ALICE LAKWENA AND BEYOND MUSEVENI: WHAT ACHOLI SHOULD SEEK FOR, BUT NOT AN AGENDA AND MATERIALISM

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(2 CHRONICLES: 29:1-11)

By John Muto-Ono p’Lajur

“When you carry God, you carry everything”-as someone who accepted Christ as my personal savior, this is my testimony on how the hand of God has transformed my bleeding heart.

All of us cannot deny the fact that every heart in Acholi is bleeding like that of Ms. Christine Akello Lutara, who on Good Friday, April 19  2019, was so troubled that she decided to put her bleeding heart  known to us all. It is the genesis of this conference. She asked the fundamental question: “What do we really want? What is our Agenda?”

My testimony tries to give answers to those two questions from a Biblical perspective by sharing with you how the hands of God carried away those very questions from my mind when he rescued me from a man who became mad,  who ate human pupu (shit), to the man of sound mind who is now standing before you, in this very hall where he sat his ‘A’ level exams in 1974.

My trouble began when I was arrested three times between June and August 1986 by a former chicken vendor at Gulu Main market, one Nsubuga, where I worked as an Assistant Market Master just before Idi Amin was overthrown in April 1979. I left him still dealing in chicken by 1981 when I decided to join the army. He had apparently joined the NRA as an informer when the new army entered Gulu in 1986.

 Two times, authorities could not establish why I was being arrested and therefore cleared me to return home. However, on the third occasion, I was not lucky enough. We met an NRA soldier, who had served in UNLA with me, so he identified me with an operation scar on my groin. He was there at Mbuya Military Hospital when I was operated for a big boil which had developed puss.

It was August 1986 and raining heavily, very cold in Gulu. My shirt, shoes and an Alba wrist watch were removed and we were taken to the cells at 4th Division headquarters in the barracks. Prominent among those arrested included two business men, the late Simon Gunya Purudi and the late Aboo who were later released.

In September 1986, we were transferred in crowded military trucks to Upper Prison Luzira where our number swelled to over one thousand who were brought from Northern and Eastern Ugandan and were booked in as ‘lodgers’. Visitors were not allowed to visit us and we were overcrowded in few wards. I was literally freezing and I thought I would die after I saw a boy from my village, one Obote the son of Lacito from Palabek Kal, die there. We were unlocked to come out of the wards at about eight in the morning and then locked in by six in the evening. We never saw stars or moon.

One day in September 1986, I encountered an expatriate from International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) walking out of the facility after a visit to the condemned section. We were sunbathing in the football field where inmates play and have exercise. I greeted him and quickly requested him for two favors:  to bring me one of his old shirts because I could die anytime due to bad weather and for him to rescue us by ‘lodgers’ by having us documented by the ICRC because we were being held incommunicado.

Two weeks later a team from ICRC came to our rescue with several bales of second hand clothes and blankets and another team to register all lodgers at Upper Prison Luzira. I got two pairs of clothes and a blanket and registered with prison number UL/1170. I was extremely relieved by this development.

Government was not pleased with this intervention and one day all of a sudden, we were transferred at night to Kirinya Prison on the shores of Lake Victoria in Jinja where ICRC could not find our new location. We found the entire prison emptied off prisoners except a lone Moslem cleric. Communication was completely shut down on our face. I was elected as one of the ward leaders at Kirinya.

One good thing we found at Kirinya prison was that the warders could sneak out with messages from the cleric to his son who was a lecturer at Makerere University and could bring him essential commodities like sugar. We, as enlightened ward leaders, also approached the cleric and requested him to inform his son to tip the press of where we ‘lodgers’ were transferred out of reach of ICRC team. The prison hand no functioning sewage system because water supply had been disabled and rendered non-functional. Every day, we would record at least one death because we were all infested with lice, poor nutrition, overcrowded and inadequate medication.

One day, a team of ICRC expatriates, including specialists in nutrition, health and plumbers stormed the prison and they began to fix our problems. Water system was restored. We were given new sets of clothes, but one must first remove the old infected clothes, be disinfected, bath and then given two new pairs of clothes and a new blanket. The old ones were burnt. The nutritionist recommended raw oil, powered milk, onions, and tomatoes be added to our menu of beans and maize flour meal. Deaths were stopped and we settled.

It was at Kirinya that I was struck with a strange illness which nearly killed me. I was feeling very cold, shivering and vomiting, had diarrhea and became crippled. I could only crawl to the filthy toilet on all four. I could have had a lethal injection since such is not uncommon in prisons. My former boss, Major Lewis Kizza, died at Upper Prision Luzira soon after he was arrested. The clinic had no medicine for me, but the Basoga nurse brought me some tablets from town that healed me.

We were again relocated from Kirinya in buses at night back to Kampala when the HSM of Alice Auma Lakwena had entered Busoga and speculation was strong that she was planning to cross River Nile on their way to Kampala and that they were marching towards Magamaga in Jinja.

This time we were taken to Murchison Bay Prison where conditions were much better and more specious. It was here that Rwot Yusuf Adek and Timothy Jokkene joined us but they were lucky to have been released through courts of law. We only gained our freedom after the June 3, 1988 Peace Agreement between government and the UPDA and was able to watch stars shine at night once more.

When I went to St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor to donate blood, the nurse could not locate any blood vein and the donation was halted. I knew I was in serious trouble and developed fears for my life. My fears were confirmed on March 5, 1999 from Naguru Medical Clinic but two days later the Almighty God gave me an opportunity to fly out to Dar-es-Salaam.

I relaxed my mind for three days in a five-star hotel during the Commonwealth Peace Reporting workshop organized by the British High Commissioner there for peace reporters from the region.

I had the opportunity to meet an editor of a Tanzanian Kishwahili language newspaper who accepted to publish camp photos from northern Uganda and I was able to carry back home a copy of the edition. I returned to Uganda and resumed normal life, although scaling down on workloads, delegating most of the works to colleagues at the Bureau.

However in August 2004, when I travelled to Kampala head office for routine visits, I received a shocking news that later changed my destiny completely for worse. I was confronted with a discontinuing letter removing me from my position as Bureau Chief immediately because of what my immediate supervisor had said that “I was no longer performing”. The only package I came home with was a total of shillings 4 million (about US$ 1200) for all the time I worked since 1993. My last born was only seven years old and is still in Nursery school. I had a mild depression because of the burden that lay ahead.

When I returned from Kampala, I became addicted to computer surfing and I developed liking for pornographic sites where I would spend up to 10.00 pm in the night when the streets are already quite. I began to develop weight where the highest recorded was 80 kilograms. I became talkative, excessively jovial and frequent admission to St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor. Meanwhile my family was living on minimum food ratio. I continued to appear on Mega FM Te-Yat Saturdays programs where I was one of the panelists.

The last time for me to be on ‘air’ came in June 2004. As I was leaving the studio; I bade “GOOD BYE” to listeners in an extremely happy mood. I walked straight to the home of a friend with whom we had parted ways due to a property dispute over my lock-up shop worth shillings 600.000 (US$ 170.00) which he helped build ten years earlier.

He wanted to take it for good, but our gentlemen’s agreement was that he would first recovers his cost and then return the lock-up shop to me after all the amount of the cost was recovered. However, he continued to collect all the money from 1992 to 2004 by which time he had already collected shillings 3,400,000 (about US$ 1000). We agreed on additional 600,000shillings which I gladly paid at once. We became friends again and since then we are very intimate.

As I walked back from my friend’s home that Saturday evening, I met my eldest daughter along Awich Road. She was named “Peace Ayenyo” by one of the Royal Princesses from Payira Chiefdom I only knew her surname of LAPURA. We baptized her Dorah Lalweny in memory of Ms. Dorah Bloch, the Israelis casualty of the Entebbe Raid after the Palestrina hijacked an Israelis and brought it to Entebbe, and the name of my grandmother.

The pair of us marched as if were marching for ‘Holy Matrimony’ to Plot 20, Andrea Olal Road where part of my family lived. I was exceptionally happy and my daughter got worried and thought I was having a break down. She requested my partner to monitor me very keenly. My partner led me to bed and slept.

At about 6.00 pm, I got up from bed as if going to answer nature’s call in the toilet. After locking myself inside, I bent down and scooped a piece of shit which was floating on the water inside the pan. I began to chew it with a lot of appetite. It felt sticky like honey comb, tasted like peanut butter but had no bad smell.

My partner began banging the toilet door after waiting for me for over five minutes and when I finally relented to her banging my mouth and hand were still wet. She knew I had eaten shit and slapped me hard in the face, jeering at me as she led me back to bed. Soon, I began to snore. That night, I still vividly remember the five series of dreams I had.

In the first dream, I was passing in front of a Supermarket at night and instead of the usual welcome messages to supermarkets the words: “PEACE FOMULA” was flashed in my sight in red color while the background had black color.

The second dream was the abacus for teaching Nursery School Kids for counting numbers. It had six stands with stood on a base. Three of the stands had three balls with letters “G” (God), letter “O” (Bishop Onono) and letter “M” (Muto) in that order. The last three had no balls.

The third dream was a clay pot, out of which was oozing out foam-like semi liquid like simsim (sesame) paste or melting snow flowing out to the ground. A voice said they were the 144,000 saints in Revelation 7:1-8.

The fourth dream was that I was arriving late for an international conference in “Adam suits” with my two spouses and that I was clean shaven. The sun was very bright that morning and the delegates were already seated in two rows of white tents facing each other. We received standing ovations with thunderous clapping of hands.

I the last dream which came around six in the morning, I was walking along a path which led me to the round hut built inform of the residence of Bishop Nelson Onono-Onweng. When I entered the hut, the figure “1” was being illuminated instead of an electric bulb. I gave brighter light than a bulb would have given. At this time, I was already trembling in bed and my partner noticed it.

My partner asked me, “What is wrong?” confirming what Dorah had told her the previous evening. It was already daybreak and I simply ordered her to take me to Bishop Onono-Onweng. She phoned one of my sons who came in hurry with a boda boda and we rode to St. Phillip to the bishop’s residence without incident.

Just as we reached the grave yard by the Cathedral, we met the Bishop going to church. When I saw the Bishop, I began to wail as if I was possessed by evil spirits. I tried to embrace the Bishop, repeating the words “PEACE FORMULA” which I had in the first dream at night. I asked him to take me back to his home as I had something very important to tell him. Everybody was surprised but Rev. Canon Othiniel Ayela-Labeja asked me to first join the bishop’s team for church service and thereafter go with the bishop to his residence. I became normal again and we had a peaceful service. I remember it was one of the Trinity Sundays in the church calendar.

Once the service was over, we retreated to the same hut I encountered in my last dream, few hours before that morning. All I can recall telling the Bishop was to repeatedly say the word ‘sieving’. This is like a woman who would use a winnower to separate millets from its hushes. After tolerating me for about thirty minutes, he prayed for my quick recovery and requested me to return back to my home. I reached home well and went straight to bed.

By eight o’clock at night, I was at St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor admitted and unconscious for three days. Medics could not find out the diagnosis. My brothers in the village were called and they secretly went to consult witchdoctors. After waiting for me to improve but not seeing any, my brothers requested the hospital administration to permit them take me back home since my condition was not improving at all.

Once home, they began to administer some herbal medicines to me but there was one particular herb I remember, which my wife was instructed to burn like incense by my head-side of my bed at night as I go to sleep. When I became better and could now walk about the house and visit the latrine, my brothers returned to the village but instructed my partner to continue administering the herbs.

One evening she requested me to go with her to visit a friend who lives around Holy Rosary slum at about 7.30 pm but actually she was leading me to a witch-doctor’s shrine. He gave more herbs to administer to me, this time with some instructions to be followed religiously. He forbade me from eating ‘pork’,‘Tilapia’  and an Acholi most delicious dish-“malakwang”. They stopped serving me those dishes until one day when I visited a friend who didn’t know of that instruction and he served me ‘roasted pork with cassava chips’. When I returned home that evening, I told my partner that I ate pork. After my relatives waited for something bad to happen to me for disobeying the witch-doctor, and when nothing happened, they also began serving these dishes.

One night at about 03.00 am (about 00.00 GMT) I got out of bed as if going for short call. I had no slippers or shirt on, but I found myself being pulled to walk towards Kirombe, a suburb west of Gulu town. I wondered about homesteads, lost and sometimes passing through hibiscus shrubs as I traced my route back to my house in Pece. Luckily, I meet no one, not even a barking dog to bite me or security guard for trespass. I returned home safe but my trouser was full with hibiscus seeds.

The following night was a Sunday and I was back to Lacor Hospital, this time vomiting seriously, weak, and had diarrhea and had lost weight. I had become friends with the medics here because I was a frequent patient. The doctor on duty examined me and revealed that I was anemic and needed two units of blood. I was told by the nurse who had gone to collect from the blood store that the hospital had no blood.

But the following morning the doctor in-charge of the Medicine ward, Dr. Pido, who is a personal friend, went to the blood store and returned with the two units of blood. I was saved. It was during this admission that I heard BBC breaking the news of the helicopter crash that killed South Sudanese leader, Dr. John Garang, over a radio set of a South Sudanese fellow in-patient. My weight had dropped from 80 kilograms to 50 kilograms and the doctor said I should eat one egg every day.

My mental health condition was referred to the Mental Health Unit at the Gulu Regional Referral Hospital where another friend, Dr. Thomas Oyok (RIP) is the head. When I visited his clinic and we exchanged greetings, I handed him my referral medical form from Lacor. When he saw my form he diagnosed my condition as ‘organic mania’ which is caused by ‘primary and secondary’ problems. It had not yet graduated to ‘senior; problem level. He put me on Haldol tablets.

My replacement came when I was still in the hospital but when I returned from hospital we continued to share the rooms behind the Bureau but Kampala pressurized him to throw me out. In 2007, I had nowhere to relocate this family except to kindly request my partner to retreat back to her parents with the children. This is where they have continued to live to date. I was relieved from the hustle of looking for what to eat on daily basis and from threats of landlords.

I had dropped so low to the extent that one day when my children had spent more than twenty-four hours without adequate food but on porridge, I went to the offices of World Vision and told them that “I was like a dead man already placed in a coffin ready to be buried, but is still being flogged to go and work to feed the family”. That statement earned me sympathy and I was able to secure food relief ratio and funding for my last born in Primary.

In the same year, my daughter bought a piece of land at Laliya and began to build me a house I now call my home. My partner became a vendor at Laliya market selling silver fish. I was relieved from providing daily bread and paying rent for the first time since 1977 when I began renting in Gulu town but continued to religiously take my medications from both Lacor and Mental Health Unit.

I handled money for the first time in April 2014 when I received US$ 100 a friend I met online, Milton Allimadi. I had learnt surfing the internet using computers at Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC), which we formed in 1993. This was during my wedding on April 26, 2014.

My first article appeared in my friend Allimadi’s Black Star News around 2015 and he has since continued to pay me adequately, which has enabled me see my last two children get adequate education with the last now in her second year at university.

During my sixty-seventh birthday on November 7, 2019, a family friend bought me a laptop which has since bailed me out of using shared office computers. There is a prospect of getting a grant to enable me write my memories.

On December 6, 2019 my prodigal forty-one year old son died suddenly from the village and I was able to give him in a befitting burial. When I received the news about his death, I had only Shs. 20,000.00 (about US$ 5.00), but through God’s grace, I was able to get more money which enabled me to give him a befitting burial at my ancestral home. During his burial sermon, the Archdeacon of Lamwo West Archdeaconry agreed to cleanse, purify and dedicate my village home to the Lord.

All these blessings that the Lord has showered upon me and my family would not have been possible without the loving hands of God who rescued me from shit to a man who, now appear in suits but this time without hibiscus fruits.

On the Acholi Agenda question, we should know that there are basically three big groups we are dealing with here. The first group is the elders who are now disabled because they lost their wealth and authority over their children because of the various insurgencies we waged against the Museveni upon his advent. Elders were unable to give informal moral education to their children and they became traumatized as they see their children become drug and alcohol addicts while the daughters turn to prostitution as new lifestyles.

The second group is the youths who are in the age group of 41 to 33 years. These are the youths who were born during the liberation wars of 1979 and 1986. They are heavily influenced by foreign cultures, missed on higher education and began to produce children outside traditional marriages because bride price is unaffordable.  The elders have commercialized traditional marriages. Grandparents are now faced with new realities and began to raise their grandchildren because the parents of those grandchildren are drug addicts and alcoholic.

The elders and the youths have abandoned God and they don’t go to receive the gospel at church. They have shut themselves from the Church, just like the father of 25 year old King Hezekiah of Judah found shut by his father (2 Chronicles 29:1-2) when he replaced his father.

Our only hope and salvation now lies in the third group, our grandchildren (aged 17 years to the one being born today), and the one who were born after the wars when houses of worships are mushrooming everywhere. We are now able to sit with them by the bon-fires in the evening and able to request them to sing for us Sunday school choruses, as they recite bible verses.

We should remember that Holy Spirit Mobile Forces (HSMF) of Alice Auma Lakwena who waged rebellion here from 1986 to 1988 revealed that her rebellion was meant to wage war ‘against perceived evil, not only external one represented by the National Resistance Army (NRA) but also internal enemies in the form of ‘impure soldiers, witches and sorcerers’. Where are those impure soldiers now? They are all dead but we still have witches and sorcerers who continue to defile our motherland preventing the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21: 27) from descending among us and bring us peace from heaven.

I agree completely with what the two panelists of Mega FM Te-yat program, Mrs. Rosalba Oywa and Stephen Latek said on Saturday, December 14 2019 when they said that we need a “White Paper” out of the Acholi National Conference (ANC) and that we “need strategic leadership” like Rwot Awich of Payira

“Why are our current crop of chiefs don’t follow the footsteps of Rwot Awich? Who is going to stand up? Who when he coughs, everyone listens to him. We need to go back to pre-colonial set-up, but not a centralized one. They only need an Adhoc leader in a council of chiefs-which must be inclusive”, says Latek.

As I conclude, I urge our religious leaders like the bishops to take the Gospel of Christ to Ker Kwaro Acholi to purify the chiefs. Most of the chiefs do not go to church and kneel for the Lord before the priests who are their subjects. Many of them are not wedded in church. Just like King Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites to ‘consecrate and purify themselves’, our religious leaders should repeat the same to our cultural leaders.

I still don’t understand why some cultural leaders still want to revive the bad practice of idol worship through displaying the shrines (Abila) our ancestors worshiped at the just concluded Acholi Cultural Abila Festival. We are condemning wife inheritance and we should condemn the idea of reviving with the same zeal.

I thank you all for your attentive ears.

 

“Amazing grace-how sweet the sound-

That saved a wretch like me,

Was once lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see”.

 

 

Email: mutono@gmail.com

Blog: mutonoblog.wordpress.com

 

Time: 16: 45 local time (!3: 45 GMT)

Monday December 16, 2019.

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