African Listening: How it saved me from Kony's LRA

I love to listen because I feel it is the only way for me. 

I grew up in a small village of less than 800 households. I spent a majority of my time with my mother while my father was posted in a number of schools first as a teacher and then later as a head-teacher. It was never easy as we had to be patient not only with the missing necessities but also missing the presence of our father in the home. Our mother therefore played a big part in shaping up who we are today. We had to be attentive to every detail from her teaching, listening as she told us why our father was not always at home and why we should be able to work hard in his absence.

As we grew up then, I and my elder brother Jimmy Francis used to sneak out during holidays so we could be able to see our grandmother Norah Nek (RIP). As we spent some days and sometimes weeks with her, we had the pleasure to meet one of our mother's uncles, Ejenio, who taught us every evening using stories and riddles. Jimmy Francis and I were always very careful listening to every word as we took him to be having a lot of wisdom as an old man.

These three people always told us, "You can only judge well and make informed decisions when you listen to others.” They even said that whenever our father got back we should give him our attention so we can learn from him as much as possible. These advices gave us the opportunity to learn a lot about life and people and how to deal with daily challenges.

Throughout my life, I have learnt the value of listening as it has helped me work very well with others, stay in marriage without any problem, and above all deal with community challenges. 

Listening has even saved my life. It was a cloudy Thursday when I left Makerere University to go and attend my aunt’s funeral in Barr Sub-county of Lira district. Burial was scheduled for Saturday beginning 10:30am. A day before I left the university, there was rumor that Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army had crossed into the Acholi region and were headed towards Lango. My imagination was that the government troops would fight them back into Southern Sudan and we’d have a chance to burry Imat Milyeri Abwango without any hindrance. 

Everything changed when a passerby told us how the rebels were hurrying to abduct mourners at the burial place. My elder brother Jimmy Francis had to pass through the ambush only to survive abduction because the rebels wanted to loot medicine first before attacking anyone. A speeding vehicle hurrying to get out of danger saved us after we pleaded for help. We were lucky because the area councilor to the district local government was among us. Had the mourners not listened to the passerby who gave the news of LRA being near, many would have been abducted. 

It was because they listened that we escaped being abducted by Kony’s LRA that day!

Augustine Kezzy Okello, Founder of Keframa College in Lira, Uganda
March 2016