Thursday, May 24, 2007

A chat with an ex-LRA child soldier

Today 23rd May 2007, i travelled to Padibe, about 23 miles away from Kitgum town in Northern Uganda, and while i was there, i met a young man aged about 18 years old with whom i had an indepth chat about a wide range of things and what captivated me most was his past. This guy served as an LRA combatant for 2 years and 8 months starting 2002. He was part of numerous rebel escapades notable of which were the attack on the former army detach at the Achwa river bridge along the Gulu-Kitgum highway, the Pawidi 9 hour battle and the Kitgum Matidi auction raids. But suprisingly in all these attacks he remained unscathed save for a minor brush on his ribs by a bullet. His stories of war were indeed captivating.

Abduction and journey to Sudan.
In 2002, while on a visit to his mother's home about 6 miles South East of Kitgum town, the rains prevented him from returning to his haven in town and little did he know that it would take him another 32 months to return. On a fateful friday evening, on having lunch at his mother's hut, it all over a sudden started raining cats and dogs and he could not make it back to Kitgum town before dawn. When the sun went to sleep and the moon was shy because of the dark clouds, he felt safer spending the night at his mother's than daring the unpredictability of travelling 6 miles under the cover of darkness. At about 3:00 AM in the night, he heard footsteps outside and in a short while,a voice ordered that the door be opened. Helpless, his younger brother with whom he shared the small hut jumped and flung the door open only for three young gun wielding men to flash bright torches into their eyes. The gunmen turned out to be LRA combartants, who were quick to choose the protagonist of this story over his younger brother, promising that he would only be used as a guide but would return soon."Soon" turned out to be over 2 years. "They told me to lead them to town, but instead forced me to branch off into a valley between Kitgum town and Kitgum Matidi. We moved in strange patterns and in a short while we were headed to some hills near Muchwini. By the time the skies were opening we were already at Lagoro hills near Kitgum Matidi." When i tried to inquire when i would relinquish my role as a guide,i was told that i was going no where as i was already doing a crucial job. After four days i was in Sudan."This is the beginning of a story that spans about 32 months. The story of a young man whose entire future was changed because the state failed miserably in its protection of the constitutionally enshrined right of every citizen to security as well as the mandate of the state to protect it. As he narrated to me how they avoided a UPDF ambush at Agoro and a raid by the Dinkas across the Agoro hills, and how his captors captured a "fat" Muganda higher ranked government soldier whose pleas fell on the ears of lips that could not speak his dialect neither could their brains comprehend his utterances, i kept wondering who should bear the brunt for shattering the dreams of the several young Luos abducted by the LRA within Uganda yet there is a one man at the helm who boasts having the strongest army in the region. Oh! So strong indeed.

Catch what happened next, in my next serialization tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Peering into the future

"A generation betrayed, but still resilient".This best describes the sight i was subjected to during a recent tour of northern Uganda.Malnourished children, frustrated parents, a despondent populace and a looming health disaster was all i could gather. I must admit the children played about happily and cheerefully while their parents looked on as if to wonder what lay ahead for such seemingly vibrant children.All i could do was to have a chat with them.And that was the genesis of the picture.

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