LRA fire survivor cries for UPDF help in vain 15 years later

Pte Godfrey Kabagambe Bagada, number RA191719, undresses to show the bullet scars after he was shot by Mr Joseph Kony's LRA soldiers.

Pte Godfrey Kabagambe Bagada, number RA191719, narrowly survived death when the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters opened fire at him in 2004, a year after joining the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) army.

“I was among soldiers deployed to guard an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp at Paweri village in the current Amuru district when the incident took place. I was shot multiple times in the chest, hands and the leg,” says Pte Bagada.

He regained consciousness some days later when he found himself at Gulu Hospital before he was referred to Mbuya Military Referral Hospital for further medical management.

Mr Bagada explains to Kazi-njema Newsthat after discharge with a disabled hand, his name appeared on the list of the soldiers that were to be taken to Mubende casualty unit that gave him hope for survival.

“The Medical Board chaired by the UPDF Division Medical Officer, Capt Dr John Lusiba, recommended that I join other casualties who were wounded in the insurgency in other parts of northern Uganda to the UPDF Rehabilitation Centre in Mubende. But a few days later, I was surprised to see my name on the list of soldiers who were to retire back home. When I asked the reason behind changing their mind, I was told that I did not have the audacity to oppose my top bosses,” he recounts bitterly.

Mr Bagada, however, continued receiving his salary until 2007 when his name was allegedly deleted from the UPDF payroll and retired.

“As I packed to leave for home, I was told that I would be paid half the salary a serving private soldier will be earning. But up to now, I have never received any coin yet I have a family to fend for and the bullet wounds I sustained weakened me. I can’t do heavy work,” Mr Bagada says.

Since then, disabled Mr Bagada’s hope remained in petitions to different government offices including the army leaders and the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) until he ran short of financial resources and physical ability to chase for justice.

The 50-year-old resident of the current Kihemba cell in East Division, Hoima city says he experiences periodical health complications resulting from the bullets he was shot.

“Whenever the pain reappears two or three times a year, I get into a state of epileptics. My life was shattered for the love of serving and protecting my country against insecurity.”

Mr Bagada shows his bullet scars and his disabled right hand after he was shot at Paweri Village in the current Amuru District.

Shot on June 16, 2004 at 32 years, Mr Bagada says he now leads a pauper life.

“I went to my area Members of Parliament and even approached the Uganda Human Rights Commission to push for my monthly pay but in vain. When I went to Bombo Military Headquarters, on reading the document from Commission, they just threw it back to me,” the troubled-looking veteran soldier claims.

“President Museveni, you are a parent to this country. I implore you to be merciful to me and give me my money because I am helpless. Bullets are inside my body and I can’t do anything to make money. I have reached a point of regretting why I joined the army,” Mr Bagada continues.

Audio: Bagada on assistance (Runyoro/Rutooro)

When contacted for a comment, Rtd Maj Robert Biribonwa, the Reserve Force Operation Officer Bunyoro Sub-region, could not verify Mr Bagada’s initial claims of search for help. He wondered how 15 years could go with his issue unaddressed if he closely followed up.

“I first need to confirm whether his name appears on the latest countrywide verified register of ex-servicemen including 862 whose whereabouts are unknown. My office can guide him to see justice,” he says.

Maj Biribonwa advises Pte Bagada to contact his office before it is too late.

“We have a challenge of some veterans missing the required documents and failure to closely follow up their issues,” he says.

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