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From LRA Jungle to Mak; A Former Child Soldier’s Graduation Ordeal

Born January 14, 1995, at St Joseph Hospital Kitgum Mission to Christine Apiyo a nurse and George Oluma, a politician and ex-soldier, Obedgiu studied at Mbuya Nursery School and later went to Kitgum boys for the primary one and two before moving to ABC Primary School in Rackoko, Pader district.
Code-named Strike Machine, Samuel Obedgiu graduates from Makerere University

Audio 4

Fifteen years ago, Samuel Obedgiu was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army. At only 11 years, he was a child soldier, with nothing ahead of him but a future filled with darkness and hopelessness. 

Born January 14, 1995, at St Joseph Hospital Kitgum Mission to Christine Apiyo a nurse and George Oluma, a politician and ex-soldier, Obedgiu studied at Mbuya Nursery School and later went to Kitgum boys for the primary one and two before moving to ABC Primary School in Rackoko, Pader district.  

While in Primary Six in 2005, Obedgiu recalls how the Lord’s Resistance Army attacked his village; Pagwa Awere in Ibakara parish, Matidi Sub-county, Kitgum district, and kidnapped him, in a team of 25 youngsters. At the time, he had returned home for the first term holidays.  

From then on, he was taught to live with a gun as his best friend and it’s at this time that he lost all hope forever going back to school. A sight of more than ten people dying in his presence still brings back dark and sad memories of the ordeal. 

//Cue in; “Every moment that…    

Cue out…under one commander.”//        

He recounts that they were forced to kill a number of people through ambushes that they encountered during the war.    

//Cue in; “We did a lot of killing…    

Cue out…escaped death.”//     

After nine months in the jungles, Obedgiu plotted to escape. At the time, the government had started granting amnesty to people who opted out and renounced rebellion, a golden opportunity that he grabbed to start a new journey out of the bush. 

Upon his return, he was assisted by his parents to get back to school, a process that started with a rehabilitation programme, to deal with the violent nature he had adopted while in the bush. In 2006, he returned to ABC Primary School and repeated Primary Six. He completed Primary Seven in 2008. 

Richard Odong, a journalist for the Gulu based Radio Pacis who studied with Obedgiu at ABC Primary School says that throughout his time at school, he was a very stubborn and harsh boy, albeit with a commanding voice.  

In 2009, Obedgiu joined Secret Heart Minor Seminary Lacor for O’level education and later joined St Mary's Secondary School Namaliga, Bombo for his Advanced Level education. While here, he pursued Biology, Chemistry and Agriculture (BCA) and obtained eight points in his final examinations. 

But, as he says, the result was an indicator that ‘things did not work out well’ and he repeated A ‘level from Kitgum Comprehensive College, dropping chemistry for Geography and in 2015, he sat for the final examinations, once again, this time scoring 11 points.  He joined Makerere in 2016. 

At the university, Obedgiu was a common face in strikes and, to many, he was a warlord. Judith Nalukwago, the Vice Guild President of Makerere University says Obedgiu won this name due to his passionate involvement in the student's struggles at Makerere.  

“He was always at the forefront of the strike. He was one man students would count on for his word on his unshakable ground especially in advancing students’ demands,” Nalukwago told URN. 

He graduated with a Second Class Upper  Bachelor of Science  Degree in Agriculture and Rural Innovation Science of Makerere University. His graduation, which also came on his birthday is a milestone, and a new chapter for his clan, where he is the first person to graduate from Makerere University, thanks to the Students Loan Scheme. 

Obedgiu, who is popular for his code-name Strike Machine in the Makerere University circles could not hold his excitement.    

//Cue in; “Being the only son…   

Cue out…that is when you see hell.”//   

Obedgiu wants to enrol for further studies to become a hope for his clan. He is happy that the opportunity of going back to school has shown him the light. 

//Cue in; “I want to first… 

Cue out…while they were at the bush.”//     

During his time at Makerere, Obedgiu was elected Speaker [Forum for Democratic Change] FDC Muk chapter, the Guild Representative Councilor for School of Agricultural Sciences and a Guild Cabinet Minister for Culture and Mobilization 84th students’ guild.