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Teso Claimants Disagree with AG on Compensation List

Two firms; Omongole & Co. Advocates and Kampala Associated Advocates (KAA) have presented varying lists basing on earlier orders and government consent with other parties in the compensation. The firms are challenging the authenticity of the list of 33,664 claimants and their legal representation in the matter.
Mzee Imodot, Lawyers and some claimants at Soroti Court Hall.

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A disagreement has emerged among lawyers representing war victims in Teso and the Attorney General’s Office over the list of claimants to be considered for compensation.

Two firms; Omongole & Co. Advocates and Kampala Associated Advocates (KAA) have presented varying lists basing on earlier orders and government consent with other parties in the compensation. The firms are challenging the authenticity of the list of 33,664 claimants and their legal representation in the matter.

The case stems from a suit filed in 2010 by one Geresom Eotu (now deceased), in a matter which was handled by Kampala Associated Advocates. But after some engagements, President Yoweri Museveni intervened in the matter and directed the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to negotiate an out of court settlement.  Although the Attorney General later entered a Consent Judgement that required payment of the deserving claimants to be complete within four months, nothing has since been realized.

Kampala Associated Advocates now has written to the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah questioning how reference was made to Richard Omongole, as the lawyer for Teso Compensation Claimants, in relation to the Consent Judgement when actually, Omongole & Co. Advocates was not involved in the matter. The firm argues that they are the only advocates duly instructed to represent claimants in the Consent Judgement that President Museveni agreed to in 2011.

“The only Consent Judgement on record to date is one executed between our clients represented by ourselves and the Attorney General. The Attorney General carried out a joint verification exercise with our client in December 2015 to February 2016 which has given rise to the only verification report on record to date,” the letter reads.

In a twist of events, Omongole also wrote to the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Anita Among and the Attorney General’s Office challenging the claims by Kampala Associated Advocates. Omongole indicated in his letter that there was a fraudulent list of Teso claimants being validated by the Attorney General’s Office.

“To our dismay, we have learnt that this is not the list of claimants that were sent by Omongole & Co. Advocates, the lawyers of the victims. The people listed are total strangers who were not on the list to be verified as ordered by the court and not known to us. We do not know how the Attorney General has come up with a completely different list in respect to the Teso War Claimants to be compensated”, his letter reads in part.

The first verification, according to Omongole, was in the main case involving the former Kapelebyong County MP, Julius Ocen and 200,500 others were also consolidated with Imodot and 105 others versus the Attorney General, and Oluka and 9 others versus the Attorney General. The other case was led by the Kasilo County MP Elijah Okupa and 2020 others versus the Attorney General in 2005, it's ruling on the violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms was delivered in January 2018.

Unlike other cases where the claimants were seeking compensation for the atrocities committed in Teso during the insurgency, Okupa’s case majored in an incident where the Anti- Stock Theft Unit- ASTU, a government paramilitary group attacked an Internally Displaced Camp in Ngariam, Katakwi District, killing 17 people, injured hundreds, raped women, tortured men and children and made away with 500 heads of cattle in 2002.

According to Omongole, none of the victims in either case has been considered in the purported list that is currently being validated. He adds that the alleged Consent Judgement case by the late Eotu had 7,000 other people, which number doesn’t add to 33,664 being validated by the Attorney General’s Office.

Since 2005, at least five civil suits have been registered in Soroti High Court seeking compensation for lives and property lost during the insurgency by the rebel groups, Karimojong cattle rustlers and government soldiers. 

Jackson Kafuuzi, the Deputy Attorney General, however, says that the list under verification was shared with Omongole after a meeting with the Attorney General Office in mid-September.  He adds that the 33,664 number is not comprehensive of all the claimants in the Teso sub-region.

Kafuuzi, who was in Soroti over the weekend to meet various stakeholders on the issue of compensation said that some people want to politicize the program.

//Cue in; “To be honest…

Cue out…thieves.”//

On September 14, 2021, the Attorney General’s Office held various meetings with lawyers handling matters of compensation for Acholi, Lango and Teso sub-regions, Members of Parliaments and District Internal Security Officers from the three sub-regions over the compensation issues.

After a few days, The High Court in Soroti granted one month to the parties to conduct verification of the claimants ahead of the planned payment envisaged for October. The court was attended by John Kalemera and Phillip Mwaka, the Commissioners at the Attorney General’s Officer, lawyers from Omongole & Co. Advocates and representatives of Teso War Claimants.

On August 17, 2021, Court granted an order to compel the Secretary to the Treasury to pay Teso war Claimants after the government failed to heed to the earlier orders of compensation.