Five years after the government of President Yoweri Museveni came to power, fighting broke out in Teso region in eastern Uganda, hitherto, one of the most peaceful regions of the country.
Written 16 years after the end of the Teso War, the book is first account of what happened by a man who was at the center of the process to bring peace back to the region.
Justin Epelu Opio, now a retired professor of veterinary medicine was in 1990 appointed to head the Presidential Committee on Teso for Peace. Around the time of his appointment, he had just landed himself a lucrative consultancy opportunity in Kenya. It was a hard choice for him: a threat-filled, penny-paying peace mission at home versus a big-fish mission abroad.
Moved not only by his faith in the peace-loving nature of the people of Teso, but also by the fear of the tragic future that hang over his motherland, Epelu Opio along with colleagues, Grace Akello and Stephen Akabway took on the daunting task of pacifying the region of their birth.
It is a choice he has never regretted his choice, for today, his people can till their land, eat and sleep and wake up without asking men with guns and machetes for permission to go about their business.Around 1986, many disgruntled men in Eastern Uganda rebelled against the Yoweri Museveni government, taking up arms. What followed was a conflict that threatened to destroy the region, and led to the destabilization of hundreds of thousands of people, as the government pursued a scorched earth policy in an attempt to defeat the rebels.
Epelu Opio’s account makes the point that often sustained rebellions rely on the support of the people who are not in the battlefield, but instead the ones at home, especially those in the disturbed homesteads. These are the ones who provide the bushes and the comfort needed for war. In Teso, elders were involved including their wives and children. They would either forcefully or willingly provide protection, affection and food to the rebels.
The harrowing effects of war are described in clear detail, and often with tragic if not comical stories. In one such illustration, a rebel inadvertently robs his mother, undresses her and flies off with her knickers for his wife.
In addition to describing the peace brokering efforts, the book touches on several issues that inform war, such as the fact that fighting forces on either side often lack discipline; be they government troops or rebels, and hence the futility of finger-pointing, after or during the war.
But ultimately, this is a story about profound endurance, one that celebrates doing simple things for a dear and eternal reward.