Residents of Napak district are calling for the establishment of a monument at the spot where former Ugandan President Idi Amin orchestrated the killing of an unspecified number of people for refusing to wear clothes.
This historical event dates back to 1972 when Amin issued a directive mandating the Karimojong people to abandon their traditional attire, which primarily covered their private parts, in favor of more comprehensive modern clothing.
The proclamation incited dissent among the local elders, who mobilized the youth to protest against the enforced change in their dress code. The confrontations between the protesters and security forces transpired in Naiwoikorot village within Ngoleriet Sub County, resulting in the death of dozens of people according to local elders. The victims of the confrontations were interred in a mass grave.
The significance of this event has been acknowledged by the erection of metallic crosses at the site during the June 3rd Uganda Martyrs Day commemoration, organized by the Catholic Church. Survivors, now in their advanced years, have recounted their experiences from that tumultuous period.
Albert Loru, one such survivor, recollects that in 1971, they were instructed to adopt Western clothing, an edict that stirred consternation among the elders. Despite governmental efforts to persuade compliance, the elders staunchly resisted, resulting in protests that escalated into clashes with security personnel
Sagal Lokusikwang, another elder says that he survived narrowly after escaping away from the group. Lokusikwang narrates that immediately he turned his back, the soldiers started firing bullets and some people were forcefully thrown inside the truck that drove them to Moroto barracks
Michael Lopeyon, an elder, provides further insight, noting that while President Amin executed the clothing policy, it was initially devised during the administration of Apollo Milton Obote.
The local populace is now advocating for the erection of a commemorative monument at the site to honor those who lost their lives while defending their cultural values. Additionally, they propose the establishment of a designated Karimojong Martyrs Day to pay tribute to the victims. Zakios Awas, a resident, emphasizes the importance of capturing the survivors’ testimonies while they are still accessible
John Paul Kodet, the LC5 chairperson for Napak district, lends his support to the monument’s construction and advocates for compensation to be extended to survivors and the families of victims.
As part of the ongoing cultural festivities within the Karamoja sub-region, a poignant visit to the mass grave site is scheduled for September 5th, 2023, aimed at commemorating and honoring the memory of those who tragically lost their lives during this incident.