BY ROBERT ATIKU

MARACHA : Victims of an aerial bombardment at Ojapi Primary school in Nacara Village, Tara sub county, Maracha district are demanding for compensation from the government.

The air raid attack at this school took place nearly thirty years ago on Friday 20th September 1991 at 11:45 am. Two Antonov planes, whose identities have since remained unknown, flew in from the Northern direction (then Uganda_Sudan border) and bombed the school, church and the neighborhood, causing serious damage. Intentions of this air raid have also remained a mystery to locals since then.

Victims speak out

The Chairperson of the Victims, whose leg was amputated as a result of injuries sustained in the attack, Mr. Debo Philliam Kamure said, “The matter has now lasted for so long. Since 1991 up to  date, we have been living in a state of agony due to the incapacitation caused by the bombardment. We got this incidence not  for any crime committed. Lives were lost. Those who are disabled (by the bombing) like me, we need support through provision of artificial limbs and walking sticks. We need rehabilitation of the school. Our school  library was destroyed, six staff houses were also destroyed with the components, including property of teachers. And then individual houses were also destroyed. So government should compensate those houses. The lost animals and even the  environment that was devastated needs to be compensated.”

Mr. Isaac Azabo whose leg was amputated due to the bombing shows the artificial limb at the Ojapi Primary school football ground. PHOTO BY ROBERT ATIKU

Mr. Micheal Afimani an eye witness said,” This incidence took us by surprise, where two war planes appeared and released some bomb blasts on the school compound. Two of the bombs landed on a hill near the school and then  three others landed on school premises. Charles Driwale, who was a P. 3 pupil that time, was killed on spot and Mrs Mary Jackson, who was a pregnant woman, also died on spot.”

L_R:Mr. Micheal Afimani an eye witness points at the scar of injuries which were suffered by Mr. Fred Adriko in the bombing. PHOTO BY ROBERT ATIKU.

Mr. Fred Adriko another victim said, “I got that accident. As per now, it’s hard for me to dig(do farming). If I dig, I feel a lot of back pain. And when I was in school, to participate in co_curricular activities like football and athletics was hard for me. In some months I feel back pain and in other months I feel okay. The government needs to give us support”

Previous compensation demands

In an earlier letter dated 10th October 2014, which was addressed to the office of the President, the victims under their umbrella Association,  “Ojapi Air Raid victims’ compensation and rehabilitation Association,” demanded for compensation and rehabilitation of the affected.

“Your Excellency, the group has decided to present this matter into your office, for the suffering, death of people, animals and destruction of properties as a result of this incident so as to compensate and rehabilitate the affected….. Life has become difficult for them due to the incapacitation caused by the bombardment.” the letter read in part.

In response, State house wrote to Office of Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs on 12th July 2016,asking them to manage the claims.

The letter which was signed by Maj. Edith Nakalema, who was then a Private Secretary in the Office of the President (now Col. Edith Nakalema, Head of State House Anti Corruption Unit) was copied to the victims.

“Our office has received the following compensation claims: Ojapi Air Raid Victims’ compensation and rehabilitation which was submitted by Debo Philliam Kamure of Maracha district. I am, therefore, forwarding the claims to you for further management.” the State House letter reads in part.

However, the victims said, they haven’t received any response from office of the Solicitor General, after State House forwarded the matter to them for further management, four years ago. The group later wrote a demand letter dated 10th December 2016 to the Office of Solicitor General regarding this compensation and rehabilitation claim.

“With reference to our claim letter of ‘Ojapi Air Raid Victims’ compensation and rehabilitation’, dated 10th October 2014, that we filed at State House Kampala, Uganda, we would wish to submit this letter of demand for the compensation claims, which State House forwarded to your office, for further management. We humbly submit this letter to remind your office that, since then, our complaint has not been taken into serious consideration.” the letter reads in part.

Government Responds

However, the government in February this year sent a team of staff from Chieftancy of Military Intelligence (CMI)  to interface with the victims, school administration and other local authorities, to find out facts on ground and make assessments in an effort that the CMI team claims will subsequently yield into compensation of the victims.

During the meeting with the victims, Col. Augustine Bwegendaho, the CMI team leader said they were on ground to authenticate reports already filed to the State at different levels so as to give guidance on how the victims can be compensated.

“We came to assess the extend of the damage that was caused by the Antonov air raid to Ojapi Primary school. We wanted to interact with the people who got injuries, we wanted to see the victims, if they are there. We wanted to see the school authorities and assess the kind of damage that was done. And after that, we report back to the government and the government will see how it will assist the victims. And of course government wanted to know other than getting reports here and there. Some of the reports may not be actual and as a team we came to see for our own selves what really actually happened.” Col Augustine explained.

Impact of attack

Mrs Mary Jackson (a pregnant woman)  died on spot

Charles Driwale then a P. 3 pupil died on spot

Mr. Debo Philliam Kamure’s (then a pupil)  leg was amputated.

Mr. Isaac Azabo’ s leg was amputated.

Other victims include :Mr. Willy Anguyo, Mr. Geoffrey Onemas, Mr. Fred Adriko, Mrs Miriam Avako, Mr. Toko Aluma (still living with a fragment).

*Death of Animals*

Mr. Charles Yosa lost four cows

Mr. Micheal Afimani lost fourteen sheep

Mr. Isaac Azabo lost four sheep

Mr. Solomon Apadra lost three sheep.

*Destruction of property of school, church and individuals*

Six staff houses were destroyed

One school library was destroyed

Four houses belonging to church Pastor were destroyed

One church block was also destroyed.

Four houses belonging to Jackson Sadaraka were destroyed

Two houses belonging to Justus Sadaraka were destroyed

Two houses belonging to Joel Otoma were destroyed.

There was also devastation of the environment and disruption of learning activities at the school. Many pupils dropped out of Ojapi primary school for good, due to the fear that such an attack may re-occure.

Close to thirty years after the attack, the victims are yet to receive compensation from the government. End