ImageNearly 2 million Ugandans fled from their homes during the brutal civil war that began in the northern region of the country in 1986 and went on for 2 decades.  Human rights violations and war crimes were committed by both sides of the conflict, but especially those crimes perpetrated by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).  As the violence escalated in the northern part of Uganda in 1988, 40 camps for Internally Displaced Persons, “IDP Camps”, were created. Farmers had to move their entire families out of wide-open fertile land into the crowded IDP camps; each family had a mud hut with a few feet between each hut. Children, like George Odora, were abducted and converted into soldiers.

In 2006, the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was signed between the government and the LRA. Kony fled and his present location is unknown. He is not in Uganda. Before he disappeared, the LRA massacred hundreds of people in unprotected villages and IDP camps throughout northern Uganda. Kony abducted over 80, 000 people, more than half of whom were children whom he converted to child soldiers through brainwashing, and warped traditional and Christian practices to generate extreme terror in the individual and the population. George was one of these child soldiers. The International Criminal Court has indicted Kony for war crimes. 

In 2007, the government declared the IDP camps “closed,” removing the armed protection of them, and declared the region safe for internal refugees to return to their homes.  During my June 2008 visit to Gulu, essentially the capital of Northern Uganda, I visited some of these IDP camps and saw that some were still “open” but were falling apart and in desperate need of reconstruction.  The traditional huts must be replaced every few years, yet these have been in place for over two decades.

Image   George Odora, a 26-year-old Ugandan who made it through the horrors of the civil war, managed to obtain a degree in civil engineering despite huge odds, and decided upon a career of building houses for IDP refugees to build homes on what was their land before the war. George was recently awarded a small grant by a German foundation, enough to construct about 30 houses to begin to   replace the dilapidated IDP camps in the war-torn region where he grew up.  George’s grant from the Dekeyser & Friends Fellowship Program was based on his proposal to establish a sustainable project to build housing for those who are being evicted from destroyed IDP camps 


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