Over the past years, I and many other children in Northern Uganda comfortably in complete desperation referred to ourselves as “plants amidst a forest of thorns”.
To many, Northern Uganda has been completely undesirable place. The difference is has from the rest of Uganda can be noted as soon as one crosses the Nile at Karuma fall heading towards Gulu. This region hosted the most tragic and long endured war in the history of Uganda and East Africa. For over 22years (1986-2008) Uganda which at the time of Independence from Colonial rule in 1962 was referred to as the Pearl of Africa was in a total Pool of Blood. The Northern part of the country with Gulu has its principle town presented with a gloomy face. The only things we could see were tortures, abductions, rapes, ambushes, massacres, hunger and extreme poverty. Its glorious past as the nation’s bread basket became at a halt as illusion. Its cultural heritage set ablaze. The entire ancestral savanna left to the beast as people in thousands huddle in micro huts in the internally displaced peoples camps.
As the war went on an on many international bodies stood watching, a few opening its ears to the loud cries and shouts of the people, a few opening their mouths to whisper and speak for our rescue, very few came to our rescue, very few opened there hands and hearts to us.
Born in Late August of 1985, no one knew that the following year would be the dawn of a completely new era in the life of the people in
Northern Uganda. I was born just 5 months before the 25year old LRA tragic war sparked off. It was in Attiak that I first breathed and I still remember some of my childhood life events there in the vast natural ancestral savanna, enjoying the sight of nature, growing in a communitarian community, never imagining the world would have a tormented face on us.
With increased LRA brutality in the region as many people were abducted, lynched, maimed and killed, life was never the same again. We would always flee home to take refuge in the bush. The cold of the nights, the rainy nights, mosquito bites, and scary wild animals were not our worries. Our worst enemy was our fellow human beings who had become rebels, disgraced us
With tortures or all sorts and in the name of the Ten Commandments they claim their brutality.
During this time, when I was barely two years old, one night while taking refuge in the bush, hiding from the rebels, a poisonous snake bit my elderly brother (Geoffrey was his name), he died after two hours from the snake bite. Cold covered everyone but no one could even cry or wail for him, our dear first born be-cause the rebels would hear us and follow us in our hide out.
Not long after that, my dad was abducted by the rebels where he took a couple of months in their captivity in the bush. It was a tough bondage he had to bear as he was forcefully recruited in to the rebel force. For us it was a real horror. When he escaped and came back home from the rebels, we were in a new age of horror again. Our home was never homely again since the rebels would come there seeking to arrest him and punish him for escaping. This prompted us to leave the village, Attiak in 1989, and settle as internal refugees at the suburbs of Gulu town were we stay up-to-date.
As the rebel activities intensified, people all over Acholi sub region were given 48hrs to leave their villages and settle in internally displaced people’s camps. The ancestral villages became a battle ground for the next 20 years. Ambushes were the order of the day, the road sides are decorated by dilapidated car scraps, and homesteads destroyed and burnt down. fresh blood of flowed by the roadside, people in the camps cradle micro huts, living on food handouts, education, health, sanitation became non issues as everyone struggled for survival. Self reliant activities became history. The nation’s bread basket was completely crippled.
In 1994, Attiak, my ancestral villages had one of the worst massacres ever in the country as 300 people were murdered in cold blood.
Several of my relatives were among them including 2 uncles and 1 aunt who my grandfather took to nurse and rear their children up to his death bed this year.
In the two suburbs the situation also kept worsening, we could not stay at home during the night for fear of abduction. So we enroute with thousands of other children to sleep in catholic missions, hospital and even the bus park in town. Here we could sleep at the verandas or in the compounds. They referred to us as night commuters. Some-times we would flee the rebels to the bush in cases of attacks. I heard uncountable numbers of gunshots, lost many of my childhood friends and school mates.
Others came back from the rebels captivity with their lips cut off, other with their ears cut off, and others had the hands cut off.
In 2003 (11th May) the rebels storms the seminary where I was studying (Sacred Heart Seminary Lacor) and abducted 41 seminarians. We flee amidst gunshots and life bullets to the nearby bushes to save or lives. This has been one of the most tormentful moments in my life. I could not imagine rebels breaking into the seminary to abduct us in addition to the more that 30,000 children they had abducted throughout northern Uganda. 11 of my friends have never returned up to now, we are not sure if they are still alive or not.
Now the war has subsidized in northern Uganda, we are trying to rebuild our lives. The refugee camps are dissolved; the social, cultural dimensions of the society are being revived. Key hinges to this recovery are still cripples, that is, education and agriculture. Children cannot afford quality education because their parents can’t afford the tuitions and basic scholastic materials like books, pens, pencils and meals for retaining them in school.
The entire populace in northern Uganda is a wounded one and yet what strikes me is that the people have very strong desires to rebuild themselves as they rise from the ashes of the war. in attempts to rise from these horrors the war has implanted, we face stiff challenges in establishing a self reliant livelihood, famine due to prolong drought, shortage of clean water, form farming tools, poor storage facilities, in-adequate better farming knowledge weight our efforts down. All these grip the populations against their desires and aspirations.
I will never forget that I Grew up in such a melee and that the remaining bones of northern Uganda need aspiration and dreams for them to come true. I will always struggle within my limits to make a contribution that will bring a lasting impact, rehabilitation and consolation to my wounded brothers and sisters so that one day we can rise, become self reliant and unleashed our full potentials to the liberation of the worlds vulnerable people.