By Robert Egwea
The first global meeting of the people of Lango dubbed Lango Diaspora Conference took place London, U.K. from 25-26 August 2007 under the theme “Rebuilding Lango Sub-region after two decades of conflict”. It was attended by over 300 delegates from Uganda, Australia, Canada, South Africa, USA and Europe.
The conference was convened after realisation by the Langi in the diaspora that Lango sub-region in northern Uganda has lagged behind in development, especially during the past 20 years, compared to the rest of Uganda. Lango was characterised as the 6th least developed region in Uganda.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency was viewed as a major contributing factor to the underdevelopment of Northern Uganda and of Lango sub-region in particular.
The conference came at a time when the Government of Uganda and the LRA were holding peace talks in Juba, Southern Sudan. Peace had returned to some parts of Northern Uganda. The people formerly living in internally displaced people’s camps had started to return to their villages. The conference was therefore timely in its deliberation to discuss how best the region can be rebuilt after two decades of conflict.
It was observed that the dire humanitarian situation in Lango sub-region appear to have been overshadowed by the heavily published situation in neighbouring Acholi and Teso. As a result, Lango sub region never received deserved attention, as her neighbours had.
The conference adopted a non-partisan approach to development. This was done to unite the people of Lango, regardless of their loyalties and affiliations, for the noble task of rebuilding their motherland.
The key areas identified for discussions at the conference included: health, education, poverty alleviation, environment and governance. Other issues that featured very strongly in submissions from the various delegates included among others: peace and security, trauma, corruption, infrastructure, land issues, brain drain, human rights, and access to information. In all areas of need, the Lango people were seen to be placed at the bottom of national statistics.
The general consensus from the conference was that the people of Lango are disempowered and traumatised due to the prolonged periods of marginalisation and unprovoked conflict. It was noted that there is a consistently low level of development in Lango and Northern Uganda as a whole as evidenced in UNDP report and other independent reports that places Northern Uganda at the bottom in human development indices, year by year.
Background of such deprivation is presented as having been driven by historical events dating back over 70 years, and subsequent events that have tended to perpetuate the “underdog status” of Northern Uganda in comparison with the rest of Uganda.
The Langi have been on the receiving end of unprovoked political violence for more than 3 decades and this includes: persecution by Idi Amin in the 1970s, cattle rustling by the Karamojong in the 1980s & 90s and LRA war for the last 20 years. It was particularly observed that the Langi did not at any time initiate or did anything to warrant these attacks.
Decades of violence and marginalisation resulted into distinct devastation of the area; affecting all aspects of life of the people in the sub-region. The consequences of the war cannot be quantified or listed in its entirety. It has now been publicly recognised that Lango sub-region is one of the most deprived areas in the whole of Uganda.
In the documents presented at the conference and all the statements made by professionals and politicians from Uganda, USA, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Denmark and many other countries around the world the depth of the plight that the Langi face on daily basis are clearly visible.
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