Today we are in Palabek Kal Sub-County. There used to just be one big Sub-County called Palabek; now there are three. In 1997, the weeklong mass murder of civilians by the LRA across what was Palabek sparked the mass exodus across Kitgum District into the IDP camps. Some 350 people were massacred. What happened is, a hunter was out in the bush when he spied some members of the LRA stashing arms in a cave on the side of a mountain. The hunter high-tailed it to a UPDF encampment. Several days later, the UPDF was hauling away 2 huge trucks full of guns and the hunter was 5 million shillings richer. The hunter was also given a house in Kampala, which was lucky for him and his family, because in revenge for losing their artillery the LRA took a week to slaughter everyone who they could find in Palabek. Even the hunter, if he came back here now, Mark told me, would probably be killed by his own people, them saying “Look what you have brought down upon us!”
Lisa’s in the back of the car right now telling J how rich her family would be “If it wasn’t for this war… They took everything! The goats, the sheep, the cows…”.
The war is not over yet. Whether it will return and be fought once more on this soil is anyone’s guess.
Jim and M say that recovery, in terms of food security, for Northern Uganda will be very easy, because the soil is so fertile. That’s nice to hear.
There’s a child mother in this focus group, a baby tied to her back, who looks like she’s about 12 years old –
One of the satellite camps that we stopped at this morning was spectacularly beautiful – so clean, adolescent mango trees in a little grove, pumpkins spilling from the garden onto the footpath, piglets in their pens – and clean, strong huts decorated with flowers – it could have been Eden, I swear. So lovely. The children weren’t covered in snot and sores and everything was in its place.
If this satellite camp is like what villages were like before the war, then the people of Northern Uganda have lost even more than I realized. It was idyllic.