Landmine Survivors Network
Contact Us Search Home Give to LSN
LSN helps landmine victims get legs, get jobs, and get on with their lives.
Who We Are What We Do Where We Work Survior Stories News Inside LSN

Tell a Friend about LSN
Survivor Stories
Margaret Arach - Uganda

I am a single mother with five children. Around Christmas 1998 I decided to travel from Kitgum District in Northern Uganda to Kampala to be with my family, despite reports of rebel attacks. There were twenty-three of us on the bus including the driver and three babies.

The rebels had planted the mine, so they were lying in wait, in the bushes. That was how they did it. They would plant the mine in the straight part of the road. So, we knew a bit about that, and there was no talking on the bus. As we came out of the curve, to where the road was straight, the next thing I hear was a big explosion. And I thought we had just lost a tire. I didn’t know that the loud explosion had taken off my leg.

Everyone was like, ‘Is it the tire? Or is it a rebel ambush?’ Then we heard gunshots and we knew we were in a rebel ambush. Everyone went wild. And when I tried to run, I noticed one leg came out and the other, there was no shoe, no leg, and there was a very ugly thing I was looking at, not my leg, but something with the flesh hanging. But my mind was still, ‘Huh? What happened to my leg?” So, I started to hop, and I lowered myself to the grass and I tried to crawl.

It was the dry season, so the grass was very high and dry and thick. So this hanging flesh kept getting caught, until I just gave up, and laid still. I was about two meters away from the bus, and the bullets were really flying.

After awhile, I felt someone touching me. I looked and saw it was an elderly lady who was hit and her arm was, there was just a big hole. All the flesh was gone. That’s when the soldier came. I closed my eyes, but I could feel his presence. And the next thing, he undressed me; he was starting to undress me. I was wearing jeans. And I thought, “Now, what does he want?” Normally, the rebels, they want clothing. And I had on a jacket and trousers. But there were also stories of how they abuse. And that’s when I started praying. And then my trousers got stuck, and he’s yanking on them, and going through my pockets.

All through, I kept my eyes closed. I would hold my breath, so he could not see me breathe. Then, he shot me. I think he wanted to know if I was still alive. And I just kept still. So, he just flung me, and I fell where he threw me. He shook me four times, threw me this way and that way, this way and that. And then he hit my leg with the gun, very hard. I could remember sweating. The pain wasn’t so much. But, I did feel pain, and was sweating. And he had seen the sweat, and when I didn’t move, when I didn’t say a word, I never opened my eyes, and I heard footsteps walking away. This all happened in about five minutes. And when he walked away, he set fire to the bus. I heard crackling,
and I smelled smoke, and that’s when I started crawling. I was in a cotton garden, from when he threw me, and that garden was like a fire gulch, and the fire went around me. That’s how I crawled to safety. About an hour later, the government soldiers came.

And when I crawled out and saw all these guns pointed at me, one of them said, “Are you a rebel?” I said, “No. Are you the army?” He said yes. I crawled to him and I grabbed his leg and I wouldn’t let go. Two other soldiers tried to pry me off, but they couldn’t. Finally he said, “Let go so we can help you.” And they took me to the hospital.

When I was in the hospital, some people from the National Union of Persons with Disability came, and they were looking for a landmine survivor to participate on the Ugandan side of this conference that was hosted by the PanAfrican Federation for the Disabled in Zimbabwe. So, going to Herrare was my big, big, big step. I met a lot of people with disabilities there, and they really helped me, they helped me change my
thinking. My coordination was still very poor, and I was always afraid I would fall over. But, I learned from the people with disabilities, that, it’s not the level of the disability the person has, but it’s how the person has accepted it and has adapted to it, then moved on. Also, most of my friends and family had taken off, wanted to avoid me. But, in a way, when I realized I was alone, I knew I had to do something for myself and no one else would do it for me.

I met some people from LSN, and one of them, I had started talking to her, and she gave me information about the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). And I wrote the address and got information on how I could become my country coordinator. And now I have a very big dream for the future. I really hope for a world which will not have anti-personnel landmines. I would wish for my children and many more not to go through what we have gone through because it is so, so painful. And so sad. I wish for the concerned states, where the survivors live, to take more care and to be more concerned with the welfare of landmine survivors. I would wish for a better life for all the other survivors, and for my community, my country and the whole world, at last. It’s a big thing to wish for.”

View the next profile: Kostyantyn Antoshchuk

Less than 10 percent of landmine survivors have access to proper medical care and rehabilitation. Please visit our Donate Now section and see what you can do to help landmine survivors around the world.

Survivors Need Your Help

© Copyright 2006 Landmine Survivors Network. All Rights Reserved.
Questions? Comments? Contact Us!

Bobby WorldWide Approved 508    Bobby WorldWide Approved A