There was a joyous atmosphere at Soroti High Court when the presiding judge issued a ruling ordering the Ugandan government to compensate Teso war claimants with over Shs20 million each in a case that had remained unsettled for over 15 years.
More than 3,000 war claimants, led by former Kapelebyong MP Julius Ochen and Kasilo county MP Elijah Okupa, had taken legal action against the government over the loss of property, cattle, and lives in the Teso region between 1986 to 1994, including the 2003 LRA incursion.
These claimants were represented by their lawyer, Richard Omongole.
In the ruling delivered on Thursday, Justice Henry Peter Adonyo declared that there had been a breach of Articles 21, 22, and 24 of the 1995 Ugandan Constitution.
These articles stipulate that the government must protect lives, ensure equality regardless of color, tribe, or race, and prevent the infliction of torture on citizens.
Justice Adonyo’s judgment included an order for the government to pay Shs20 million to each adult claimant, Shs10 million to each child, and Shs3 million to each claimant as damages incurred in their pursuit of war claims through the court.
The awarded compensation accounts for losses of livestock and lives between 1986 and 1994 due to cattle raids by the Karimojongs, losses resulting from the Uganda People’s Army (UPA) rebellion, and the more recent LRA incursion into Teso in 2003.
Furthermore, Justice Adonyo ordered that 6% interest be awarded to the plaintiffs from the day of the judgment until the full payment is made. Rates for the livestock losses will be determined based on the rates of the respective years when the losses occurred.
Justice Adonyo emphasized that the claimants had provided satisfactory evidence to the court regarding the loss of lives, torture, and the loss of cattle and other properties. These claims were uncontested by the state.
Lillian Omurangi of Omongole and Company Advocates argued that the government’s actions violated human rights by failing to protect the people of Teso. She expressed hope that the government would honor the court’s judgment.
One of the claimants, 70-year-old William Opio from Wera, Amuria District, expressed his desire to see the government comply with the court ruling and provide compensation as soon as possible.
Opio recounted the significant losses his family endured, including the loss of cattle, family members, and other assets.