One of the things I remember from my childhood, as I’m sure most people probably do, is fear of the Boogeyman.
Even as I think about it now, I’m not entirely sure where the story comes from. All I know is that when I would go to bed at night, I was always scared that some man I couldn’t see would snatch me from my bed and take me away. Maybe I was scared he would kill me or eat me, but what I remember scaring me most about the Boogeyman was the idea that I would never see my mother again.
It was times like that when I would either crawl into my parent’s bed or beg my mother to stay until I fell asleep. That way I could fall asleep knowing my mother was with me, and that I would see her again.
This is probably a pretty common story for most people, fear of an unknown man snatching you from your bed. In some ways, it’s a rite of passage. At some point, you come to terms with the fact that your mom won’t always be there, that you have to be brave and sleep through the night.
But what I’m realizing now is that here in Uganda, the “Boogeyman” isn’t just a story, an irrational fear of a man snatching you from your bed. In this country, children HAVE gotten snatched from their beds, carried into the Bush, and never see their mothers again, Here, the Boogeyman is real.
I was always afraid of that happening when I was a kid, but I can’t imagine what it’s like for the kids here, who don’t have that security of knowing that they will wake up in the same bed in the morning. Here, kids fear turning 13 because that’s the prime age for child soldiers in this part of the world.
I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for the boys who have been taken, find themselves somewhere out in the jungle, wondering where their mom is. Who are then pushed around, have a gun shoved in their hands, and told to kill someone.
TL;DR: Here in Uganda, the Boogeyman is real.