Uganda is a small landlocked country in East Africa, about twice the size of Pennsylvania. Lake Victoria, in the south, is the principal source of the River Nile. 87% of Uganda’s 22 million inhabitants live in the countryside, in small villages and trading centers.
Independent from British colonial rule since 1962, it has suffered from dictatorship, economic collapse and systematic human rights abuses. For the last 20 years, while the rest of Uganda has experienced some measure of security, a civil war has ravaged the north. Here, the Acholi people, an ethnic group out of favor with the current government, are caught between the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army and government soldiers. There have been atrocities on both sides. More than 20,000 Acholi children have been abducted to serve in the rebel army, and over half a million people are living in Internal Displacement Camps.
With peace talks underway since mid-2006, there is hope for a return to normalcy—though the scars are deep. The people of northern Uganda are eager to heal, and eager to look toward the future. The UNIFAT school in Gulu is part of this process, and a beacon of hope.