Rachel Hardy is spending time with the Kids in our sponsorship program to see how we can best help them in their future. Have a read of what she has to say on her latest trip to Orum Primary School.
“A few years ago, you wouldn’t have stopped on the side of the road like this, would you?”
“Eh, no. You didn’t ever stop. If you stopped, eh…you were gone.”
On our way to Orum Primary School to take pictures of the sponsored children, nature called Jimmy, so we slowed to a stop on the side of the road. I asked him about stopping, and he gave his haunting response as he shut his door. I shuddered.
Much of the territory I traverse for research and photo documentation is former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) war land. Though the sheer beauty of the seemingly untouched countryside is stunning, I find myself wondering how many bodies are buried in those rolling hills and how many horrific tales I’d hear if those majestic trees could talk.
Somewhat spooked, I searched the tall grasses on either side of the road from the safety of the car. I was sitting along a road where many people had been tortured, abducted and killed during the height of the LRA’s terror. As Jimmy hopped back in the Isuzu, I asked him how villagers had bought supplies or even food if the roads had been so unsafe. I could imagine how terrifying it would have been to travel this road in search of food, gambling with your life that you’d not only find food, but make it back home as well.
“That’s how most people died,” Jimmy explained. “They were hungry, their children were begging for food, and they had to do something. So they took the chance and went out to harvest crops in their fields or walked to try to find a market. But the LRA was like water,” Jimmy continues, waving his hand across the landscape. “They were everywhere. You couldn’t get away from them, and when they found you, they took you.”
Now bumbling down the dirt road towards the school, he continued, “That was a way they got your family, too. Rebels were everywhere in the villages. They’d watch until you left to get food, then they’d attack your home while you were gone. You’d come back and everyone would be dead or gone.”
I stared out the window at Otuke District, mindlessly munching a chapatti as we finished the route to the school. The area is now a far cry from that unstable and terrifying time; men ride down the road on bicycles yelling “Apwoyo!” at Jimmy, and women walk to the Otuke market. Smoke from cooking fires rises from homes along the route, and children herd goats and cows down the road. But everyone still remembers; everyone still tells stories. And though it’s been years since the LRA flowed through the region like water, I was still relieved to reach the school and escape the ghostly tide.