FROM MASSACRE TO MIRACLE
On 14 January 2001 a local government official persuaded the Ugandan army to send a Buffalo armoured personnel carrier to the CHIPS base at Lomaratoit on a punitive sundown raid.
Twelve people including five children were killed: machine-gunned on their way to fetch water and as they fled – including one former CHIPS worker and his family. On top of the awful loss of life, four years of hard work were destroyed in an instant. It was truly catastrophic.
Roy Calvocoressi went out to be with the shattered team, who had been forced to abandon the CHIPS base. It was a devastating blow, but Roy believed that as in the Crucifixion, there had to be Resurrection – that God would bring something wonderful out of the horror.
After three weeks of gathering and comforting the team, each member decided to remain with CHIPS and to expand the number of project bases along the border area.
By 2011 – 10 years on and five CHIPS bases later – something remarkable had happened.
Six CHIPS team members built two new bases at the north-west end of the borderlands, at Okoboi and Apeitolim, starting in January 2007. Not one person was living there when they began, but by August 2007, 200 people had come with their returning elders to live alongside the team.
By March 2009 there were 12 new villages of 1,000 people each, radiating 6 kms from the CHIPS bases.
Two years later, the number of people who had settled in the area had reached 20,000.
The road between the two lands was re-opened. A market was established and small businesses (including a makeshift cinema) emerged, leading to new cross-border trade.
Society was being positively affected. Other NGOs were attracted, increasing available resources. Local government administration reorganised, recognising this as a new population centre worthy of investment. Finally, intermarriages were taking place – a sure sign of peace and stability.
In March 2011 we handed over our work in the area to the Church of Uganda. Bishops, officals and villagers from the region came to celebrate with the team and Roy, on his last visit to Uganda.
Roy died in September 2012, and April 2013 saw a wonderful memorial service for him, held in Apeitolim under the 70ft trees planted by CHIPS agriculturalists in 1996.
Surrounding those trees now is a school, two health centres, four churches and a bustling market township, where both Iteso and Karamojong live, work, worship and trade together.
Observers said that the degree of integration there had become “irreversible” thanks to the harmonious situation that has been created – a miracle from the massacre.
Epilogue to Uganda
Ten years after the plan made in 2005 to resettle 25,000 people along the border areas, and a year after the team members formed their own CBO (Community Based Organisation) one of our former team members rode his motorbike from one end of the border to another.
He reported to us that large new settlements had grown up, a “well-staffed new health centre” had been built on the site of a former CHIPS base, with new roads to service the communities there. “Many boreholes have been drilled in most of the villages, and markets are flourishing in two new places.” The original figure of 25,000 people has doubled. Transformation has certainly taken place.