By Ronald Odongo
The Lord’s Resistance Army rebels raided Barlonyo village on 21st February 2004, 18 kilometers, East of Lira District, the current Agweng Sub County and massacred over 300 people who were staying in the then Internally Displaced Persons’ Camp.
The attack that had targeted both the civilians, UPDF soldiers and Amuka Auxiliary force who were tasked to guard the former IDP Camp was described as one of the most notorious and heartless incident conducted by the defeated LRA in Northern Uganda.
Since the incident, those who lost their relatives in partnership with the local leaders including Lira district local government have been conducting annual memorial prayer at this site to commemorate the day.
Yesterday, marked 18 years since the incident took place but we digest what became of the war memorial site following the long defeat of the LRA rebels by the government of Uganda.
Prime Minister Robinah Nabanja represented President Yoweri Museveni during this year’s memorial prayer at Barlonyo Massacre site.
”I am in Lira, representing HE Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for the 18th memorial service for the victims of Barlonyo Massacre that was perpetrated by LRA rebels of Joseph Kony in 2004. We thank the UPDF, which together with people, defeated the LRA& restored peace in the region,” Prime Minister said.
It should be noted that President Museveni presided over the burial of those massacred in the approximately 200 meter long mass grave in 2004.
During this funeral, President Museveni pledged on behalf government to transform the memorial site and turn it into a commercial hub to eradicate poverty among people.
Government has since constructed a first class marram road stretching from the Lira-Pader-Kitgum Highway measuring about some 10 kilometers.
At the memorial site, government has also built Barlonyo Memorial Vocational and Technical Institute to empower children of the poor to acquire life skills and maximize wealth.
The government through other development agencies have been able to established various learning facilities within the memorial site, built different water sources including boreholes and solar powered facilities.
Kaguta bridge that connects Lira district to Pader, Otuke and Alebtong districts on River Moroto has also been built by the government, courtesy of Presidential pledge by President Museveni.
Despite government commitment to deliver various infrastructural facilities within area, President Yoweri Museveni few years ago directed that local residents of the place should be fully empowered economically to recruit them into the money economy group.
Following his directive, several residents living at the site have been massively supported in agricultural sector by Wealth Creation and other development agencies.
With the help of the prevailing peace and stability, Barlonyo memorial site has been turned in a viable commercial hub within the region with several retail and wholesale shops established.
Moses Ogwang, a local leader within the area says several residents have ventured into private businesses including restaurants and bars, schools and medical facilities turning the place into a prominent business center.
He notes that churches and other related religious activities have also remained booming in the area following the peace restoration.
Government in partnership with Tekwaro Lango- (Lango Cultural Institution) have also kick started the process to turn the Memorial site into a tourism facility.
In 2012,Tekwaro Lango hatched a proposal in conjunction with the United Nation Education, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) to establish proper artistic impressions detailing the brutality caused by the rebels but it failed.
The Memorial site once housed more than 11,000 residents during the insurgency in the early 2000.