Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Bits and Pieces – Impressions from Uganda – Part III

‘Is it confirmed?’, people asked. News make their way around town that four of the children abducted from Lacor Seminary have been killed by the rebels. Cold blooded murder. It seems that they were not fast enough anymore; just could not keep up with the pace the rebels demanded. Some of them might have been wounded a bit due to the walk through dense scrub-lands, most probably without shoes. So they were executed. Barbarously clubbed to death. The LRA doesn’t hesitate for long when they want to get rid of people. They are killed. And rebels want to safe bullets and avoid being tracked down. So they normally kill people with pangas (machetes), hammers or rifle butts. A cruel death – but very common in our region. ‘Yes, it is confirmed by the military but not yet by independent sources. So let’s keep on hoping they are alive.’ The principle of hope it’s often the only thing that keeps people going in Acholiland.

I almost didn’t see it, the bright green chameleon that crossed the deep mud of the rusty red road. A nice looking creature with a funny walking style. It looked a bit like one of the early animated cartoon figures. The African version of Loony Tunes. Especially weird are its eyes. Chameleons can move their eyes individually. That gives ‘em a kind of a crooky look. I was a bit surprised to see something that bright and green, clearly not a good camouflage on a red road in the African outback. I wonder if these animals are really able to adapt to their environment. Or if this is another one of these myths that just manage to escape its extinction by being repeated over and over again – regardless its – untrue? - content. I’ll find out and let you know in my next letter. The last time I saw a chameleon was in Murchison Falls National Park. It clung to the handle of a toilet brush. That one also didn’t adapt very well to its environment. Its green color didn’t blend in well with the toilet’s white. But I must admit it would have been quite a hard job.

‘Sixty Five get out of our line! Over’, we hear a male voice over the two way radio. We have just been contacted by one of our outpost stations and answered for the first time, when this voice interrupted our conversation rudely. Within seconds we got to understand that the voice belonged to Onen Kamdulu, one of the LRA commanders active in our area. And without further talk he explained to us, that our two-way radio set would be looted within the course of the day. In addition he would order his fighters to open fire of every Cartitas vehicle they would come across. Great opening for a day. The receptionist handling the radio was still shaking when she called me to inform me about this message from the rebels. It’s the first time we have been directly warned like that. So what to do? ‘Who is out with a car? Call them to make sure they get the Caritas flags normally being displayed on our cars down. Well, we will still be left with the stickers on the doors. But the flags are an even easier target marker. They shall get them down immediately. And if possible they should try to come back to the head office not later than four.’ Up to then the chance for an ambush is rather limited. The later it gets, the higher the risk. ‘How about the visitor expected for today?’ He is supposed to be on its way up from Kampala and arrive here not later than noon. But let’s check. Surprise, the driver had problems with the car and will not be able to leave Kampala before 3:30 pm. And then it still is a four-hour’s drive to Gulu. Under normal circumstances it would already be a risk; with the new developments it would be completely nuts even to try. So let’s get the visitor up differently. ‘What else? How big do we consider the danger of an attack on the office during the day?’ ‘ Not very likely, so let’s forget about it.’ But we should get some of the more valuable things to a safer place over night. The office is six kilometers out of town and we have had enough proof that attacks in this area and on church property are possible. Actually after the events from Lacor Seminary, it is not just possible, it is likely. ‘Well, that’s all we can do for right now. So back to work and let’s hope for the best.’ There it is again: Bloch’s principle of hope.


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