Sleepless – Lord’s Resistance Army

Last night I didn’t sleep like a baby.

Around 6 in the evening last night we heard reports that the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels were moving near the airstrip. The airstrip is about 2 kilometers (just a bit more than a mile) from our compound. We got a little tense.

Around 9 p.m. we started hearing some drums off in the distance. In these parts drums are used to communicate various different things. One sort of beat indicates that there is a party going on, one seems to be used when a person passes away, and then the one we heard last night which alerts people to danger. They all sound like regular ol drums to me, and I am sure there are alot more than what I just mentioned. But I digress. We heard danger drums from sometime around 9 until very early in the morning. We got a little more tense in the compound.

Shortly after 9 i went to relieve myself in the outhouse in the back corner of our compound/plot. I took my time. When I had gone in, there were a number of lights on in the compound and a bit of background noise. When I came out, all the lights were off and things were very, very silent. I think at this point my imagination got the best of me.

We were very tense because we felt that our compound would be a potential target. We have lots of stuff that looters would like to loot. Communication equipment, food, clothing, money, etc. We also knew that we were in a easy to get to location that was a bit removed from the main part of town. If they had wanted to they could have easily attacked our compound, taken what they wanted and disappeared before the local authorities would have any chance of interviening.

I walked out of the bathroom and noticed the compound was darker and quieter than it had been before. I saw at the other end of the compound (we stay on a plot of land that is a little bigger than a football field) a light that was moving around. at first I thought it was a flashlight, but then it got bigger and i could see that it was burning flames instead. And it looked like those flames were getting bigger and spreading across the bamboo fence that acts as the perimeter of out compound.

I immediately freaked out. In my mind I saw a large group of rebels surrounding the compound and burning down the fence on one side while coming in from another. I ran in a blind panic towards the building I stay in, tripping over tree trunks and running into doors. I was looking for a couple of my colleages I had been talking with before. They were nowhere to be seen. I freaked out even more.

There is a small storage room at the end of the building I stay in and it is filled with blankets and mattresses. I ran in there and climbed under a mattress and tried to make myself as small as possible. I waited, expecting to hear cries of alarm, the sounds of scuffles, gunshots, things being removed from their proper place, and the dreaded sound of people walking through the building looking for panicked cowering foreigners hiding under mattresses.

and I waited.

Closet

I ended up waiting for about 3 hours. I never heard a thing. It took me that long to calm down. My heart was beating at very high speeds and I think I had surges and surges of adreneline pumping into my system. And a massive knot of fear in my chest.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I finally got the nerve to get out of the room because I had to urinate in an extreme way and could no longer hold it in. And then I finally retired to my room and got comfortable and tried to sleep.

and in the morning everything was as it was supposed to be and I was safe and happy.

I did finally hear gunshots very early in the morning. About 1 or 2 a.m. there was a series of shots being fired. When I heard the shots, I somehow found comfort in them. They were a good distance away from where I was at and I knew that if they were firing over on that side, then it meant they couldn’t be anywhere near to me.

It turns out that the shots were not coming from LRA but from some folks that had set up an “ambush” to get the rebels. I don’t know if they managed to get any of them. I have the feeling that they all were a bit nervous, saw something in the shadows and started shooting.

Although I was the only one to really freak out and go hide in a closet, the rest of my colleages were quite nervous and tense the whole of the night as well. I know alot of them did not sleep decently either. Every single one of us was grateful to wake up to the light of morning and find that we were all still in one piece.

Fortunately today we have a flight coming in to pick us and take us back to Kenya. The director of our program asked that we all come out of the field until the situation calms down. I know most of us are ready after the tensions of the last two days to get the heck out of here. The sad thing is that we leave behind all the people who have no means of escape or getting away themselves.