Remembering the Obalanga Massacre

 

The massacre at Obalanga on 15th June 2003 marked the beginning of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) invasion into the Teso sub region of Uganda. The rebels attacked the trading centre, where they killed 300 people and forced the rest of the civilian population to flee.

The Teso sub-region is in Eastern Uganda, and is home to the Iteso people. Until June 2003, the LRA had been active in Acholiland and Lango sub region, which is the buffer between Acholiland and Teso. The Ugandan army – the UPDF – where busy battling the LRA in Acholiland, during Operation Iron Fist, and had not expected the LRA to target Teso.

But the rebels did target Teso, attacking Amuria district through Lira district. There had been a steady stream of civilians fleeing from Lango entered into Teso, with the LRA in pursuit. The incursion began with the parish of Alito, 20 miles from Obalanga. Here, the villagers fled from the rebels, heading to the trading centre at Obalanga. It would be another two weeks before the LRA began attacking civilians.

Obalanga was protected by on 30 members of the Anti Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) who were there to protect against cattle rustling from neighbouring Karamoja, and six policemen. They were overpowered by the rebels, who killed two of the policeman. The rebels then burnt over hundred thatched houses and 15 shops. They looted the local health centre, taking the drugs stocked there. Three hundred civilians were killed, and several more abducted.

There is now a mass grave at Obalanga where the victims of the massacre are buried.   Each year, there are memorial prayers held by Teso leaders to commemorate the victims of this massacre.

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