Storm clouds loomed just above the air strip a few kilometers from Moroto town in the remote Karamoja region of
The Karamojong are just as tall, skinny and sparse in the meagerly populated area and it seemed that they too might topple should the wind blow any harder.
I stood nearby the airstrip waiting for the United Nations plane that would fly us back to Kampala, along with a few UN workers, a driver, some boys from town they’d brought along to help lift a heavy generator they were taking along on the flight, and a few Karamojong kids who didn’t have anything better to do than sit by our car and wait with us. They looked eight or nine, but they could have been as old as sixteen. Puberty comes late when malnutrition is rampant.
They chatted with the UN staff in a combination of Swahili and Karamojong.
“They are saying they are hungry and they want a coin. I’m saying I’m hungry too,” the UN lady said when I asked what they were saying.
Though she may have skipped lunch, she surely wasn’t hungry the way these kids were. But she spent every day while we were in Moroto working on a project to benefit kids just like them. Or that you can’t give everyone a hundred shillings, because that’s a lot of shillings.
An old man with a long tree branch for a walking stick hobbled by. Just the way lack made the kids look younger than they were, it made the old men look older. The bottom half of his left leg was curved into a semicircle from an injury sustained long ago. Men here herd cattle, and other men try and steal their cattle, and every man is armed with an AK-47. Things are starting to change with a UPDF program for disarmament. But change comes slowly. Even now, they shoot one another in the leg so as to immobilize the other and steal his cattle, or just kill him.
The man said he’d broken his leg in a fall, but that seemed unlikely. He said he had malaria, and asked for 100 shillings, and shuffled away towards the sunflowers, titling this way and that with every step as much as flowers quivered in with the coming storm. It wasn’t clear which was more likely to weather the storm standing.