Monday, August 23, 2010

Travel to the field: Apaa

We finally made it out to the field this week for work. On Wednesday we traveled north west of Gulu to Apaa. Our final destination was a transit camp on the border with a game reserve. A couple weeks ago the game rangers came and burned down 180 huts, claiming that people were living on game reserve land. The people were moved off of their land by the government to Internally Displaced Persons Camps in 1996, and returned in 2006.

The issue here is that the land was gazetted by the government (made to be game reserve land) in 2002, while the people were absent from their homes. The injustice is clear, but so far the justice system has failed to help these people. The game rangers have given them until Aug 23 to move off of the land, but the people said they are planning to stay put.

Part of the problem is that Apaa is in a remote area and is hard to access. The road we used was full of potholes that we called 'swimming pools': they were large and deep. At times the road narrowed to such a degree that the front windshield was continuously slapped by tall grasses and branches. Those on foot or on bikes would leap out of the way of our vehicle, crushing up against the tall grasses and pulling their bikes, children, or goods along with them. We were deep in an area that the rebel group used to control, and now I can see very clearly why it would be so hard to gain control of this area, let alone find anyone.

On our drive up north.

Neatly planted bean field.

Family working in their field along the road.

The first of many 'swimming pools' that we crossed through. Our driver said it was the worst road he has ever seen, and will never go back there again.

We came across IDP camps, transit camps, villages, and trading centers. Most of the IDP camps have been dismantled but many people and their huts remain around the trading centers.

Most trading centers consist of several buildings along a road and sometimes include a small market.

This is at the Apaa transit camp. The building furthest to the right is the school. Since they are so remote, they have a hard time keeping teachers and only go up to Primary 6. We met with Local Council leaders, teachers, and other community members under a tree. We were not able to actually travel to the area where the huts were burned because the road was inaccessible by vehicle.

Sugar cane is in abundance here, so we stopped to buy some on the way back. Only 15 cents for a pole of sugar cane. It is eaten as a snack, but I can't imagine it is good for the teeth.

A view of one of the roads we traveled along. At times the brush was nearly two feet taller than people.

One more typical view out the front window. After nearly 6 hours of travel in the car, we were happy to be home, and I was asleep by 9:30pm.

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