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Teso War Claimants Speak Out on the Cost of Chasing for Compensation

Omukat joined the group that dragged the government to court in 2010 over the losses incurred during turbulent times in Teso. But they are yet to receive compensation despite incurring more costs in the pursuit of justice. He says that on average, he has spent more than five million Shillings.
Mzee Imodot and other claimants in court.

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Pius Omukat lost 48 head of cattle, 20 goats and several other properties in 1987. Omukat, 67, a resident of Kamuge Village in Pallisa District, is among the 200,500 people under Teso War Victims and Cattle Rustling Debt Claimants’ Association seeking compensation from government over the property lost during insurgency.

Omukat joined the group that dragged the government to court in 2010 over the losses incurred during turbulent times in Teso. But they are yet to receive compensation despite incurring more costs in the pursuit of justice. He says that on average, he has spent more than five million Shillings.

“The Court case started in Kampala where I travelled thrice before the matter was brought to Soroti High Court. At the time, I would spend on average, 100,000 Shillings on every trip to Kampala. In Soroti, I spend at least 60,000 Shillings every time I travel from Pallisa for the hearing,” he says.

In the process, Omukat has failed to educate his eight children whom he says were affected by his several trips to Soroti over the compensation case in court. He says that even the food production to sustain his family was affected as he spent a lot of his time on the road.

“I would sell part of the food meant for domestic use to raise money for transport to Soroti. My family suffered hunger and deficiency for basic needs”, he continued. At the moment, Omukat says he has nothing much to rely on except to bank his hopes in the compensation funds to re- establish his home.

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Vivian Anino, a widow from Ogongora Village, in Amuria District has just joined the group of elders seeking compensation from government. Anino was not involved in the matter until last year, when she lost her husband, Michael Ebolu, who was registered by Teso Animals and Property Compensation Organization- TAPCO.

Ebolu's name is among the 33,664 claimants currently being validated by government for compensation. He lost 24 heads of cattle, 16 goats and five sheep to the Karimojong rustlers in 1988. But the widow had to plead with the in- law, who just married her daughter for 300,000 Shillings to enable Anino to meet the costs of securing letters of administration from the court and place an advert in the local newspaper- Aicerit, the weekly paper in Teso.

Such is the agony of several other people seeking compensation for the lives and property lost between the 1980s' to 2003 when Teso suffered loss at the hands of the rebels, government soldiers and

Karimojong cattle rustlers. Some of the elders have been to court for almost 20 years, a period that has seen many die before realizing any gains from their effort.

There are more than 300,000 people who ran to court in five different cases against the Attorney General seeking compensation. They include Okupa & Others, Ochen Julius & 200,500 Others, Geresom Eotu & Others, and Imodot & Others. In all these cases, the government was either compelled to take responsibility by court or just admitted through an out of court settlement. But the claimants continue to spend resources in pursuit for the compensation.

Besides other costs, each member of the Teso War Victims and Cattle Rustling Debt Claimants’ Association is paying cumulative cost of 168,000 Shillings to meet operations, legal fees and administrative costs incurred in following up the matter in court. Julius Ocen, their leader says that the figure was arrived at by members at the initial stages of litigation.

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At the moment, even the local authorities like the village chairpersons have taken the advantage to extort money from the desperate claimants in order to serve them with documents to enable government validate them.

Alfred Elalu Edakasi, the MP Kaberamaido County recently told the Deputy Attorney General, Jackson Kafuuzi that village chairpersons in his area were charging up to 70,000 Shillings for a stamp to recommend claimants for compensation.

Ngora Woman MP Stella Isodo also reiterated similar incidents in Ngora district. She said that in her constituency, a claimant is charged up to 200,000 Shillings for the stamp. The Office of the Attorney General is currently validating a list of 33,664 claimants in the first phase of compensation expected to commence this month. Government has allocated 50 billion shillings to Teso for compensation.