I remember being in the house that night. My Ex had visited and we had had very bad sex I must emphasize. All of a sudden a sound of gunshots that were being fired from a distance woke us up amidst ringing noises of neighbors that could easily tell we were under siege. We ran for our lives!
As we ran through the plantations and bushes to save our lives at least for another minute, bullets rained and from a distance you would see the terror looks of rebels on army trucks each driving in zig-zag to find the right target! The fear accrued from that single sight of rebels would mean you would easily breathe your last albeit accidentally if you envisioned a soldier coming close even when no gunshot was fired.
There was fear, trembling, hopelessness as the wild became dark and the sight of dead bodies became unbearable and torture in itself. I and my friend decided to get a place to hide and a few minutes before we made a decision, a rebel must have seen a standing man in our radius and right away started to fire bullets in our direction at a nonstop rate. We quickly took cover (who doesn’t know this cover thing here in Uganda associated with soldiers in war) on the ground. I could hear and even see bullets passing an inch above my head. When the bullet sounds fell silent, we ran to an abandoned mud house some of our friends refusing the suggestion and only opting to help close us from outside with a nail lock so that no one suspects they are people inside. How wrong we were!
With extreme darkness covering the room at the time we entered, we thought we were only two people. However as we would later learn there was a boy who had hid close to a hole; you know those “holes” in mud houses (a son or daughter of a minister won’t know what am talking about) and as the worst lack would have it, we were called in the rudest ways to come out of our hiding. It was coming to morning now but I had not blinked throughout the night.
Out we moved, three of us, and worst of all I had a panga and one of them noticed. I swear I still can’t remember where that panga came from. Why does he have a panga? He exclaimed, does he want to kill us? Trembling with fear and shaking my head horizontally as though attacked by a ghost, I said I didn’t know about the panga. They then led us to a line where they were registering everyone who had been captured; they would take away all you had (phones, bags, money etcetera) and give you a big stick like “Kiboko” and then send you to join the bigger group.
By the look of things now, they had set up a camp at a place that was formerly a school; chairs, desks and blackboards being sighted. As we jazzed with acquaintances few hours after our capture at the rebel camp, a mean looking soldier came to us and asked why we were discussing and even threatened to drink someone’s blood if we continued to do so (he had a bucket and sword in his hands). The big headed thing in me asked why and that’s when hell broke loose for me! I was dragged to the ground and pulled on my knees like 50metres away and before I could blink, a bucket was on my neck and a sword in my neck. That was within a second! A damn second! I remember I said, “God receive my soul”.
Now this fool had dug a few centimeters inside my neck. He asked, “do you now know why Tumbavu?” I first fell silent and acted as though dead. He then asked again but now with more rage. I responded with a faint voice, “Yes Sir! “And I apologized. He pulled the sword out of me and I hurriedly touched my wound (a hole) to stop bleeding. I remember I added some soil. Damn!
We slowly walked away with my friends insisting to go and have a sight of what the other rebels were up to. I had my friend Rogers who always insisted. If you know how T.I behaved himself in movie #ROOTS5. They peeped and with luck came back alive. The news was we were in a valley and the rebels had deployed all artillery on the whole upper side of the hill to smash any possible enemy. You would clearly see mambas, tanks and high level machine guns.
Our shelter is in a class now and we are so many people and all of young people. They did not mix young with old people and I still don’t know why. My two new friends (a girl and a boy) were crying profusely. I reached out to them and told them to stop crying. They wouldn’t stop! It’s now that told I them how I was actually in a worse situation having greeted death with the right hand and escaping with the left hand. I still had a fresh wound, still bleeding, and with few hopes of healing soon. I told them to think of the grief of their mothers who couldn’t even see them (their children) or even be sure that their children were still alive. They sobbed for a few minutes.
In the middle of the night we moved out to see what was happening and to our astonishment saw our friend Josh with a gun. I still don’t know why it had to be you Josh! And he was not willing to help or even show sympathy let alone allow us to get close to him. There were people with in the camp that they were planning to rush to exile. For a moment I wondered where our mighty UPDF that had kept peace beyond the boundaries of our country was. I asked a lot of questions (inwardly of course) and sometimes broke down because of what had befallen us, a blood war!
No one amongst the rebels wants to listen or even give a damn whether you die in the next minute I tell you. To them it doesn’t even matter how you die; bullet, hunger, suicide, sword, disease??? I mean no rebel in this world cares about human life not even a government soldier especially when the war is tense. In the morning, people would be flogged, beaten, girls raped, I still don’t know why but every day it happened. That morning, a group of people were brought to the camp amongst them two whites. Of course you wouldn’t talk to any even when you knew them, would you? Any person talking to another or suspected to have talked to another for a little while would be suspected, accused and in a matter of minutes convicted for planning a rebellion or escape. Each crime attracted death. Did you hear that right? And the warnings (indiscriminate killings daily) being enough, you wouldn’t want to risk.
The group of people were taken into a tunnel (call it cave “Empuku”) in the inside of the hill and if am to report they are alive, that would be the biggest call it greatest optimistic stunt Mother Nature has ever seen. I really hope they survived but I never saw them AGAIN, I only saw the soldiers that took them to the tunnel. As the clouds turned dark and hopelessness ensued, something happened that would bring a quick sincere hearty smile that at least took over my life for a minute. A new people were being brought to the camp and far away on top of a cliff, I saw my mother. It was a complete spectacle!
All the life in the wild from the day the bullets rained and I ran out of my house to protect my life at least for one more minute, I had not seen my sisters, my brother, my father, my cousins or even any relative. It had been the darkest time of my life. For a moment, and indeed many times during that tragedy, a lesson was learnt: “whether in government, in opposition or in none, there is one thing that we should never wish for or allow to happen, a war or a military coup”. I realized that there is a WAR WE SHOULD ALL HATE, a MILTARY COUP. Fellow youth, all Ugandans don’t be like a young monkey that wishes to see a forest that has caught fire because it wants to see what it looks like. This is our country and in all disagreements and at all times when we feel we are tired, let’s look at that one percent chance to solve our conflicts peacefully.
BY: MUHAMYA PIUS
Ugandan Citizen and Photographer at Marine Photography.