Out and about in Northern Uganda

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It was nagging at me that i really need to get going and it nagged and nagged and eventually i found myself packing, destination – Northern Uganda

The trip was around the time that i was planning to travel across Africa from East to West on a story telling project about women entrepreneurs in Africa. For me, no part of the country bore so much intrigue like Northern Uganda

Close to the border with S.Sudan, growing up we always heard stories of conflict in Gulu except they were not stories, this was a real war happening in Uganda, but being in Kampala out of sight seemed out of mind.

The LRA began as an evolution of ‘the Holy Spirit Movement’ – a rebellion against President Yoweri’s oppression of the north of Uganda, led by Alice Lakwena. When Alice Lakwena was exiled, Joseph Kony took over, changing the name of the group to the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA. As the group lost regional support, he quickly started a trend of self-preservation that would come to characterise the rebel group, stealing supplies and abducting children to fill his ranks.

Starting in 1996, the Ugandan government, unable to stop the LRA, required the people of northern Uganda to leave their villages and enter government-run camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). These camps were supposedly created for the safety of the people, but the camps were rife with disease and violence. At the height of the conflict, 1.7 million people lived in these camps across the region. The conditions were squalid and there was no way to make a living. Thus, a generation of Acholi people were born and raised in criminal conditions.

Fine, the post is meant to be about travel

It has been move than 30years since the conflict in the North came to an end, people are slowly moving back home and as usual the development world is around to help. There are a number of reconciliation, rehabilitation projects in the country and i was told some of the ”do-gooders” have packed up and moved on to other causes, like the one in the Karamoja region of Uganda, also rumored to have oil or minerals?

On a cold Monday morning, i was off to Gulu by road (the best way to travel) by POSTA bus recommended by friends who still have family up North

I did not have any plans for anything, including a place to stay but i was sorted because a friend of a friend would pick me up from the bus stop

The road was fine in places, made a few stops here and there for road side food and it was interesting to see how the offerings changed as we moved across regions. The closer to Kampala, there was more food and fruit, alot of bananas, pineapples, in what could possibly be the bread basket of Uganda – and the closer we got to Gulu, less food it seems but it could also be that  i was asleep half the time

Come 1pm, i was in Gulu, picked up by a friend and dropped home where i jsut crashed out – i was really knackered

Sightings from Gulu

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Destinations near and far from Gulu:

  • Ajai Game Reserve — boasts a deluxe safari camp under construction just outside its borders. A small reserve at 16,600 hectares, located on the east bank of the Albert Nile.
  • Aswa-Lolim – A former game reserve that has been turned into farmland, but with a wildlife management programme to manage the wild life that still passes through the area.
  • Fort Patiko – a.k.a Baker’s Fort, a short drive north of Gulu
  • Kidepo Valley National Park – located in the extreme NE corner of Uganda on the Sudan border. Incredible birds and wildlife including elephant, zebra, ostrich and massive buffalo herds.
  • Murchison Falls National Park – offers a very nice boat trip getting surrounded by crocodiles and hippos. The nearby waterfall is dramatic and beautiful, as the entire Nile river plunges down 45 m (150 ft) and through a 7 m (23 ft) wide crevice. It is possible to do safaris – Murchison is full of a variety of wildlife, including elephants, giraffes, hartbeast, buffalo, and a few lions and leopards. For now it is still a little bit difficult to get as independent traveller. Take an early bus to Masindi and then try to arrange for transport to bring you to the park. With some luck, you could get a free ride with the rangers.
  • and if none of this excites you, there are regular buses to Juba, South Sudan

The people in Northern Uganda are the nicest of people, it makes such a difference from other parts of Uganda. I hang out in Sankofa cafe on the first day, bought a hammock for Carlos, walked around to my heart’s content, and went to visit Lacor which was the sight for the kidnapping of high school students from St Mary’s Lacor by the rebels in the 90s, and to Lacor hospital to the memorial stone of Dr. Lukwiya who was a victim of the Ebola outbreak in Uganda alongside 2 other colleagues

Did a couple of interviews with women entrepreneurs, went to the market and got 2 outfits  made in the space of 3 days.

Would definitely recommend going back, there is not much to do but hanging out with the people is well worth it , and try to time it when it is not too hot because i heard that can be unbearable

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