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There's no bacon in Adjumani

There's no bacon in AdjumaniI recently left Darfur to work in Northern Uganda. I looked forward to finding bacon and wine there. Neither was important, but both were forbidden in Darfur because of Sharia. This was a violation of the Comprehensive Peace Accord 2005, which exempted non-Muslims. But when the penalty was a public flogging, a civil rights stand seemed inadvisable.

But in Uganda, surely it would be possible to enjoy wine with the evening meal, and the occasional rasher of bacon for Sunday brunch. It was not as if I was dreaming the impossible dream of being able to take a hot shower (even just during the winter months).

The Jesuit Refugee Site (JRS) in Adjumani, where I am based, is a new complex of small buildings (tukus). Constructed by Australian sisters working for JRS, the accommodation compound is only three years old. Located on land owned by a local congregation of sisters, the compound is neat and orderly, although it is showing signs of wear and a lack of maintenance which is quite common in this environment. But this is to be expected, as it is easier to raise funds for construction, which takes a long lead time, than to access funds for maintenance.

On the outskirts of Adjumani town, the compound is on a high ridge line above the south bank of the White Nile. The Nile actually borders us on three sides, as we are in a major loop of the river before it enters Sudan. To drive to the river from our compound is a 30-minute journey on an unsealed road that is well maintained. Originally the town and hinterland was lightly populated by African standards.

But when the war in South Sudan became more serious in the late '80s, thousands fled the fighting and crossed into Uganda. Overnight the small town of Adjumani saw a population explosion. In the Moyo/Adjumani area there are still over 85,000 refugees, there are more refugees than Ugandans in these districts. Being a landlocked country there is no concept of an offshore solution, or the hardness of heart in detaining people fleeing for their lives.

The rapid growth of Adjumani led to an economic boom. Both because of the increase in population and the arrival of the international community (UN and NGOs). In addition to the Sudanese refugees, there are a few Congolese and some refugees from Rwanda. On top of this are an estimated thirty thousand internally displaced persons. These are Ugandans who have fled from the terror which is the LRA.

There's no bacon in AdjumaniThe district forms a natural conduit for the Lord’s Resistance Army to move into and out of Uganda and Sudan. In the past, the LRA operated in southern Sudan and received arms and support from the Sudanese government. The government of Sudan used the LRA as a proxy against both the people of south Sudan and Uganda. This was part of the realpolitik of Africa. One country arms the rebels of another nation. That nation then retaliates by arming the rebels in the first nation.

LRA raids and massacres in northern Uganda displaced many outlying villages and small hamlets. In 2005, the LRA raided the school next door to the JRS compound. Five young girls were abducted from the sisters’ school. Three later managed to escape, but two have not been heard from since.

Serious negotiations are now under way in Juba (capital of southern Sudan) between the LRA and the Ugandan government. Mediation by the south Sudanese government has led to a ceasefire being negotiated. A ceasefire which has held for nearly four months now, bringing a peace not experienced in the last 20 years. This peace has encouraged the people of the region. Many are now talking about returning to their traditional lands and resuming a normal life.

There's no bacon in AdjumaniMy own timing was impeccable. I arrived in Adjumani during the outbreak of swine fever. I saw the slaughter of the pigs and the failure of the bacon supply. As I took up the role of project director, there was a cholera outbreak. In a time of cholera the swine population can not be restocked because of its taste for wallowing in wet detritus.

So for the moment my hopes for a bacon sandwich and glass of wine have been dashed. Only boxed South African wine tempers my disappointment. But yesterday I crossed the river to go to a meeting in Moyo and saw a small sow rutting in the bushes. This may show that the production of pork is in full swing and that I will soon see rashes of bacon on the table.



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