on Um Zayd wa Atheer (Uganda), 19/Jul/2012 18:08, 34 days ago
Jacob's Story. A childhood of fearBorn 20thOctober 1983Village LawiyadulSub County BungatiraDistrict GuluCountry UgandaPart IJacob was the second born of 6 children. His parents were extra ordinary. They merely wanted the best for each child by providing the best education and a way out of poverty. For this young family there were to be many disruptions. Jacob's family lived in the wrong place at the wrong time.The LRA insurgency coincided with the overthrow of the Amin regime by Yoweri Museveni. From 1985 and for the next 20 years there was to be no peace in Lawiyadul village.When Jacob was 2 years old his family packed a few of their few belongings and moved 25 kms away to the relative safety of other relatives. They feared the uncertainty of a power struggle. They thought their shift would be temporary and brief. Grass huts were hastily built to accommodate them. As the Museveni army and supporters moved north they found little resistance from the Gulu people. Instead of fighting Museveni they were unified in fighting the LRA from the north and the Karamojong cattle thieves from the east. Jacob's family had been away for a year when people were called to return to their villages. Museveni said it was safe.Living with relatives had been difficult too. The grass huts and shelters were inadequate and fire traps. When they returned to Lawiyadul all was not as they had left it. Desparate neighbours plus passing thieves and rebels had looted their meagre homes. Jacob was now 3 years old.Museveni's reassurances proved to be premature and ill founded. During the early years of the insurgency Kony's rebels were poorly organised and weak opposition. By the 1990s this had changed and they were a much stronger force. Rebels began to target the abduction of civilians to be soldiers and to be intelligence informers.By now Jacob had started school. Despite the troubles his parents were determined that their children's education should continue. Each day Jacob's father would accompany 3 of his children to their school in Gulu town. Their path was barred with roadblocks and they were only allowed to pass after showing their identity documents. Teachers faced the same problems and lived with the same fears but schools stripped of their resources remained opened. Pupils still had to pass their exams. Jacob's family had lost their first-born son by now.In 1997 Lawiyadul had become a detached camp, mainly for everyone's safety. The road running north to south straddled the village. It was one of the main routes into Gulu from the north and was often used by LRA rebels. Families did not want to be watched over by the army but they knew why it was necessary.Over a 2 year period, when Jacob was in his early teens, the LRA came 3 times looking for young men and boys to 'recruit'. He remembers these times very well. On the first round up he was not taken. He was 12 and may be he looked too young, too weak or too small. The rebels usually came under the cover of darkness and did not always see their prey. On the second occasion Jacob was sat with a group of older women. As the men poked and sniffed around the compound the women hid him in their skirts. He had escaped again. The rebels were busy ransacking their homes looking for clothes, boots and radios. Jacob's father was not so lucky. With his hands bound he was taken off to escort the rebels through the ambush and to lead them into Gulu. Once in town the rebels tried to force their way into other homes. Characteristically they would knock on the door with their rifle butts before kicking to show their impatience. One of these doors was the home of an army officer. Instantly he knew whom his visitors were. He took time to calm himself and to load his sub machine gun before the door was broken down. The rebels were taken unawares and Jacob's father threw himself on the ground in the shadows. Some of the rebels fled, others were shot dead.