Museveni’s NRA raped Acholi men in revenge

By Timothy Nsubuga

27th Sept 2010

File photo, NRA soldiers listen to Museveni in 1986

Powerful and heartbreaking allegations and testimonies by a number of human rights activists and ordinary people from northern Uganda suggest that Yoweri Museveni’s NRA soldiers gang-raped Acholi men soon after they captured power in 1986.

The allegations, seen by Uganda Correspondent, are contained in an award winning 2008 documentary film called “Gender Against Men” that was shot by the Refugee Law Project based at Makerere University-Kampala.

The commentary, done by someone with a feminine sounding voice, says in the affirmative that, “…Acholi soldiers were largely blamed for atrocities committed in central Uganda while fighting the rebel insurgency of President Yoweri Museveni.  In northern Uganda, after Museveni’s National Resistance Army took power in 1986, some of his soldiers sought revenge by using sexual violence against Acholi men”.

The NRA’s revenge rape against Acholi men for crimes that Acholi soldiers allegedly committed in “Luwero Triangle” and other parts of central Uganda were not one off isolated incidents either.  According to the documentary, “…it was widespread enough that the Acholi invented a new vocabulary to describe this new [NRA] tactic”.

The Acholi, the documentary said, described the rape of men as “tek gungu”. The explanatory subtitles in that specific part of the documentary translated “tek gungu” to literally mean “the way which is hard to bend”.

A displaced Acholi man who fled the war in northern Uganda and now lives at “Acholi Quarters” in Banda-a Kampala suburb, however told Uganda Correspondent that the term “tek gungu” was coined by raped Acholi men as a way of “…expressing the pain of having to bend over to be raped by another man”. Otherwise, he said, if literally translated, it means “bending or kneeling is hard”.

In the same documentary, Dr. Chris Dolan of the Refugee Law Project that shot it said “…there was one particularly notorious Battalion, I think Battalion 118 that was based in Gulu District for a period of five years and was well known for deliberately going out and raping men and it had become very notorious as a result”.

Commenting on the rape of Acholi men by NRA [now UPDF] soldiers, Mrs Rosalba Oywa from an organisation called “People’s Voices for Peace” said, “…we don’t know why they did that but the interpretation was that it was to show these people that they have totally conquered them so that they were now able to sleep with their wives, their daughters, including they themselves and that is something that has caused a lot of grievances”.

Mrs Oywa further added that, “…up to date, people have not been very happy about that type of thing that happened to them.  The fact that men were also homosexually assaulted is well documented by other independent human rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.  But the government itself has not come out to acknowledge or to say sorry about it”.

One report from a human rights organisation that Uganda Correspondent has seen seems to corroborate the claims made by both Dr. Chris Dolan and M/s Rosalba Oywa of “People’s Voices for Peace”.  It specifically says “…the mobile NRA who were in the 118 battalion in Olwal camp were raping both men and women alike.  An old woman of sixty years was also raped”.

Our request for comment from the government was unanswered by the time we went to press.  However, a retired ex-NRA commander who spoke to Uganda Correspondent on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the army said indiscipline in conditions of war was not unique to the NRA.

“…You will find cases of indiscipline in most conflict zones.  Recently, we saw what American soldiers did to Iraqi civilians in Abu Ghraib.  So it’s not unique to NRA.  The important thing is that those who commit such crimes are punished and I believe the NRA soldiers in question were punished”, said the ex-NRA officer.  END.  If it’s Monday, it’s Uganda Correspondent.  Never miss out again!

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