‘Possessed’ priestess wants to go home

Kampala – Notorious former rebel leader Alice Lakwena has said she is ready to return home to Uganda after a 16-year exile in Kenya, officials from a state amnesty body confirmed on Tuesday.

“We talked to her two weeks ago and she said she was ready and willing to come back home,” Amnesty Commission spokesperson Francis Lagony said.

Lakwena mobilised a crude army to overthrow President Yoweri Museveni’s government several months after he had captured power in 1986.

Professing a mixture of religious beliefs somewhere between staunch Catholicism and native faith in witch doctors, Lakwena claimed she had been “possessed” by the holy spirit.

She armed her peasant followers with only stones and timber staves after convincing them that the “holy oil” she smeared on their bodies would protect them from shells and bullets.

The rag-tag army, at its height numbering about 7 000 and dubbed the “Holy Spirit Battalion”, marched hundreds of kilometres from northern Uganda and scored some victories over government troops before being decimated in a series of battles in 1987.

Following the defeat of her army, the charismatic “priestess” led surviving supporters across the border into Kenya, where they have lived as refugees ever since.

Now in her early 50s, Lakwena is in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees camp in Ifo in north eastern Kenya and “looks very healthy”, according to Lagony.

“Obviously, she needs facilitation and this includes money for transport and resettlement. We are compiling a report on our mission which we shall give to the government,” Lagony added.

The Ugandan government set up the Amnesty Commission four years ago to encourage former rebel leaders and political exiles to come home, on condition they would not be prosecuted.

The commission’s chairperson, High Court judge Peter Onega, said on Tuesday that about 12 000 people have so far returned under the programme.

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Sapa/Dpa (South Africa/Germany), South Africa
Apr. 27, 2004
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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)