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Last Updated: 12/15/2003
The Stars our Solace!
Catherine A. Onekalit

In this prose-poem Catherine Onekalit painfully recalls the death of her cousin, Odong, and the desperate plight of countless others.

I went to the family cemetery yesterday. There was my cousin Odong. He was just 16 years of age but already fallen. He had been struck with an axe on the head, and then beaten till he breathed his last. I always remember when he had just come back from the bush, he would say ‘They are coming for me; I know they are, look at my hands full of blood, they are coming, stay away from me!’ We always tried our best to cool him down, saying he was back at home, and what happened was in the past, just a memory. We were wrong, very wrong.


They came back for him, and hacked him to death. What we will never know is what haunted him most, ‘the anguish of killing or the fear of being killed”? The 1986 war in northern Uganda, began like a legendary tale of war, but it has eaten away a generation of children. Mothers are scared when they see the look in the child’s face. Children familiar with blood, children who do not know where the next meal is coming from, children who have known and witnessed the time the men come back “home” tired, angry, hungry and always lustful. They watch them pounce on the women, getting their prescription and not having a care in the world of who is watching this supposedly beautiful and sacred act. The women of course often get pregnant, more babies get born, and the rebel’s rejoice-more “soldiers” in the making. There is no blanket of shame or morality; such is the atmosphere where the children are raised.

The war, it’s like an imaginary tale of children trained to be lethal massacre weapons. At times they flee back home to seek what was taken from them, but discover they can not; their childhood lost; their lives are different, behavior almost beastly, they are thirsty for blood and have permanent scars. The sound of the gun is like intimacy of bodies joined in spiritual ecstasy.  The ones who escape rebel captivity are dubbed Night commuters; scared of being captured they trek before night fall to the town center, books and ragged clothes shields for the cold night. They engage in all kinds of sexual practices, exposed to sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, what a “Haven”

Oh war! War! War! You are a disaster. It pains more to know that it’s us (humans) who are the perpetrators. How horrible it is to watch your children, relations die, more horrible if the perpetrators are family. A generation of thorns indeed, peace a far fetching word, the only solace and hope is the stars, you look deep and high up in the skies and see peace, a hope that tomorrow you will see yet another day.

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