In 1996, rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces rebel group terrorized Kasese district and other districts of western Uganda. Districts like Bundibugyo, Kabarole and other parts of Kamwenge were also affected. They abducted very many people and families causing death to many of them and loss of property. They also left many children parentless or orphans.
I remember the time I was abducted when I was nine years of age on 21st of September 1999. One night, after supper, we went to hide in the bush where we had built our small grass thatched house nicknamed as Efenge or pandaso in our local language (Lhukonjo) where we used to hide for the safety of our lives. We had built that small house far away in the bush from the main house because we had heard rumors that the rebels would terrorize our village Mirimbo. That created an atmosphere of panic in our lives as everybody bothered to protect his/her dear life.
That night rebels reached home and found nobody in the main house. They followed a small path to our pineapple and sugarcane farm and since they were hungry, they harvested pineapples and sugarcanes in the night. They rested by the side of the garden and ate them. With the help of the moonlight, they saw a small path which was leading to our hiding place. One of them who was wearing white clothes followed it and found us sleeping. I was in slumber. Hardly had the rebel seen my father when our little dog (which we had named Simba) pounced to him. That scared the rebel and sent him into running. He immediately went and alerted the others who were still eating pineapples that he had met people in the bush sleeping. I also think that they heard the voice of the dog when it barked at him. They immediately came with him and engulfed/surrounded the whole small house. Then my father wanted to follow that man and find out whom he would be. He then woke up my elder brothers so that they could follow him together; little knowing that they were many and had already surrounded the small house. As they were about to leave, they heard one of them calling, “do not worry, I am your dear son.” He sounded this several times thinking that he would cool my father down, but my father could not accept that. My father and brothers immediately realized that we were in danger. They picked up pangas and spears in a flash and attacked them. They fought them up. When they were fighting, my father also kept on shouting and telling our neighbors to hide themselves wherever they had gone to hide well in order to survive. This was later told by my father and our neighbors who had his voice while in their hiding places.
All that time I was still in slumber and dreamt of people fighting. The noise from the fight woke me up. I sat on the bed not knowing what was going on. When I looked around, I saw my mother, sister and my little brother sleeping. I then moved out of the small house and met the fighting I had been dreaming about. I wondered what was happening. I thought they were robbers coming to steal. I saw my father and brothers fighting against a larger group of people using spears and pangas while the other group had guns. I finally suspected them to be rebels. My father and brothers fought until they were all tired. They had reached an extent of using sticks because they had thrown their pangas over the rebels. They had no other weapon left except the spear which my father had in his hand. My father had no any other option except spearing the one who was near him into the stomach. They shot at my father, but thank God, bullets missed him. Then one of the rebels held a grenade and forwarded it to my father and it missed him. He was only hit by its fragments which destroyed some of his ribs. My father then came running to our small house and told us that he had been shot and any time would fall down and die. He told us that each one of us should struggle for him/herself in order to survive. A lot of blood was gashing/oozing out of his wounds. The place was really full of mourns of agony.
When we had heard what my father said, my father picked one of my brothers who was near him and immediately he ran away taking any direction. I remember they passed behind the small house. My other brothers also hid in the nearby bush. My father and brothers managed to escape because they had intercepted the rebels and they were no longer surrounding the small house. Some of these rebels had also hid themselves. Mother and my siblings remained sleeping and could not even respond to the statement of struggling for ourselves. We did not know that the rebels had shot inside the small house and bullets had split my mother’s right breast into two pieces and part of the arm. The same bullets after splitting my mother’s breast continued and hit the skull of our youngest lovely boy destroying it into pieces and exposing his brain.
When I also tried to escape taking our usual path, one of them had hidden near the path and caught me. I recall that this man was wearing a black shirt, black trousers and a black jacket. I was naked all that time and when I was escaping I had carried my clothes under my arms. So, when that man caught me, I dropped them on the ground. That man’s hands were extremely rough. He then took me to the others. They then pulled me back to the small house and entered inside the hut. My mother and my siblings were still in bed and had been seriously shocked to the point that they could not wake up. The rebels tried to wake them, but they could not. They strongly stepped on them but they could not even shake their bodies at all. I and the rebels thought they were all dead. It was about 2:00am in the night. They then tightly held my hands and we moved to our main house where they slaughtered the only four goats we had and destroyed all the property. They then packed the meat into the sacks and carried it.
On the side of my father where he ran with my other brother, he reached our nearby trading center. There he met the Local Defense Units (LDU’s) of our village and begged them to help him rescue his family but they gave him a blind eye and a deaf ear. They completely ignored him. They only tied his wounds and rushed him to the dispensary in Ibanda where they also forwarded him to Kilembe hospital. This was told by my father afterwards.
Back to my mother in the hut, she says she was hearing when they were stepping over them. Then after we had left to our main house, she said she then thought that the rebels could come back and kill them. She tied her breast using a cloth, then woke up my sister and she tried to wake my younger brother too so that they could hide in the nearby bush little knowing that he had been shot. When she touched him she felt his brain split out and she realized that the boy had passed away. She then managed to pull my sister and they hid. At dawn, people came to the hut and found my mother in a very bad condition. They carried her and she was rushed to the hospital where she met my father. When the Doctors and the nurses saw my mother being brought for treatment, they all shed tears. Others said she was going to die because they knew the breast was incurable. Both my mother and father spent about a month at the hospital. At home, they organized to bury my younger brother and tried to search for me but I was nowhere to be seen. They only found my clothes on the ground where I had dropped them and concluded that they had killed me. When my parents arrived home from the hospital, they found our young boy already in the grave as told by them after. All the above was just like a dream to everyone in the village. My mother testified at the hospital that God was so faithful to her and that made everybody believe God’s glory. You know my family had spent three months having accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal savior and Lord. Even before we could sleep in our small house in the bush, we would first sing hymns to the Lord and pray-then finally we could sleep. So, my mother explains that while at the hospital suffering with the wounds, she would sleep every night after praying and one night she had a dream. In the dream, she saw a man dressed in white shining clothes and in his right hand I was and in the left hand was my late young brother. Then my mother called with a loud shrilling cry and said to him, “Lord have mercy upon me and set me free. You also suffered the same way on the cross at Calvary” she said. Then the man came closer to her and said, “Do not worry at all, I am with you and all your children”. The man then touched all her wounds on the arm and the breast. When my mother woke up, she was already feeling no pain at all. The people she was with in the ward realized what she had experienced because they had heard her screaming. The nearest woman was a Christian and when my mother explained the dream to her, she thanked the Almighty God and encouraged her to be hopeful and to remain faithful to God. Then they prayed together and glorified the name of God. That was the beginning of my mother’s recovery from her illness at Kilembe hospital.
Back to me with the rebels, after home that night, we moved to the river which we call river Isya in my village. We crossed that river and climbed a hill opposite the one where my village is located. We reached Mr. Bwambale Basekana’s home where we found nobody in the house. All that time I was naked and feeling a lot of coldness. They slaughtered all his goats, about 19, and carried the 20th with its kid alive. They packed all the meat into their sacks and they also forced me to carry a share of the goat meat and like a sheep I followed. We also moved to the neighborhood to Muthende Joash’s home and there was nobody. All the people had gone to hide in the bush. They broke into the house; they found rabbits and some cooked food. There was also a radio which they brought outside the house and broke into pieces and that scared me the more realizing that I was in the hands of these brutes. They also ate the food. They gave me part of the food, but I could not eat because of the overwhelming shock. I dropped it on the ground. They slaughtered all the rabbits and one of them brought me one of the slaughtered rabbits and said, “This is yours man.” He did that in order to appease me. I held the rabbit and privately threw it in the verandah of the house and later, I saw another man coming and picked it out and put it into the sack. They brought me a sweater from inside the house to wear and we moved back. They tied a rope around my waist and they pulled me as we moved at a breathtaking speed since it was about to dawn.
We crossed the river Isya again back to my village. We moved towards the top of the hill which we call Kati Kali or Entole in my local language. Along the way, we reached Mr. Mubughe Douglas’ home and found nobody in the house. They opened the house and found a cooking sauce pan, some beans and one head of a cabbage. A pig also came out but they could not tamper with it because they were Moslems (as later discovered) and it was therefore against their belief. That same night, we moved ahead to another house which belonged to Mr. Douglas again for his first wife and also found nobody there. They broke into the house and brought a suit for me to wear. Probably, it belonged to one of his sons. They also went to the nearby garden and uprooted coco yams and packed them also into a sack. Those people spoke Luganda a language which I did not know. There was only one Mukonjo who could explain to me whatever they said or asked me because he knew both Luganda and Lhukonjo languages. Like they asked me if there were any soldiers in my village and I said “no” yet they were there. Remember the LDU’s. I said this thinking that they might go to our trading center where these LDU’s stayed and that if they reached there, the LDU’s would shoot at them and probably I get a chance of escaping from them. Unfortunately, they took some other way.
We moved so fast and after about two hours, we reached the top of the hill in the morning. In this early morning, they quickly fried some meat and ate it. They gave me two large pieces of meat but I did not manage to eat them because I was shivering. So, the morning was chilly that I could not feel the heat from the fire. As we were about to go deep into the forest, the one my father had speared passed away because his stomach had swollen. We were then commanded to keep moving as the others remained to bury him. As we moved over, one of them kept on comforting me, telling me that I would go back when we reached a certain place he showed me ahead. When we reached that place, he would show me another place ahead until we reached it. We moved very long distances deep into the forest where birds would fly away in an attempt to show the evil the rebels had done by abducting an infant like I was.
As we went on, what my mother had once told me came into my mind. She had once told me that an abductee was killed if on being asked whether he or she was tired and he/she said “yes”. Therefore, whenever they asked me, I would say I was not tired. They tied the goat’s mouth because it was making a lot of noise. Remember the goat we took alive with its kid? Evening came when we had not yet reached where we were going. We rested and they prepared food and put up shelters by erecting some tents. That time God blessed me and I succumbed to the situation. Certain circumstances teach us what we ought not to do in our lives. I had learnt their bush names and I started calling them. I once had been told that if you are abducted by the rebels, you ought to be sharp, therefore, anytime you can escape from them and go back home. And the consequence is executing you. Therefore my being friendly to them saved me alot.
The next day, we started the journey again. We moved through
swampy places and our bodies were covered with a lot of mud. This made it
difficult for us to move faster. At about noon the third day, we arrived at
their main barracks. I was amazed to see the place. It was quite good and
the rebels were hospitable. I saw rebels in tattered rags with swollen
stomachs and cheeks, with thin legs and ribs that could easily pluck if told
to do so. What shocked me was that when I started developing cowardice, they
brought forth a strong man who used to kill whoever misbehaved and he said
to me, “If you do not respect us here, you’ll soon regret.” Those rebels had
lacked food and therefore, the ones who came to my village were looking for
food from the gardens of civilians. They were happy to see us and
immediately started lighting a fire and roasted the meat we brought. Others
started eating the raw cassava, coco yams, and the cabbage was nowhere in
the twinkling of an eye. Afterwards, they assembled and they had a small
radio where they wanted to listen to the news, but unfortunately the radio
could not catch network and they were unable to listen to the bulletin. They
asked all about me, my name, parents’ names, siblings’ names, village name, etc., and they recorded down the information. It was at that point that they
were all asked to stay in groups of eight and I was asked to stay with their
doctor in his tent and he directed me to the place. He used to treat those
rebels from their sicknesses by giving them drugs, tablets and injecting
them. He was also the one who used to supply tea leaves, sugar and other
items, probably what they would steal from the trading centers. There were
five women married to the ones with higher ranks but without children, two
boys of my age who were abducted from the district of Bundibugyo, but they
had spent a long time there and they were used to and happy with the situation.
It was probably because they had no hopes of leaving the place and the rest were strong
gun men. The boys became my friends but I can not recall their names now. I
could be sent to the river together with those boys but they would be given
a whistle and instructed that if I tried to escape, they blow it and they
come rushing after me. Therefore, I did not completely trust those boys at
all because I knew that any time they would turn against me. The doctor also
had a wife who was very arrogant and selfish. I remember the time when they
used to fry meat and eat it in my presence without even giving me a piece.
They did that several times and days, and I kept silent. I could stay hungry
the whole day and got little food at supper time. That was where great
misery started. I could sleep badly while they would sleep in a better
place. I could go to the bush and collect fern leaves and use them as
beddings. I was subjected to mosquitoes since I could not even get what is
known as a blanket yet everybody had one. There, I could not get a chance of
bathing. I only bathed whenever it rained. Every day, we could pray five
times since they were Moslems and it was at that point that I came up
learning Islamic prayers and Luganda language. I learned all Islamic
behaviors and they never liked anyone who could call me Joram, but instead
they gave me a Moslem name, Ismail. I also had a problem of experiencing bad
dreams. For example, I could dream as if I had gone home and found two graves
there. One for my mother and the other for father. That made me feel more
worried that my parents were no more at all and when it could be morning,
they would laugh at me within their group and they could tell me that I
shall meet my parents in hell. That haunted me so much of how I would meet
my parents in hell. I did not know what to do; only shedding tears when I
reached a private place. How dare could I cry in their presence!
After about one week while there at the barracks, another group of about 50 people came to join us. That was the group that had the Chief Commander. I remember his name was called Abdul Majido if I am not mistaken, because he was not easy to approach and even I was too young to know details about him. He had a camera and sometimes could take photographs. I remember another one was called Baruku and I also heard another being titled Omukuru Murangira (in Luganda language) but I did not know the meaning. At that place, they dried the animal skins in order to preserve them. One day while in the barracks after roughly three weeks, we had gunshoots, we did not know if they were hunters or Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF). We were ordered to pack things and prepare to leave the place. Everyone there packed very quickly and we the boys and women were asked to carry some of the luggage and be in front going deep into the forest. Strong gunmen followed us behind with their gun barrels facing behind and very ready to attack. We entered deep into the forest where we met heavy rains and fog. It covered the whole place that was not easy to see somebody near me. I would move while crying because I did not know where I was going and when I thought about my family, matters changed from worse to worst. I suffered itching grasses and thorny bushes because I did not have long trousers. They had removed the other suit from me; I only had very short trousers and without shoes. We sometimes moved under total darkness and we could not receive sunshine because the trees were very tall and covered the top. They could congest wherever they found a sunshine ray. As we moved further, we reached a very huge rock and they commanded us to be quiet. Afterwards, I asked one of them why we were told to be quiet and he told me that they were fearing some debris from the stone. He said that the more noise people would make the more debris that would fall off from the rock. It seems those people had ever reached that place before, though there was no clear path to pass, they could slash the vegetation to create a pass. For example, we reached a certain place and the commander ordered us to rest a bit and as we were eating some packed food, one of the strong men went a little further and brought a hidden Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) which had rust. As we continued, we reached another big rock where the Doctor gave us two tablets each to swallow. We then continued with the journey. I did not forget to keep on praying silently as we moved ahead. We found skulls and bones of dead people, which scared me so much. To them, it was like a celebration. After about 6:00pm in the evening, we were very tired due to the long trek, and then the commander said we could rest and have a night there. They cooked some smoked meat and our traditional meal which we call obundu (made from cassava flour) in that evening, and the commander said that no one could sleep before eating, and whoever dozed was seriously slapped. I became the only victim of the circumstance which I was not used to.
Early the following morning, we continued trekking deep into the forest where we found red bamboos which had grown bigger. It was at that point that we found another big rock which was too large to accommodate almost all of us. We rested into this rock and water droplets were falling from the top of the rock. At this place, it rained very heavily and the commander ordered all the gunmen to go for a parade under that rain. We remained around the fire place since it was very cold and my limbs had swollen or had frozen due to too much coldness. They also had arguments about the other two boys wondering who would shoot better than the other. Therefore, they had gunshoot competitions. It was after those competitions that they planned to train me how to operate the gun. After sometime, we moved to climb the nearby hill and when we reached the top of that hill, they looked down the valley and started shouting with loud voices “we are reaching the Kanyogoga." I did not know the meaning of that word. When I looked into the valley and observed very clearly, I saw something very shiny. It was changing from whitish to reddish every time. I really felt disorganized and I could not manage to ask. I somehow thought that probably, it could be the place where they execute abductees. I was really confused. Then they gave us instructions how we could bypass the place. We were instructed to be quiet when we reached that place and not to comment on anything we could see around there. We then moved downwards to the valley. When we reached the place, everyone kept silent and walked very gently. When I looked around, it was sort of a lake. In that lake were some sort of light bulbs, which would start moving from this end of the lake to the other and then darkness covered the whole lake and vice versa. This happened several times. I saw very beautiful birds of different kinds, beautiful flowers and other many things I cannot manage to explain in writing. Actually, I had never seen some other things I saw there. When I tried to ask one of them, he said it was a shiny cold lake which contained evil spirits of the mountains. We were given instructions so that we could pass there safely because whoever broke those instructions would immediately disappear. At that place, my hands and feet had swollen due to coldness, but for them, they had gloves and gumboots.
After about a five hour walk, we moved towards the East and we reached a big river which had overflooded. I later discovered that it was river Mubuku which comes from the top of the Rwenzori Mountains and acts as a boundary between Ibanda and Bikone Parishes. The river had flooded that we could not manage to cross it and it was late evening. They ordered us to sleep at its banks. At that point we had no food left except cassava flour, which they cooked and mixed with sugar for our supper. In the morning, the river was still very flooded for us to cross. Then they cut the nearest tree which they thought could cross the river and acts as a bridge for us, but unfortunately, it could not. They again tampered with another tree which fell down and crossed the river, and then it acted as a bridge. As we were crossing, Majido the Chief Commander, was photographing us. After a long journey, we had no food left and we started feeding on grass. We could not have food at lunch and supper time and yet we would walk very long distances. As we continued, we met another river during evening hours on which I nearly drowned. When we were crossing that river, strong men helped us to cross and they could show us stones on which we could step and they take hold of one's arm and pull you to the other side of the river. Unfortunately, the guy showed me a very slippery rock and when I stepped on it, I fell into the water and I nearly drowned. One of the guys took hold of my hands and the other ran after the luggage I was carrying. I thank God that He saved me from that affliction. After that, it was already evening and we rested; they erected tents and we slept. In the morning, they put on stories of how people got shocked whenever they attacked their homes and they would all laugh. That would remind me of what happened at my home. It was that time also when we were about to continue with the journey that one of them told me that they were soon slaughtering me for their meal since there was not any food to eat. They said they would mix me with the grass for their meal. I cannot imagine now how much I felt when I heard that statement. They could not hunt wild animals and birds which were in plenty there like monkeys, golden monkeys, etc., for meals because they considered them unclean. I kept in a very sorry state and also praying to God silently since I had the behavior of prayer from home, though I was not perfect at it. I moved on shedding tears and they could not realize because we were moving under downpour and fog had covered the whole area. I would want to run away, but I could not manage. When I looked at the man who would kill whoever misbehaved, I would completely think of the way I would be killed. That man used to put on red clothes and carried knives around himself. He could not laugh anyhow and was always rude. That man scared me so much that I could not even stay near him.
As we moved further while I was also waiting for my execution, I was so fortunate that the distance between us and the people was like from the nose to the mouth. We saw those local civilians while we were on a hill when they were doing housework. Many people were washing clothes; others were grazing cows and digging. We really saw each and every activity that was taking place there. The commander then ordered us to go a bit deeper into the forest about six kilometers from where we saw the civilians. We then set up a camp. That place was called Kasanzi in Bundibugyo district as later discovered. In that camp during evening hours, some men were chosen to go to the gardens of the civilians and get food, so those guys set off to the village to get the food. As they reached those gardens, the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (Uganda Army) shot at them and killed some. Those who survived reached the camp early in the morning when they were already exhausted. They brought sacks of cassava, and they were so tired that they soon fell asleep. So, we were all very hungry and we fed on the raw cassava. I rejoiced while eating that God had answered my prayer, that I was not going to be killed at all since food was already there.
After all the people had eaten, one of the guys went to the river to wash about three kilometers away from the barracks and the others fell asleep, both the exhausted ones and those who were at the barracks. None of the rebels at the barracks were awake. I was the only person who was awake and seated. One of the guys in the tent raised his head and asked me if I had not slept, and I said I was alright. He then asked me to go and fetch water from the river. We had two small jerry cans and one of them was missing. I then asked him where the other jerry can was and said he would also bring it soon after me. I did not remember that I had given the missing jerry can to our neighbor. I realized that when I was already on the way to the river. I was so blessed that that time I was sent alone, not like the past days when I would be sent with the other two boys with a whistle. And if I tried to escape, they would inform them at the barracks by blowing it. That time everybody was in bed except the one who was washing. I moved downwards to the valley and when I was on the way, I met a tree stump. I jumped over it and when I tried to move forwards, backwards and even sit down, I could not manage at all. I wondered what was happening and silently I said “God, I am finished.” I had reached near the river but I could not manage to call the other man who was washing to come and rescue me. Then in that situation, I heard a voice saying “Young man, go back home.” I looked behind and in front of me and in all directions, but I saw no person. I then found myself putting the jerry can down and started moving to the Eastern direction. The other one at the river did not see me at all. When I reached a bit further, I thought of coming back because I did not know where I was going. I also thought about the distance I would be traveling and what to eat along the way. Thank God, when I looked in front I saw passion fruits and I immediately rushed there and picked six of them and placed them into my pocket and moved at a breathtaking speed.
It immediately started raining heavily and I decided to move under it. I continued with the journey running very fast and bare footed all that time, and even when I was still with them, I had no shoes at all. I thought that they would follow me up and then I decided to waste no minute. After a long distance around four kilometers and at about 8:00pm, I decided to rest. I searched for a better place where I would sleep and found a wild banana plant which had sheltered itself like a cave. I entered into that place; then I ate three of the passion fruits I carried and then slept. There, I got scared of wild animals which were making a lot of noise especially the Monkeys which chattered like human beings and jumping from one tree to another. I could not manage to sleep at all because they made me think that maybe the rebels had followed me and were about to find me anytime. I started thinking about the stories my mother had once again told me. She had said that if someone was abducted by the rebels and he/she escaped and they found him/her hiding, they then killed him/her. That made me panic alot. I also thought about the journey I was still traveling. I decided to hand over everything to God. After those thoughts had kept me awake for a long time, I slept and slumbered.
In the morning when I woke up, I ate the three passion fruits which remained and I found that the place I was in was a hiding place for wild animals. Probably, they would sleep there. I did not understand the place; it contained animal droppings, some animal fur, etc. I wondered why those animals could not come that night and I realized that it was nothing but the power of the Lord God. It also became very hard for me to come out of that hiding. I could not manage to come out because I thought that immediately if I would come out, they would be waiting for me outside the place. I could try to peep through the leaves and saw nobody outside. I decided to hand my soul into God’s hands and moved out. When I looked around, the place was the same as the hiding place. I saw large animal droppings, large foot marks and even the place looked like as if people would come to graze from there. I wondered who could come to such a distant place to graze. Then later, I was told that I was in a place where elephants would stay sometimes. When I looked at the strange hills there, I saw another barracks located on the hill. That barracks shocked me so much that I thought it would be another rebel group. Surprisingly, it was in the direction I wanted to take. I was also told later that the barracks was for the Ugandan Army. I then stood there trembling and not knowing what to say. I then chose to take the southern direction to the river which I heard in the valley about a kilometer from the place I was in. As I moved, I would hear sharp sticks piercing my feet but I could not feel pain at that moment. I would see only blood and felt pain whenever I would rest. Remember I had no shoes.
When I reached the river, it was quite big and I rested. At that time, I thought that where the river would end, I would end there too. I stood up and followed it. Where the river was a bit deeper, I passed at its side. It was at about 6:00pm in the evening after a tiresome journey that I sat on the log which had fallen across the water, but it had not completely sunk deeply. At that point, I felt I could sleep again. But I chose to move ahead a bit. Soon I reached a place where people fetched water and moving further, I reached the main road. At the side of the road was a Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA) and I remember some youths were there singing hymns of praise. I also sat down and rested meanwhile watching them. I was very dirty and extremely shabby. I think I even had a bad odor because I had spent a long time without bathing. I was wearing a very wet coat and a torn light shirt inside and short trousers. I had very long and disorganized hair. My whole face was covered by pimples. Actually, I looked like a mad person. That place was called Bwamba also in Bundibugyo district as later explained to me. While there, three women came along carrying firewood. They asked me who I was and where I had come from, but I did not become open to them. While they were going, I heard one of them saying, “That boy might be a mad person or one of the rebels; look at how shabby, wet and disorganized he is,” and the others accepted it. After their departure, I put off the dirty coat I was wearing and threw it away into the bush and remained with the light shirt which was a bit dry.
On the way, those women went and told a herdsman whom they met
along the way grazing goats that they had seen someone they had not
understood and that they were sensing danger over their village. They
explained to him that they had failed to recognize whether I was one of the
rebels or mad. Then that man left the herd and came to find out who I was.
This was also later explained to me. He came with a very sharp panga and at
a near distance, he asked, “Who are you and where are you coming from?” It
was about 7:20pm in the evening. I also replied and explained to him all the
details. That man then congratulated me and was very happy to meet me. He
then took me to the UPDF Army barracks and as we were going to the barracks,
we met a man who was a Local Council Chairman of a certain village. When the
herdsman explained to him all about me, the man felt sorry and asked me if I
was hungry. He then gave me a biscuit to eat. When we reached the barracks,
the soldiers asked me many questions in order to prove whether I was an
abductee or part of the rebel group, and the answers I would give would
determine which side I belonged to. After proving my innocence, they gave me
food and asked the LC1 Chairperson to take me to his house for a night. Many
people there doubted me a lot. I was offered a lot of hospitality at the
Chairman’s house. The family was very friendly to me and that was where I
bathed for my first time. I was given food to eat, but I could not manage
because of a lot of thoughts. I was thinking about how far I traveled from
the bush and what would have happened to me along the way.
In the morning when we were preparing to go back to the Army barracks, a woman who later introduced herself to me as the mother of the herdsman who had found me came along. She came with cooked food and some money to offer to me. When she saw me she was so filled with joy, but in amazement. I got very much surprised when she recognized me as a grandson of Lhusenge Paul, which was the absolute truth. She explained to me that she was my relative I had not known. I was so amazed and wondered why that could happen. What a coincidence it was! Then I realized that God was on my side since the day I escaped. Many people came and were seeking to stone me to death because they thought I might be part of the rebels. But that old woman could hide me into her house and whoever wanted to see me would first be asked many questions and finally would be allowed to come in and see me. People could come with gifts to offer to me as thanksgiving. After about three hours that day, I was taken back to the Army barracks. That woman also accompanied me to the barracks. She was the one who even explained my parentage to the soldiers and bore witness that she knew me very well. That was a great miracle to me. I was too young to know my parish, village and even sub-county but that very woman explained to them except that she was also referring to areas of Maliba which is the nearest neighboring Sub-county to mine. That was where I regained hope of reaching home safely.
I was then given two soldiers to accompany me to the District headquarters of Bundibugyo. Though I went, the other woman still doubted that they might kill me. They stopped her when she had completely decided that she would follow me until I reached home. We walked a very long distance - the means of transport was very poor. The road there could not favor the movement of vehicles and the only transport to be used was walking on foot and some other people had donkeys. I only saw a small van which had become a burden to its owners. It could keep stopping all the time and they tried to push it. We moved on and also resting at different trading centers. I remember we had some lunch at one of those centers. With the two soldiers, we traveled and reached Bundibugyo town in the evening. I was then taken to the Army barracks of Bundibugyo and the next day I was taken around by one of the soldiers who was my tribe-mate (Mukonjo). He took me to the air field to show me the chopper. After showing me the chopper, he brought me back and I interacted with the others. There, I found a woman who was also abducted by the rebels, but she was later rescued by the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces. She told me a story of how they would be mistreated by the rebels. She also told me that sometimes they could slaughter both animals and abductees and mixed the meat together and cooked it. At the time of dining, they would ask them to close their eyes and then they serve them that meat. I was chanced that that did happen to me. So, one day when the UPDF attacked them, they were able to rescue her. Unfortunately, I cannot remember her now. I stayed at that barracks with that woman who had stayed there for so long doing the work of cooking for the soldiers. The Army captain told me that when that woman was being let to go, I could go too. I also accepted after all I did not even know whether I shall reach home. The next day early in the morning, a Chopper came with alot of army commanders. They looked like tall and harsh men with different types of army uniforms. They looked for me and one of the Bakonjo soldiers called me. When I reached there, they asked me many questions asking who should have sent me to the bush. But my answer was always “I was abducted.” They came again with the same question, but my answer remained the same. Some other different ones came and asked the same question, but I stuck on the same answer until they stopped. They could beg me to tell them if there was anyone who sent me there or if I was part of the rebel group and I had surrendered. They could speak a strange language and the Mukonjo soldier could translate for me. Their aim was to know exactly if I was an abductee or not. I thank God that I could maintain my response to their questions. Otherwise, they would have killed me or taken me to prison.
After about one week, part of the soldiers one evening went to ask the Army Chief Commander if the woman and I could leave the place. I was so happy that he accepted. In the morning of the next day, they brought a double cabin and the woman packed all her things. I did not have anything to pack. We borded the vehicle and traveled to Fort portal district. On the way, I had a stomachache because I had eaten a half cooked posho at the barracks. I went on vomiting seriously within the vehicle. We traveled with one of the commanders who went on helping each other with the driver to drive. After a long time, we reached Fort Portal where we were taken to the headquarters of the district. We met with the Local Council Five of the District who gave a recommendation letter to the woman, and she departed since she knew the way to her house. I cannot tell now if she reached home or not, but what I know is that she went to meet her family. I remained into the LCV’s office. Afterwards, one of his office men took me to a hotel, and after eating, he brought me back and asked me to tell him the whole story. After the story, he encouraged me and comforted me that soon I was reaching home. Using a call box, he called the Local Council five of my District Kasese who was Yokas Bihande at that time and explained to him everything concerning me. The LCV Kasese district also informed all the sub-counties, parishes and villages. My parents were shocked when they heard the information about me. Many people in my village Mirimbo thought it was a ghost. Many people were seriously frightened when they heard the news. My mother was also shocked when she heard that information. I was taken to Fort Portal orphanage from the LCV’s office where they said my people would come and pick me up soon. I stayed in the orphanage and found big stubborn boys who bullied me and even took the little money I had. I had nothing to say and no one to report to. I found some other miserable life in the orphanage where I thought I would meet good children. I do not forget to thank God who had provided those orphans who would cater for their needs. I did not know all his details, but what I remember is that he was a white man who would bring all the food we were eating in that orphanage. May God bless him abundantly.
After about three days in the orphanage, one morning I saw my father coming to the orphanage on a motorbike. I was so amazed to see him whom I had thought that he had died. I also thought that it was a ghost. I did not even believe my eyes at all. I had thought that all the people at home had died. My father came near me, hugged me and we all burst into tears. The people who were around were so much surprised and we all joined hands to magnify, glorify and worship the Lord God for all His amazing grace. From the orphanage, we hired a motorbike and we went back to the office of the LCV and he recommended us to go home. We then bordered a taxi from Fort Portal to Kasese town. My father bought for me biscuits and I ate them as we moved. After about six kilometers, we reached Bugoye at the headquarters of my sub-county where people were so much amazed to see me. Many people longed to see me but due to the larger crowd, others could not see me very well. They brought a long stool where I stood so that everybody could see me. There, I received a lot of gifts from the people; i.e. money, chickens, etc. In the evening at around 5:00pm, we moved to Ibanda my Parish where I found all the people from my village and the nearest villages having set up a refugee camp called Ibanda Internally Displacement Camp of about 800 people. Here, many people feared me so much as if I was strange. It took a long time for people to realize that I was a normal human being. I was taken to Ibanda trading center and people here gave me a lot of prizes as thanksgiving. We stayed in this camp for five years before we went back to our village. We suffered more misery into that camp, especially shortage of food. Many people had been left fatherless and all of them needed food and other needs also. It was so hard for us. My father was elected the Chairman of the camp and he managed to struggle with the help of the political leaders, and we received help from the Uganda Committee of the Red Cross. They would come and supply us with food - especially posho, cooking oil, beans and beddings - especially blankets, mosquito nets and even clothing for each and every family. I also thank that organization for supporting my people.
This is what I can explain for now. I experienced all that in the course of my life and during the peak of the rebel activities in western Uganda. I suffered alot and again God rescued me from that den of lions. I cannot tell if that group is still in the bush or not. But I suggest that maybe they have been executed. I spent about four and a half months suffering in the bush. I had finished primary two and then I started primary three. Now I am in advanced level at Rwenzori High school till the end of next year located on the slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains commonly known as the Mountains of the moon, and its where my family is located. We welcome each and every person who would wish to meet us. We shall be glad to see you and explain more to you.
In a different way, I would like to thank the Lord God Almighty with a grateful heart, who performed this great miracle in our lives. He rescued me and gave the strength of moving long distances. He provided my food along the way and He protected me from the dangerous wild animals. He protected and defended me so much that I could not be executed by the rebels. He also protected my family by saving it from destruction. Otherwise, my family would be extinct in one day. Though my parents have remained very weak, I can still see them alive. He should be worshiped, trusted and extremely loved more than all other created things on earth. May the soul of my little brother rest in eternal and everlasting peace. Glory to you Lord God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit forever, Amen.
I thank God’s Church for the continued prayers towards my family. Many Christians and friends prayed and fasted seeking God to have mercy upon me and my family, and indeed God heard all the prayers. I also thank Reverend Julius Kithaghenda, Rev. Nelson Walina, Rev. Eric Byaruhanga and many other priests especially the priest who was at Kilembe Church of Uganda, whom we do not recall his name now. Thank you for all the prayers you rendered to us. May the Lord provide you with what you need.
I thank the president of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the commander in Chief of the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces for the discipline he has instilled in them and for paying my parents hospital bills. Otherwise, they would have killed me in my primary stages of being rescued.
I would like to request all the readers of this story to keep praying for my family so that our faith in God should not deteriorate though my family remained in total poverty and it is undergoing many hardships.
This is my testimony to the Church of God and I feel very happy to share it with all fellow Christians so that they can see what God has done in our lives. The above experiences made me follow Jesus Christ since the very day I reached home. I pray that you understand everything that is written in this story. Be blessed in Jesus’ name as you read.
For more information, please contact me at the addresses listed below.
Above all, God remains great!
Thanks and Yours in Spirit,
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