Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Limbo in the North - Will the war in Uganda ever end?

Eveline Alobo, a weary, rail-thin 50-year-old mother of five, turned in her chair to look at the man waving his arms in the air. In one hand, he clutched a cane; in the other, a bottle of home-brewed beer. Through the hot, hazy air of the dry season, the babbling man, in his torn shirt and hat, resembled a marionette.

“He is drunk,” Alobo said, frowning. An Association of Volunteers for International Service (AVSI) staff member hopped up and ran towards the man, clapping his hands in the air to scare him off.

Alobo, an ethnic Acholi, lives in the Acet Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, about 75 miles from the border of Sudan, one of hundreds of camps that dot Uganda’s northern region. Acet looks like most of the other camps: The fertile undergrowth typical of neighboring villages has been cleared away, making room for a few simple structures that serve as schoolhouses and a clinic, plus row after row of mud-brick huts with thatched-grass roofs, many of them furnished with little more than a pot for cooking. Every few yards, a latrine shaped like a porta-potty juts out of the ground. Using the latrines makes the camp more sanitary, but children fear them, so small rivers of human waste run down the mud pathways.

“The sanitation is just shit,” said Louisa Seferis, program director for AVSI’s Northern Uganda office, which monitors and manages camps in three of Uganda’s northern districts.

Alobo moved to Acet 20 years ago. She fled her home after the Lord’s Resistance Army—a rebel outfit that’s been terrorizing the region for more than two decades in an attempt to overthrow the government—raided her village in the middle of the night. She watched as rebels pulled her husband and daughter from their hut and hacked them to death with machetes, then made off with her son.

Now, like most of the displaced, she faces the filth and widespread alcoholism of the IDP camps.

Continue reading this article, which I co-wrote with Hannah Rappleye, at San Diego CityBeat...

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