By Nabusayi L. Wamboka
The tap tap of the Acholi drums still sounds in the camps.
There is life here after all. In sorrow and pain, the Acholi
find warmth in a traditional tune, their sorrow and hope all
wrapped up in a song.
From the hundreds of half-naked little children in the camps,
there is a sign of love-making and family life. But behind
the flat-breasted Acholi women hurrying home, carrying bags
of World Food Programme (WFP) food rations, lurks a teary
In the wilderness where they roamed under rebel captivity,
they have given birth to children they would love to hate.
Today, several women who were raped or forced to have sex
with their captors have buried their anger in the names of
Angom, a 16-year-old beautiful girl, was abducted from Kilak
in Pader district when she was 14. When she was rescued last
July, she had a little boy, now aged one year and a half.
She has named her child Ogen Rwot Robin (put trust in God).
Angom said she was tortured, beaten and made to fight in
the bush, but the fact that she survived is testimony that
God had plans for her.
She is the only one with that kind of hope.
"I think God loves me. I suffered in the bush and was
beaten several times. But I always prayed that one day I should
come back home," she said.
Adong, now aged 19, was abducted three years ago and was
also rescued this year. She has a 3-month-old baby girl she
calls Aromorach Scovia (Aromorach means she has met with misfortune).
"I have been tortured. I was made to beat people and
I was beaten. I watched many children die in the bush. I did
not want to have children with such people who did what they
did," she said.
With a baby, and living in a camp where survival is a gamble,
her hope is fast fading. Anying Rose, 20, was abducted in
1997. She was rescued this year with a baby she calls Akyero
Stella, now aged three months. Akyero means "I have tolerated
a lot in the bush."
Anying's attitude toward life has changed. "If I survived
in the bush for all those years, I can survive anything. What
I went through, only God knows," she said. Each time
she looks at her daughter, she sees suffering.
But Akello, 20, who was abducted in 2001 and rescued recently
with her one and a half-year-old son, sums it all up with
the name of her child - Otema - which means "I have been
Akello says she has seen more suffering in two years than
her parents ever experienced in their lives. "Each time
I talk to them about what I went through, they break down.
But here they have taught us how to live with your sorrow.
When you talk about your problems, you realise other people
share your experience," she said.
Achan Alice, the centre coordinator for young mothers in
Pader, says when the children are rescued, most of them are
depressed and need a lot of counselling to cope with fellow
children they are breastfeeding.
But herein lies another challenge. Hope in the camps is a
far cry. As the WFP trucks offload the month's meals, old
men and women thump their chests in sorrow. The food, they
say, is not enough. Mary Olworo has no idea what her age is,
but she says she desperately wants to go back home.
"The food here is so little. If only there was some
peace for me to go back to my home, life would be good. I
could still get enough food from my gardens," she said.
But her prayer may have to wait just a little bit.
The WFP field officer for northern Uganda, Stella Ogallo,
said the organization cannot deliver the quantities that the
displaced people want because of limited supplies. And it
is too risky for them to venture into their gardens.
"They are disgruntled about the quantities. They said
they were too little for them. Initially they also did not
like the food because they were not used to it. However, when
we brought sorghum, the response has been good," she
The conflict has displaced an estimated 1.6 million people
who currently live in 188 congested camps across northern
Uganda. WFP says most of the displaced people have minimal
access to farmland and most basic social services.
More than 60 percent of the population in the conflict-affected
areas of northern and eastern Uganda, mostly women and children,
live in camps or with relatives. In Acholi sub-region, the
worst-affected area, 90 percent of the population is displaced.
Despite the hunger, displacement and desperation in the camps,
Acholi are a very strong people whose will to live and survive
the horrors of an 18-year insurgency is stronger than ever.