Community Building in Northern Uganda

I wish I could turn back the clock and write this report with the same enthusiasm I felt at the workshop, but I can’t. Our joyous moments were quickly turned into mourning a day after the workshop by the brutal murder of one of our members, John Brown Odongkara, the brother of Naume Atunu, the Alternate Area Reference Person for Gulu, Uganda. Even so, I must write a report on the young adults’ and leaders’ workshop, led by Wanjiku Kironyo, in Gulu.

The workshop, in April 2018, was geared toward Community building and brought in twenty-six participants: four each from Kitgum, Lira, and Nwoya, Uganda; two from Kampala and eight from Gulu, Uganda; three from South Sudan; and one from Nairobi, Kenya. With the exception of those from Kitgum, who were new to RC, these vibrant men and women were selected based on their leadership roles and experience in RC.

Over the three days, Wanjiku covered oppression (of women, children, and men), colonialism, language liberation, climate change and sustaining all forms of life, healing from war, family work, and reclaiming ourselves—all anchored in the one most important aspect of RC: listening.

Her teaching methods were practical and filled with demonstrations, and we had plenty of opportunities to discharge.

We discharged on the strength of our culture and on oppression as part of our culture. Women, men, and young adults listed the good and the bad of our culture and asked the group to support them in their struggles for liberation.

We discharged childhood hurts tied to the irrational system in which women’s and men’s oppressions hit hard on the upbringing of children.

We discharged on colonialism, and its divide-and-rule operation and exploitation of African resources, and how it led to internalised oppression, our oppressive system, internal conflicts, wars in Africa, the refugee situation, poverty, and diseases.

At every meal, Wanjiku and the leaders of the Gulu Community sat down with representatives of the other Communities, who shared what is happening in their Communities, their success stories, their challenges, and their goals moving forward. We listened and planned together with them and were able to come up with [think of] strategies to revive each Community, including scheduling a small workshop for each one. The representatives were asked to reactivate old connections and make new ones, develop active participation, and work on their own hurts before leading others to do the same.

We all agreed that a huge vacuum had been left by the death of Mama Abitimo [Abitimo Ondongkara, the former Area Reference Person for Gulu, Uganda]. Communities had had to reorganise after a difficult spell to bring in Naume and me as Alternate Area Reference Person and Area Reference Person for Gulu. We want to move forward as a unit, but to do that we must stay connected. So we created a WhatsApp group to keep us all informed on the progress of each Community in Northern Uganda. We also created one for the young adults of Uganda.

We crowned the workshop, this special gathering of rational people, by celebrating culture. On the night of creativity each tribe and culture stood up to be counted. We sang and danced. We are Africans, and we are stronger together as brothers and sisters.

This workshop was needed in Northern Uganda to reassure people that RC in this region isn’t short of leadership. I was delighted to hear the confidence the other Communities have in us. Wanjiku’s approval of our leadership was a huge boost as well. People could see that the leaders they had chosen were recognised and supported.

We were able to reconnect with Communities that had been out of touch for a long time. I saw the young people’s confidence and their determination to be better and transform society. People recognised that their own situations had been caused by hurts they’d experienced and were willing to work on them.

It doesn’t matter at what pace we continue to grow. This workshop solved for us the one puzzle, the communication gap, and helped people see the good in themselves and appreciate who they are. Once they do that, I have no doubt about growth.

Wanjiku stood by us as fellow Africans, and it was nice having an African perspective on African issues.

We will continue to strengthen the young adults’ network in Uganda, build the women’s and men’s groups, continue healing from war, and work on climate change. We know the task ahead of us.

Small workshops will occur between now and September in the Communities of Kitgum, Lira, and Nwoya. We shall also offer support to the South Sudanese in refugee camps in Uganda.

Alfred Oryem

Area Reference Person for Gulu, Uganda

Gulu, Northern Uganda

(Present Time 192, July 2018)


Last modified: 2019-05-22 17:00:49+00