Book: Today You Will Understand
Publisher: Femrite Volume: 66 pages
Reviewer: Martyn Drakard
Available only at Femrite offices, Kamwokya opposite Kira Road Police station.
The greatest tragedy of the twenty-two year old war in northern Uganda is the human victims, especially girls and women who are especially vulnerable.
Femrite, the Uganda Women Writers’ Association, in conjunction with IRIN Radio, which provides news and analysis about sub-Saharan Africa for the humanitarian community, and with funding from the German Embassy, has produced a book of sixteen stories, called “Today You Will Understand”, which highlights the plight of women stranded in a war that makes no sense to them.
Five Femrite writers traveled north to record accounts first-hand from camp-dwellers and abductees, and these stories have a freshness, pathos and sincerity that no media report can equal.
The title echoes words shouted by a UPDF soldiers to camp inmates near Lira in 2004 minutes before a gunfight took place between government and rebel soldiers. Mildred, a mother of six, describes the scene after the battle, of charred corpses and children clobbered to death. Her deep silences, she explains, are due only to what she experienced, which was “more than anyone could bear.”
Lucy was married young to an old man who left her with two children. Since then she had four children with another man. Unable to leave her home within the government deadline her name was omitted from the food distribution list, so she had to feed her children anyhow. Her land is being disputed by in-laws. Yet despite all this, she manages to compose a song about her problems, which she sings to relieve the pain.
Joyce’s story from the 2004 Barlonyo Massacre is gruesome. The morning after, she returned to the scene, to find the mutilated body pieces of a child of one of her sisters; her husband, whose face had been chopped to pieces; a brother and a grand-daughter had also been cruelly murdered. Reading these stories one wonders how the narrators find words to tell them.
Cecilia became a rebel’s “wife”, and describes bush life, where one kills or is killed. Those not tough enough to endure the harsh regime –including the women- are put to death.
“Under the Odugu tree” is where Rose gave birth, using the sharp edge of spear grass to cut the umbilical cord. She had been raped when six months pregnant; her husband had died of AIDS, which she had contracted. She keeps alive only for her children.
Ten-year old Flora was defiled by her grandfather’s brother. Her simple account pinpoints the fragile situation of camp life. Marital infidelity and divided homes, the spread of AIDS, alcoholism, the squalor and promiscuity, breaking down age-old cultural and moral norms, are some of the consequences. In all these instances it is usually the woman who suffers most. For children, particularly, there is the added hazard of land-mines.
The book, a voice for the voiceless, is embellished with the evocative photographs of Esteban Sacco, which add an eloquent pictorial dimension to this worthwhile publication. Compulsory reading for anyone wanting to know how the LRA war has affected people’s lives.