do not realize, is that in 1995, only four years earlier, on the same day of April the 20th, there was a larger massacre in Atiak, Uganda. The Acholi people who were living there had been targeted by the group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Boys were being recruited for their army and girls were chosen as sex slaves to become “wives” to commanding officers.
Over 300 people were murdered on that day. The murders were ordered by Vincent Otti, a senior LRA commander who grew up in Atiak. He had 200-300 soldiers with him to put further fear into those who were there.
Men and boys were ordered to lay on the ground with their faces pushed into the dirt. Three rounds of open fire went out into those laying down. The people who were not ordered to lie on the ground, were forced to watch or they too would be killed. If any movement was noted after the shootings, a person would be stabbed or shot again to double check that they were dead. Vincent Otti asked the onlookers to applaud their work when they were finished, and that if they did not, they would be shot and killed.
Could you imagine watching your friends and family members being brutally killed as you’re forced to watch and then you are told to applaud their murderers? One woman who survived and watched a family member die, now says, “All of us live as if our bodies do not have souls.”
Beyond the murders, people were badly hurt and victimized in various ways. One woman was sent on trips to give food to the soldiers. When she would not obey commands they gave her, she was stabbed in her thigh and neck.
Dorms filled with students were raided as they were ordered to join the ranks, those who refused were killed.
Many of the buildings and homes in the area were burned down.
Why is this horrific scene never brought up in our own country?
An outcry of pain and suffering went out on that day, but who even talks about it?
What is worse about the instances in Uganda is that child victims were also forced to victimize others and may never have been able to escape, and the cycle continues on to this day. How many more years will people in Uganda and those who meet face to face with the LRA suffer in this way?
Read the book Child, Victim, Soldier: The Loss of Innocence in Uganda to learn more about the history of the LRA. One way to spread awareness and help, is to check out Red Hand Day.
Here’s a photo of children of Atiak today in a school and survivors of the massacre below that. Perhaps these are the survivors’ children. May they never endure suffering as their parents have.