News flash


Moving Forward from the World Conference
led by Tim Jackins
February 5

Threats from Nuclear Weapons
led by Julian Weissglass
February 11

Unified Goal on the Climate
led by Diane Shisk
& Janet Kabue
March 4 or 5

Building and Rebuilding in Northern Uganda

Since the 1990s, RC in Northern Uganda has come a long way.

It all began with Mrs. Rebecca Abitimo Odongkara (Mama Abitimo, as we call her)—a woman of great passion, with a huge heart. In times of political unrest and violent change of governments, her motherland became unsafe for her, and she found her way to the United States. There she met Chuck Esser and Pamela Haines, who taught her RC. When Idi Amin, the president of Uganda who had hunted her husband and forced him to flee, was finally deposed, she decided to come back home and teach her people what she had learnt. She had a task before her: her motherland needed healing from war.

When she arrived and saw the war games the children were playing, she decided to teach them something else, something different from violence, and she started a day learning center under a tree. She also taught the women how to knit and make money while their husbands, targeted by the regime, could not move freely.

Her learning center became a school, Unifat Primary School, and she became the first female mayor of Gulu Municipality. The school became not only a place for knowledge but also for healing and re-emergence. From its inception, Abitimo taught RC there, and the teachers of the school joined in the cause. Dedicated, committed, happy people grew in number at a time when war had left behind widows, orphans, and destitute people.

Re-evaluation Counselling was in the heart of Gulu. It also spread like a wild bush fire to people in the neighbouring districts—from a small group of youth in the nearby city of Lira, to the women in an agricultural cooperative of mainly former child soldiers and abductees of the Lord’s Resistance Army, to a group of farmers in the plains of Nwoya.

Chuck and Pamela visited, and they made a commitment to come back every two years. It was in one of their workshops that I, too, found healing for my soul. I was a wretched young man at the time, but I will save my story for later. I am happy that I became part of a bigger and happier family.

But this family would later be shaken by the fiercest winds of trial. Mama Abitimo fell sick in 2016. For months she wrestled for her life, until it was finally taken from her. As the Bible says, strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter. Many lost hope and eventually gave up meeting as a group.

I had just finished my three years at the University of Kampala. The RC class at Unifat was without a teacher. It was also without students. Men and women who had practiced RC had left or at least were not visible. I decided to make a few presentations at our church and demonstrate the theory of RC. Many responded to my call, and they started attending Sunday evening classes.

The numbers kept fluctuating, but I never lost hope. I was encouraged by four gentlemen who made good use of RC. I could see their lives changing every time we met. One had been on hypertension drugs when he joined RC, and six months later his blood pressure had dropped to normal and he quit his medication. He had learnt better ways of dealing with his stress. It was for people like him and me that I made up my mind [decided] never to stop teaching and practicing RC.

Chuck and Pamela arrived again in December 2017. They were worried about us, and for all the right reasons. Top on their agenda was helping us reorganise ourselves at a Community meeting. I became the Area Reference Person, and I named Naume Atunu, my favourite Co-Counsellor and the granddaughter of Mama Abitimo, as my Alternate. Naume and I had worked hard to keep the fire burning [keep RC going].

Chuck and Pamela took Naume and me with them to a family workshop in Kampala. We did a lot of work on goal setting and leadership, but most important was the time they gave us individually to heal from our hurts.

Pamela asked me to make some demands of Naume, and I didn’t know how to do it. I guess that had come with being raised an orphan. The people who had taken care of me had made me believe they were doing me a huge favour. I had simply taken whatever they had to offer and been grateful I was still alive. I am doing a lot of discharging to recover from that, and my prayer is that it won’t affect my leadership.

Naume and I returned home renewed and with clear objectives. We now have a plan, and we are prepared. We are surrounded by wonderful people who trust us completely and are there to think with us, plan with us, and act with us. We are ready to erect the walls of hope. We are ready to rebuild.

With South Sudanese flooding the refugee camps in Northern Uganda after the escalation of violence in their country, Mary Ade and Victor Batali have brought RC to the camps. We are in touch with them, and, together with Jane Lucy Wambui Gachihi, we will add resource to our brothers and sisters. [See the following article about a workshop in the camps led by Jane Lucy, assisted by Mary and Victor.]

The task ahead of us is enormous, and we may not have all the financial support we need to effectively execute our plans. But we know the opportunity is ripe, and we will hang on to what is so dear to us.

Alfred Oryem

Gulu, Nothern Uganda

(Present Time 191, April 2018)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00