6 March 2017

Uganda: First Kill Your Family - Child Soldiers of Uganda and LRA

Photo: D.Mbaiorem/UNHCR
The ruins of a house that was torched by LRA fighters in Nguili-Nguili village, 12 kilometres from the town of Obo (file photo).

First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army is yet another publication about the northern Uganda insurgency.

The book by renowned American journalist and author Peter Eichstaedt centres majorly on children who became fighters against their will.

Like most books written by authors from the West on the insurgency, First Kill Your Family has distorted facts in the introduction about Uganda's history, and in some cases misspelt names of Ugandans.

The prologue of the 300-plus page book is a story of 17-year-old Richard Opio, who was ordered to kill his parents with a hoe the night he was abducted. The harrowing story of Opio seeing his parents pleading with him to kill them to save his life sets the tone of the book.

The author takes you through the genesis of the internally displaced people's camps and their effect on the individuals, their impact on the social fabric and culture among the Acholi and the resilience from the locals to persevere despite the terrible situation they were living in.

The Lawrence Hill Books publication captures one aspect of the war; school raids, with special emphasis on the Aboke girls.

The author took time to look for a number of the victims of the raid, which made not only local but international headlines mainly because of the bravery of the school's administrator to fight for the release of her students.

The chapter dedicated to the Aboke girls captures their experiences in captivity, how they coped with the post-abduction period, and life in the reception centres.

Describing the book, South African archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu said: "You must read this powerful book. The story calls out to our very humanity."

First Kill Your Family is a story of the failure of good people failing to act and letting the bad ones act. It was as if the author was in the mind of the Black movement activist Martin Luther King Jr when he said, "Man's inhumanity to man is not only perpetrated by the vitriolic actions of those who are bad, it is also perpetrated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good."

This could explain what was happening to the rebel commanders and their followers when they did what the author describes in the book.

The book throws light on the role religion and witchcraft played in prolonging the war and shows how the population's belief in one of the two contributed to the war. The connotation of 'lord's army' too was in the direct contrast of what they were doing.

The author went on in the book to show the impact of the war on health and the social service breakdown in the affected area.

The author, being a journalist of international acclaim and established author, uses simple English language which makes the reading interesting.

First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army is one of the many different books by the same author.

Unfortunately, the book is not available on the Ugandan market and the Chicago Review Press, responsible for marketing the book, only ships them to North America and not Africa. But the book can be got on line at $22 (about Shs80,000) this is minus postage.

Book review

Book title: First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army

Author: Peter Eichstaedt

Publisher: Lawrence Hill Books

Price: Shs80,000

Available at: Amazon.com

Reviewed by: Henry Lubega

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