This me trying to clear my drafts, I was supposed to post this in March but by the time I put it together, there was a conflict of information about the subject matter so I held on. I felt it was sensitive to write about an active predicament security-wise. The UDPF has since disappointed me like many Ugandans. I can not even explain the P anymore.
If you have been following the news in Uganda you must have at least had about the events that unfolded in Zombo in March 2020. There was this standard statement that was cutting across all internet media spaces
“The army has killed at least 20 people suspected of attacking a Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) detach in Zombo town council in northern Uganda today morning.
The suspected attackers were killed today afternoon during fierce gunfire with UPDF soldiers who pursued them in Konga village, Patek parish in Jangukuru sub county about 40 kilometers away from Zombo town council army detach”
In Uganda, nobody for some reason talks about security unless they are either former or some sort of retired security operatives of some kind and I am judging that’s why the event did not gained much public social traction. The other reason the UPDF is held in high regard in the society and for that reason it’s operations are not for everyone to talk about. But that narrative has since changed after the November killings.
When you are a visitor in Zombo District any anyone you meet will welcome you and assure you of how safe the place is and they really take prestige in the security affairs being one of the best in Uganda even if they lag behind in other social economic issues.
On Friday 6th March 2020 it started to sink in slowly that there was a turn in events in the Highlands of Zombo. There was a sound of gunshots for about 50 minutes from a distance and not many were sure of what was unfolding on that Friday morning. As the day was unwinding a mixture of information was coming in about what happened earlier and also what was still happening. It was clear that an army facility had been attacked and soldiers had been killed. The Army then went on an offensive killing 20 officially and capturing 10. In Kampala, the UPDF spokesman termed it as a criminal act and it’s what the country settled for going into Saturday.
Saturday 7th of March, Paidha town seemed to be normal with the usual Market day business as people were moving into the town with their agricultural products. Then the dead, the wounded and the captured where brought in. The most notable thing about this Uganda Homeland Liberation Forces is how young it’s members were. Most of the captured were in their 20s, early 20s. This aspect of age changed everything. It’s one that the country and the region should not over look.
There are very many incidents in the world that Center around the youth and millennials in general and Zombo District seems not to be unique. Many militias currently have had a core of young people from ISIS to Boko Haram and Al qaeda in Northern Africa, Al Shabab in East Africa. All these factions have found it suitable and opportunistic to recruit from the youth. And the reasons from all these, there are a few reasons why the youth find themselves in radical and misguided ranks.
One thing is certain, the events of Zombo could have been deterred in the first place. It turns out this group that attacked the military detach has been known to exist to the locals. It has slowly underground recruited and brain washed these youth by making them believe they could attack those with firearms as they are armed with simple knives, spears and other rudimentary tools. This means these youth who have come to think that magical powers can protect them in battle never attained basic education. In history taught in year 7 (P4) there is the part of the Maji maji rebellion in colonial time when Africans used magical powers to raise up against the European colonial masters but where brutally crashed. So anybody who has been to school is not expected to go on suicidal mission of any kind meaning that the educational levels in Zombo are still seriously wanting.
The youth in Zombo are not occupied at all, they wake up to drink, smoke and eat card not for leisure but as away of life and it’s highly likely that whoever is behind this group that was coming up took the idleness that is spread in the district as a ground for recruitment.
The other notable thing is how much the security organs spent in terms of resources from financial to manpower because the RDC of the district said reinforcement come in from Arua. These costs on another day would have been circumvented if the basic needs of the people of Zombo are critically looked at.
Not being political but Zombo is one of those places where the current NRM government enjoys enormous support. In fact, in the past NRM is unchallenged yet there is an uprising cropping up in such a Museveni stronghold that helicopter gunships had to be sent in like it’s Mogadishu.
It happened in Zombo but the all country has youth who have become slowly but clearly unfulfilled with what is going on and not to be a demagogue but this could spread easily to other parts of the West Nile region and before the world knows there is a new group of what will be called extremists.
I was on the ground in Zombo when these events were unfolding, it was my first-time experience the feel of a war zone. It would take forever to explain the sound of the firepower. There have since been a mixture of reports coming out about what really happened. The UPDF has blamed a witch doctor and a retired soldier. The day I left Zombo I passed by the health center where the dead were being kept and I saw about 30 bodies or more but it was a bad exhibition for me. I have since learned that they were buried in a mass grave which was later overnight tampered with and bodies were stolen.
At the moment Zombo is seeing an influx of refugees coming in from DR Congo the subject for my next blog post (the second Congo war is the biggest since world war II). The district has also seen its a fair share of Covid19 because it’s on the border of Uganda and DR Congo where many Chinese pass to go exploit minerals. But it’s one of those places many Ugandans don’t about. Am trying to do a documentary about the place but am hitting all kinds of walls.