Elegu is a “post-apocalyptic shanty town”, explained my wise anthropologist friend. If you only had four words and a hyphen, I don’t think anyone could do better. Arabic music floats out of Shisha bars. Rainbows of money flap in the wind held by flimsy rubber bands. A different language every 10 meters. Refugee intake point with a broken swing. And despite all this hustle and bustle there’s no health clinic – only drug shops. Until now. New clinic number 3. Elegu.
Just 3 years ago the Border Post between South Sudan was moved 10km to sit on the actual border, and within those 3 years a bustling ‘gold rush’ town sprung up. Gold, Oil and high quality rice is smuggled in from South Sudan. Food is sold at exorbitant prices across the border. NGOs buy up large to look after those the evil war has displaced both in South Sudan itself and the refugee camps nearby in Uganda.
Elegu is a racial melting pot, although as a white person you wouldn’t guess it immediately. We’ll be serving refugees from South Sudan who are making their way outside the camps. The local Maadi tribe. Traders from the East, West, North and South who are trying to escape poverty through the trading gold rush. We asked our waiter Prossy
Me: “Where do you come from”
Prossy “Mbale, Eastern Uganda”
Me: “Why did you come to Elegu”
Prossy: (Shrugs) “Work, money”
Me: “Did you know anyone here before you came?”
Prossy: “Not even one person”
The abode we’re renting would not quite meet New Zealand building regulations, but it will do the job. You wouldn’t want to be there in an earthquake that’s for sure! Our nurse Walter is humble, cheerful chap who has moved in with his wife and small child. If anyone can make it work in a weird place like this, he can. He’ll be in Church today, welcoming resurrection and new life. That’s what we’re looking for in Elegu.
Congratulations on the new clinic. Is there a church already in Elegu or will Walter and his family have to go elsewhere to find one?
Hi Pauline! Elegu is a pretty big place, there are Catholic, Anglican and Pentecostal churches there all in ramshackle temporary buildings. Walter started praying in the Anglican Church (because we asked him to for a start!), but he is ‘born again’ (pentecostal) so will probably end up praying there. Services are in English or Swahili because of the mash up of languages. The Anglican Catechist who runs the service doesn’t even live there, but lives 10km away which is very silly! Its sad though, I talked to a bunch of people in Elegu who said they were ‘Anglican’, but hadn’t started going to church again
since they moved to Elegu. There should be serious mission work going on there – people in an unfamiliar environment like that can quickly lose faith, but are also searching.
Congratulations Nick.How far from Gulu? Will it be easy to oversee?
Hi Ray! Good question. By public transport (shared vans/cars) its about 1:45 minutes each way plus waiting time for the vehicle to fill up. Its by far our furthest away center kilometer wise, but the road is tarmac all the way! The fact that public transport is always going back and forth to the border helps a lot. A long way away, but doable. Any more than about 2hrs 15 minutes makes supervision difficult as we have to go to and from in a day!