About Gulu




          (This is not a scholarly presentation with impeccable resources. It was pieced together by Wikepedia, web-articles and personnel conversations. There are probably some errors included but I believe overall it represents a brief and helpful history of the Gulu District of Uganda )
         Uganda, East Africa, was a former protectorate of Britain from 1894 until 1962. In 1962 Uganda received her independence from Britain. Ugandan independence was followed by 24 years of civil war, regime change, death, destruction of property and economic chaos. In the 1970’s, the dictator Idi Amin butchered an estimated 300,000 citizens. In the 1980’s during the Obote dictatorship there were 100,000 people killed. 
         In 1986 the rebel National Resistance Army (NRA) led by Yoweri Museveni took control and declared Museveni president. The Museveni government, aided by Western countries and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), established in Southern Uganda peace, a stable government, growth and an improving economy.Main Road from Kampala to Gulu in Uganda

Nile River         Gulu is in Northern Uganda and geo-graphically isolated from the more affluentSouthern Uganda by the Nile River. There is only one bridge crossing the Nile and itruns from the capital city of Kampala in the South over three hundred (300) kilometers to Gulu city in the North.

          Many of the roads are dirt and dusty in the dry season and in the rainy season they are rutted and filled with pot holes. 
         Gulu is also separated by language and ethnicity.  In Uganda there are dozens of ethnic groups and 19 different ethnic languages. In Gulu the ethnic group is Acholi which represents only 4.4% of Gulu District RoadUganda and Luo is the language for Acholi. The claim is misleading that the official language of Uganda is English with a growing emphasis on Swahili.  The schools teach English and Swahili in the upper grades, but most children do not have the money to attend and drop out after only a few years of education. Those who attend little or no school are limited to their ethnic language which means they cannot communicate with over 95% of other Ugandans.
         The average wage in Gulu (if one can find a job) is $1 a day.

         In Northern Uganda, especially in the Gulu District, for two decades (1986 – 2006) there existed a civil war, chaos, and severe poverty. The rebel forces of the LRA (LRA) under the leadership of Joseph Kony fought against Museveni’s government.  Joseph Kony Picture

        The LRA supported itself and recruited soldiers by raiding Gulu villages. They plundered villages and killed the adults. The village children were forced to carry the stolen goods to an LRA camp or to safe haven across the border into Sudan. During the forced marches these captives were beaten. An LRA soldier would either kill any who could not keep up or require one of the children to do it; refusal meant suffering the same fate. The children were either forced to be soldiers or sold into slavery or prostitution. Young girls were given to LRA leaders as wives.  They selected soldiers by having the children shoot or hack to death a relative or some other villager. Children who tried to escape were brought back, killed or maimed in the most brutal way as a deterrent. Ugandan people in IDP Camps

        The Museveni government herded the people of Northern Uganda into large Individual Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.  The reason given was the protection of the villagers, but there were other reasons.  Villagers in IDP camps dried up the LRA’s ability to steal supplies and recruit child soldiers. With villagers in IDP camps, it could be assumed that anyone found in the village was likely a rebel.
        The results of IDP Camps were devastating to the economy, village culture, traditions and health. In the camps there was disease, malnutrition and starvation. AIDS and malaria were epidemic. The access and availability of safe drinking water was limited. People might walk five or six miles twice a day for water. There was extremely high unemployment. An average of three people committed suicide daily. For all the hardships, the government was not always able to protect those in the IDP Camps from the LRA.
        The results outside the camp were equally as devastating. Farmers could not plant their fields. Herders could not grow and tend their herds. The infrastructure could not be developed and what little infrastructure there was became dilapidated. Northern Uganda was not a safe place. Travel from South to North was often accompanied by armed guards.
        Many children, for safety, would walk miles into town in the evenings to sleep in shelters or underneath trucks. In the morning they would return home. These children were called “night commuters” and “invisible children”.The conditions in Northern Uganda especially the plight of the children was brought to the attention of the world community.  Pressure was placed on the Ugandan government and the LRA to establish peace.  
Meeting the people in the villages        A peace agreement between the government and the LRA was prepared for signing in 2007, but before signing, Kony and the LRA slipped over the border into the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo where they still cause chaos today.Children impacted by LRA in Gulu

          War, aids, and disease left a huge orphan population. A large portion of the Ugandan population was children below the age of 15.  One study showed 80,000 orphans were left following the civil war. With the absence of adults, children were raising children. Children who escaped from the LRA have been traumatized by what they have seen and done. These children have difficulty fitting back into the community. Some youth act out in rage against a community they blame for not protecting them from the LRA. The community is suspicious of the children knowingVillage and streets of Guluwhat some of them were forced to do.

        With the end of the civil war and the departure of the LRA rebel army, peace finally came to the Gulu District. People left the IDP Camps for their villages. The farmers and herders returned to farming and herding. The Gulu people began to make bricks and rebuild their communities. Each year Gulu expands and improves their electric grid, the internet and cell phones. Homes, schools, and other buildings are being constructed. More children are able to attend school.

        Life In Gulu Uganda - Cattle Farm  Life in Gulu Uganda - Street Fruit Vendor   Life in Gulu Uganda - Construction   Life In Gulu Uganda - School Construction

        Uganda Maps 1                Uganda Maps 2

        Uganda Maps             Uganda Maps