In 1991 the majesty of the Rwenzori Mountain range was marred by vicious civil conflict displacing thousands of families, forcing them to leave their homes and livelihoods. It was during this time that Asanaire went one morning to fetch food for his family who had left their farm for a less volatile part of the region. Whilst on his mission to provide for his loved ones Asanaire, known as Ahab, stepped on a landmine. In March of that same year Ahab became an amputee.
After one month in hospital Ahab was discharged but unable to return to farm on the slopes of the Rwenzori mountains as he always had done and so his new life began in Kasese.
Six months after being amputated Ahab received sponsorship from a British surgeon which afforded him a prosthesis – “She sympathised with me. I wish I was still in touch with her so she could see what a difference she made to my life.” When Ahab first received his prosthetic leg using it was difficult. He said that loving his new limb wasn’t an easy process however with the firm but fair rehabilitation from his ex-military therapist, who refused to let him give up, Ahab learnt to own his new situation and became strong and proud to become a survivor. “I was convinced I would become a beggar, I thought my wife would divorce me because I felt like I had become useless. The psychological torture was unbearable but luckily with the love and support of my family I became strong again. My wife and I are still married to this day, we have five children together.” Over time, thanks to the mobility having prosthetic leg allows him, Ahab has returned to his agricultural roots – “Not having to use crutches means I am able to tend to my land. I pick and grow my own coffee, and I am able to control my goats because I have balance and the use of my hands.”
Ahab’s resilience led to him becoming an advocate for survivors of landmine explosions in Western Uganda working with international landmine agencies to spread awareness about reducing the risk of others falling victim to landmines. Thankfully Uganda was declared mine-free in 2006 following which a group of active survivors including Ahab created what is now known as the Kasese Landmine Survivors Association (KALSA). Since the declaration of landmine-free Uganda thirteen years ago, many international bodies have withdrawn from UGANDA to focus their efforts in other conflict zones, so members have been continuing the good work of KALSA independently. To break the victim cycle they currently run small tailoring and wood workshops for the children of landmine survivors so that future generations can provide economic stability for their families.
The future of KALSA is to add further skills training programmes,firstly metal fabrication and to bring landmine amputees in the region together more often;
“Being part of the group is important because it creates a support network, a space where people can share their thoughts and information specific to group members.
One voice alone is not enough but if you bring voices together it becomes loud and we are heard.”
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