By Mutabazi Sam Stewart
I’ve not been to a place in Uganda as beautifully different as Abim. Very relaxing l, very quiet and laid back. It’s like the end of the earth but when you move across you see new hills that are designed so uniquely you wonder how God could be so generous to give such features to this place. Arriving in Abim is like arriving nowhere but amidst beauty itself. You want to keep moving allover but you can’t exhaust the scenery. The lower lands appear almost similar but the hills are completely different with various shapes.
There is one particular hill that captured my attention and imagination. It’s quite imposing and appears as a shadow. It protrudes out of the ground resembling a human tooth save that it’s very large and mysterious. It’s imposing as it’s is magical and mystical. Even when the sun is high, this particular hill is dark and not easy to comprehend. I could not get enough of it as I kept looking at it most of the time. Suffice to note that nobody had ever told me about the hill and I had never heard about it. I just looked at it and immediately realized that among the hundreds of hills, only this was different. The more I looked at the hill, the more I wanted to keep looking at it and the more it appeared differently captivating.
I was curious to know whether the locals were also aware about this same hill and indeed they knew a lot about it. I wasn’t therefore very surprised when I was told its name. It’s called RWOTH which means the King of all hills or Mountains. It’s as unmistakable as it’s different. You can’t miss it. It stands out from the crowds of hills. It’s not necessarily the tallest and neither is it the shortest. But it’s different. In future it’s likely to become one of the biggest tourist attractions in the region. As of now, are yet to understand the gem that resides in their midst partly because of poverty levels.
The poverty levels in the area are, to be mild in my language alarming. The place is sparsely populated with hardly any economic activity. Land is covered by bushes with barely any cultivated crop gardens. People are quite laid back and not in a hurry to do anything. Even by Uganda’s standards, the people in Abim District appear like they have never heard of the word development. The place is quiet, you may think you are in the world alone.
There aren’t many birds or animals so one can scarcely hear any noises of anything. The place is very hot both during the day and night because its features are like those of a rift valley. Everywhere you go you will be surrounded by hills. My estimation shows that no body has ever bothered to climb the hilltops. The hills appear as virgin as they were created at the beginning of the world. I was told nobody can get to the top of Rwoth Hill. Some locals said it sometimes “spits fire” especially during hot seasons” I was not able to authenticate this claim.
There is very little human activity to disturb the environment, mostly on the hillsides and the hill tops. Possibly, the population is too insignificant to have any visible impact. By evening the town if Abim itself, the place is quite laid back with very little human activity. When you are in Abim it’s like you are not in Uganda. There is nothing Ugandan about Abim. The smallest trading centers in the rest of Uganda are always active and noisy, but not with Abim. Here, life gets silent that one wonders whether they shall ever adapt to a quick life after the visit. Abim District was curved out of Kotido in 2006. The intention of government to bring services closer to the people has not been realized. The main road to the district remains gravel which in some areas gets impassable particularly during rainy days.
No one climbs the hills and there is absolutely no activity taking place be it cattle grazing or crop growing. The hills are as immaculate as they were created by God. No activity has ever taken place there. My curiosity to visit the tops of the hills could not be met since no one even thinks about climbing them. The people live with their hills but they do not even want to know what to use them for. If they cannot use the land beneath, how would you expect them to use the land in the hills?
The people in Abim are deprived that they still think in their own traditional way. The first hotel I slept in didn’t have water. They have a borehole which they use to put water in the basin before a solar powered pump propels it into the tank above. This was however done at 10 o’clock in the night. All this time I was waiting to take a shower. I couldn’t understand why they had not done it earlier. They didn’t have food too. Had I not packed any snacks on my way from the nearest biggest town of Soroti (150Km away), I would have slept hungry
The second hotel had much better rooms than the first one but few were occupied. I made an order for food and they told me they did not have any food. My pleas to find me anything to eat yielded nothing. The idea of moving out of the hotel to look for something to eat from the sleepy town didn’t make sense given the insecurity in the area. They finally made me an omelet which I ate happily as I was going to sleep hungry having not eaten during the day. Business in the town is very slow. They expect to serve mainly locals who are used to the same poor service. When you go to Abim, you have to go prepared knowing that having just any meal is a very big luxury. Amidst all this, I was happy that I was the first person outside Karamoja to discover the great Mountain King called Rwoth Hill.