I am now in Gulu, northern Uganda. What is it like? I can only compare it to Kakuma and the Turkana desert. The previous issue of the Bradt Uganda Guide says "travel in the vicinity of Gulu, Lira, and other areas north of the NIle is highly risky, if not downright suicidal..." Gulu is from where Zika and the evil hemorrhagic sibling of Ebola, the Marburg virus, sprang from. There are diseases here like "Nodding Sickness" that are already epidemic and of unknown origin, yet are unheard of outside of Uganda and even outside of Northern Uganda. The Acholi people here suffered under Idi Amin, and then they were brutalized by Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) from 1986 until 2009. To "protect" the population from Kony, the current President, Yoweri Museveni, moved 90+ % of the population to internally dispaced persons (IDP) camps where they were decimated by malaria and HIV, culturally undermined, and were an even more easily targeted population for Kony as well as the Ugandan army.
What's it like here compared to Kakuma? The town and area are much closer to Ubud in Bali than anything in the Turkana. Fresh fruit and vegetables in the largest produce market I have seen anywhere in Africa, kind people, a strong culture, lush vegetation, cafes, restaurants, badminton matches at the Luo Guest House on Sunday nights, an indigenous architecture, anywhere worth getting to (including the University of Gulu where I teach) is a pleasant bicycle commute, every meal begins with a passion fruit/papaya/banana/avocado smoothie, fesh fish from the Nile or any of the many nearby lakes,,....it is not so bad here. But the Gulu district is very poor, with youth in particular lacking employment opportunities, and much of the energy of village life is engaged in hauling water.
Last November I helped teach a course to about 50 Acholi young men and women on hand pump repair, manual water well drilling, gorundwater, and water exploration. The hand pump repair business has continued, partly due to the chronic failure of NGO installed hand pumps in Uganda, partly due to the excellent training course IsraAID put on, and partly due to the hand pump repair kit donated by WorleyParsons to the IsraAID students. And the students know how to drill, and have been making a business of drilling new wells. However, some dry holes have been drilled, and that makes for unhappy villagers. So I have come back to Gulu with geophysical equipment, donated by ABEM of Sweden, that will be left here, and I will be putting all my efforts into training the Acholi students on planning, executing, and interpreting water exploration programs here in the Gulu area. This week I will be training the 50 students of IsraAID's classes 5 and 6; next week I will work with the 100 or so students of classes 1 through 4. At the same time, Polycarp, a local Acholi master hand pump mechanic, will be carrying on with the hand pump repair training, and learning a bit of geophysical water exploration himself.
Unfortunately for everyone, including my class, my drone was confiscated at the airport, though I hardly consider myself a security risk...but sorry, there will be no air photos of the wonderful vernacular village architecture of Acholi Land.
Blogging by Paul Bauman