Growing up in Kasese, Western Uganda was eventful, from admiring the majestic Rwenzori Mountain ranges to enjoying beautiful game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park, it was everything a child could hope for until one fateful day in 1998 when the joy turned into sorrow.
Gunshots rocked the town center at night as the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) tried to fight off rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and life as I knew it completely changed.
We used to hear stories of how the ADF attacked towns of Bwera and Mpondwe-Lhubiriha leaving several dead bodies and thousands of people fleeing for their lives, but since I was just a child, I could hardly understand the extent of their attacks until they hit close to home.
There are some things a child shouldn’t witness but unfortunately for me and millions of other children who have been in war-torn areas have experienced. I remember several nights, hiding under my bed terrified for my life as gunshots rocked Kasese town and at one point they were right outside our house, seeing lifeless bodies in trenches the next morning left me terror-struck.
Every time the ADF would attack, the next day was a no school day as there was fear for everyone’s life. One would think I would just stay home and play but sadly I would be worried about friends’ safety.
But what I experienced was nothing compared to what my brothers and sisters in the Northern region experienced at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
According to Singer, Peter W., Children at War, since the LRA first started fighting in the 1990s, they may have forced well over 10,000 boys and girls into combat.
They left thousands of people displaced, dead and others disfigured often chopping off their limbs, lips and other body parts.
Not many stories have been told about the Northern Ugandan war at the scale John Rwothomack is telling it. The writer and performer of Far Gone takes us on a heartbreaking journey of Okumu, an innocent boy living in Northern Uganda who is abducted by Joseph Kony’s Lords Resistance Army (LRA). We follow Okumu through this transformation from boy to child soldier.
According to the Far Gone synopsis, this gut kicking one-man performance explores how historically political and religious decisions made by western powers contributed to civil wars in Africa which in turn gave birth to the existence of a child soldier.
Far Gone will be showcased at the Kampala International Theatre Festival on November 26th and 28th at the Ndere Cultural Center and personally, I can’t wait to see this performance.