Once an inaccessible place, Awere Hill, located about 70 kilometres east of Gulu town along Moroto road in Odek Sub County stands tall, a reminiscent of the Lords Resistance Army insurgency power base.
It is believed that on the hill, the LRA Chief Joseph Kony used to draw his spiritual powers to sustain his rebellion. Other sources however still maintain that the hill top is still visited secretly by the LRA leader.
Residents allege that the rebels still sneak to the area to seek renewal of their powers from the “supernatural spirits” they have relied on for the last two decades.
“They still get their military might from this hill whenever they sneak here, but they usually come unnoticed,” an elder who has lived in the area for many decades says.
Point at your own risk
One of the caretakers of the hill, Clementine Ajok, 62, believes that the Awere hill is magical. “I fear to talk about the happenings there because Joseph Kony is still at large. Why do you want to interview me? Are you sent by Uganda Government?” said Ajok ,who could not easily divulge information.
However, after gaining confidence, she opened up, saying that indeed the LRA rebels come to the hill, adding that when they stay long without revamping their military might from the hill, they always get weakened. Ajok who cautioned against pointing at the hill or facing it directly when talking alleges that due to its “magical powers” one can get lost or the spirits on it can send bees to attack.
“For us we don’t point at Awere hill, not even facing it directly, because this Awere hill when you point at it, you can get lost or the unexpected can happen to you.”
Home of bees
According to Ajok, the first inhabitants of the area nearing the hill were the Patongo clansmen, who were chased from the area after the hill unleashed its anger and sent lightning on them, paving way for the Puranga clan to settle in the area.
Nekonori Oringa, 70, says the spirits of the hills used to “keep” bees whose honey was eaten by locals and sold to visitors. He says the bees have been destroyed by UPDF by fumigation during their operation.
“Although the caves are still there, the bees have left the hill’s caves after fumigation,” she adds.
Araa P’Lamiyi-ling 70, another associate to the hill’s guides says Joseph Kony in 1987 camped for three days while praying on Awere Hill purportedly to seek spiritual guidance before he embarked on his guerilla movement.
Hills of mystery
P’Lamiyi-ling adds that Omoro Hill, which is about four kilometres away from Odek, equally has magical powers permitting no one to point at them. He claims soldiers fighting LRA rebels witnessed mysteries such as a lion, big snakes and suddenly the person got lost in the jungle for pointing at the hill during their operation.
P’Lamiyi-ling says Moro Hill too has similar mystery though he could not prove his allegation. He notes that visitors could walk with ease on top Awere Hill, but under guidance.
“If you are a foreigner and you climb Omoro Hill, you must be bitten by strange snakes,” he adds. Before the “mystery” hill came to be Kony’s spiritual site, the local community of Awere particularly the Puranga clan members used it as a spot to conduct rituals including those of chasing away epidemics like small pox, measles, jiggers and other types of calamities that befell the community.
A past of ritual offering
Jenaro Okot, 73, a member of the elders group says, “Before the insurgency took us to the camps, the same hill was regarded by the people as a magical hill that used to solve people’s problems whenever sacrifices were offered to the gods.”