on Um Zayd wa Atheer (Uganda), 19/Jul/2012 18:10, 34 days ago
Jacob's Story. A childhood of fearPart IIThe LRA rebels were now becoming more ruthless, abducting younger boys and even girls. Families feared darkness. Usually in the early evening the young people would go into the town to sleep under shop shelters. The town was patrolled by the army and brought relative safety but were also feared by some. Young girls were often raped. Those fearing the town retreated to bush each night. During the wet season many succumbed to malaria.Jacob had learned stubbornness from his father. Both refused to be dictated to by the LRA and remained in the village. They slept separately from the women and very young children, choosing a hut on the other side of the road. Predictably one night would be different from the others and their sleep was disturbed by gunshots and shouting. They were being visited, the LRA were looking for more young 'recruits'. Jacob's father told him to stay in bed and to pretend that he was sick. Epilepsy is feared by Ugandans and is treated as a mental illness. The mattress sat on top of sagging metal springs. In the hollow Jacob huddled trying to appear smaller. The knocking and kicking started at the door and the rebels were soon to enter. Jacob's father told their story that his son was too sick to move, had no drugs and that he was the one to watch him throughout the night. The younger rebels shouted that this was all lies and told Jacob to get out of the bed. The Commander told them to be quiet. Jacob then tried to exaggerate his condition and began to make the queer noises he had seen his epileptic cousin make during a convulsion. If he was going to survive he had to convince the Commander that he was in a bad condition. It worked. The rebels disappointed not to get a recruit then set their minds to stealing as much as they could.This was the time of a general election. The Commander left saying that if he found out that this family had voted for the Government that he would personally return to chop off their hands and maim them. Mutilation was common especially by cutting off ears, noses and lips.And so the fear continued. Sometimes LRA rebels returned to villages from where they had abducted people or where they had carried out mutilation. In Jacob's family 2 young cousins were taken away. The boy managed to escape after 2 months but his sister, taken at the age of 9, disappeared for 3 years. As the child grew into puberty she was given to a man. During a battle she too escaped, eventually finding her way to an army barracks before coming back to her village. She says she was not treated 'badly'.On the evening of the 31stof December the village gathered in the darkness to say prayers for the New Year. The rebels chose the time of their attack well. A large group of young people were taken. The following morning they were walked into an army ambush. Three were killed and one injured in the crossfire. One of these was Jacob's second cousin. The family wanted to recover the bodies but feared an LRA trap. The boys were left to rot where they fell.It took until 2006 for the peace talks to be opened and the LRA rebels to be forced back to southern Sudan. Bit by bit Lawiyadul tried to get to back to normal. For young people like Jacob they had never known peace and a life without fear. The rebels have gone but some of their weapons remain in the hands of bandits. An amnesty was declared on all guns but some were hidden. Ironically the police and the army did not sanction vigilante groups, set up to protect their village homes. If they took up arms it was feared there would be more violence.Jacob's story is vivid and he tells it willingly. One day he says he will start telling his children but only slowly. Jacob's wife also has a story to tell. Her village is just behind Jacob's and experienced similar abductions, murder and looting. This family are bound by their history, their shared fears and hopes for the future. Jacob's best friend, Deo, was captured by the LRA and disappeared for 9 months. These two men share a scarred life. Both eventually finished their studies and should be proud of their achievements. They in turn are determined to offer the best education possible to their children.As Jacob's 10-month year old son Genesis struggles to walk his mother sits nearby sorting grain and washing cassava. His father died before the peace talks began. This family group looks like any other in rural Uganda. Jacob's face is kind and calm. It hides his story well.