Reminiscing on Kali refugee camp’s attack of July 1996

Posted: January 21, 2019 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

Life of persistent fear and overwhelming anxiety as a refugee in Uganda during the times of terror in the hands of Joseph Kony and Ali Bamuze and UPDF’s failure to save the refugees

By Kon Joseph Leek, Juba, South Sudan

Monday, January 21, 2019 (PW) — It was one fateful mornings of 1996; a year Yoweri Museveni had his second elections after the 1980’s which he lost to Obote – and it was the first elections under the constitutional provision of 1995 since he seized power in 1986. Museveni was facing serious challenge from Paul Ssemogerere and Kibirige Mayanja who later lost to him.

This time, Museveni was already 10 years in Power after five-years rebellion and subsequent coupe executed by Obote’s CDFs Gen. Tito Okello against his boss, Dr. Milton Obote. Museveni continued his rebellion and seized power from Okello a year later.

We woke up on Monday as normal to school from Block Six, we followed the usual small serpentine dusty route that meanders in the refugees’ back-yard gardens to the slopes of the small streams and woods towards Block Seven – a neighboring Block.

Mum had woken me that morning as I could hesitate to go to school, forced me and escorted me a little, stood with her hands on the waist,watched me grew shorter and shorter as I disappeared into the shrubs.

It was one of the days of the Spring that our legs arrived to school with touches of wet grass’ leaves as we followed the paths, dew would sketch some drawings on our Sudanese long dry tinny black legs.

A small bush between our block and the neighboring Block was with a borehole on the pathway, the borehole was surrounded by shrubbery and a small stream in the West of it, that was where we could wash our legs and faces when we go to school. The bore-hole was just in the slope of a small valley that laid ahead of it, Kali Refugee camp of Moyo district was quiet a big settlement for Sudanese.

I was less than three months since displacement that saw our houses burnt down in Iyete (Point O) refugee camp by mostly machete wielding hoodlums and merciless archers with bows and quivers visible on their backs – they were later pronounced rebels. UPDF was stationed less than 15 minutes’ drive between our camp and Lubuluchu but they failed to come for our rescue until the rebels finished their operations two hours later.

Ali Bamuze, the head of Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF) dubbed (Goro’goro) was responsible. There were other camps; Bidi-bidi, Lubuluchu etc. under Yumbe county. All these camps were cleared off the face of exitance by the same wild forces.

We were now facing another upheaval under the same guy! Others were saying it was Joseph Kony of LRA christened Tong’tong, we had till then heard of Kony’s horrors; we saw people with lips and ears cut off.

We were told that his army set the houses on fire in Waka (later renamed Morobi to sway away its atrocious memories) and assembled the captives (refugees) and began stapling their lips with pad-locks, cutting off the lips and ears of some unlucky souls, many killed and the wounded burnt alive – there was no need of wasting bullets on the half-dead-refugees anyway!

Those were blood cuddling stories of their own kinds, we didn’t want to see or meet such ordeals happening to us.

We stopped at the bore-hold where we used to throwaway our teeth-cleaning twigs and washed our faces and legs. Before we could finish were gunshots; tau-tau! It was first like a stone thrown on iron-sheet or something. Without much ado was the subsequent bullets that signified that there was an attack from either Kony or Ali.

My colleagues showed me a clean pair of heels with a boda-speed into the bush and I returned home running, it was just a distant of less than 10 minutes when you are on your heels, I met many on a running spree escaping the whizzing of merciless bullets; stumbling, sliding, limping, jumping, screaming, yielding and shouting.

I had to stop by the tree to led the dust subsidized and to save myself from the stampede of some souls whose fear had gripped to the extent of protruding their eyes.

The gunshots were from the direction of our home, my father, mother, uncle and his wife, siblings and all the relatives were there. Duk community (my community) were predominant among the inhabitants of Block six, where could I have gone other than going to see their fate?

I had to go. It was a wrong decision to make according to the elders who tried to stop me. I could flank off their hands and proceeded running. It was simsim harvest time; tall and thick, when you entered you couldn’t be seen.

Upon reaching our home, it was burnt down and I found the blood oozed and congealed on the ground at the door way of our main mudded-hut, it was a sign of agony already in a toddler of my age. I rushed into the simsim garden as I heard their voices looming.

They were talking in mixed tongues; Kiswahili, Lugbara or Aringa I couldn’t tell! A short while later I rushed to uncle Galuak Gik’shome where Duk members could gather for dominos, it was just by the roadside, there was deep quietness; no chirping of birds or insects, only distant echoes from the rebels that fades.

I could hear and see them shouting and shooting into the air as well as razing down the hurts by burning. Most were dressed in military attire and putting on green gum-boots and there by the roadside stood an old gray TATA-car. Had few of them not been out of uniform, you would think they were Ugandan army – the UPDF!

As I crossed a small path from simsim garden that bent behind a kitchen of a neighbor to cross another main path, my eyes suddenly caught a corpse on the compound of where the path was leading.

A child in me could not led me run, I stood breathless and tears dropping from my eyes, it was somebody I knew – Aleer Anyang my uncle; aged, friendly and funny uncle was gone by the bullet of the alien land, these are woes of having wars in your country to die in a foreign land!

What’s worth was that we didn’t know why we, refugees were the target of the rebels who were clad in UPDF uniform and coming in a Tata-car known for Ugandan army!

As I didn’t know what to do next, a neighbor; brown bowling hippo of a woman from Aringa clan of Lugbara came for my rescue, she was married to one Deng Angeth. She pulled me in to the shrubbery and told me to wait for her there and went to the rebels only not to return until today!

It was already noon, rebels still wandering around. I came out of the shrubbery and slink straight to our burnt-down home and waited there, a little while later, I heard a loud sobbing voice at the neighborhood, I thought everyone else was gone but I was wrong, I moved into the simsim and tiptoed where the sound was coming to find a young girl a little older than me – Achol, a Primary one classmate of mine seated weeping, it was now only two of us in the whole Block.

When I asked her why she couldn’t hide, she would mutedly and blankly glance at me with tears in her eyes – I tried to pulled her to hide but would slap, bite me and almost caused an alarm (by screaming) to the rebels who were roaming around.

I left her. A day later, I was told that her father, Bul was among the dead, he was wounded and burnt inside the house. Bul was the only one left for his daughter. Achol didn’t have a mother; her mother was said to have died earlier. This ordeal caused her a psychological effect until today.

I came back to our annihilated home that was to be abandoned later, I tried to trace where the blood had flown but to no end. Rebels now gone. As the people began coming back to their abodes, my father was among the first people, he came straight for me, hugged me, “people have started going to Sudan towards Lefori, others have gone to Ndirindiri”, he told me, your uncle’s wife, Nyaluak Yuang was intentionally brutally hit on the head with the bud of a wooden grenade”, he added as I was looking down to the radiated solid blood on the floor at the door-way, my uncle’s wife was carrying less-than-a- month-toddler.

The attack happened in the morning roughly 7am and ended around 12-1:00PM and the Uganda police was within Kali center, Uganda army was also stationed in Itulasub-county which was 20-30 minutes’ drive but all the aforementioned forces did literally nothing to bail out the refugees in a four hours siege by the heartless rebels, and the UPDF could not as well trace the direction of the rebels who came on a Tata-car!

We set off and started the journey, we arrived at Lefori primary school where people were accommodated and later referred to Lefori mosque for a period of almost four weeks and proceeded to Sudan which we left for its insecurity to the civilians but now, Uganda was worth.

A day later, the casualties came out that in our block, two people had been killed of gun-shots, one wounded, one burnt inside the hut and houses razed to the ground.

The writer is a former refugee, former, teacher, former lecturer, former journalist, former commentator and currently a humanitarian worker; talk to him on;

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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