It was on the night of 2nd of April 1999 being good Friday few days to Easter Sunday, the whole environment was filled with liveliness, sounds of fireworks were being heard and my siblings and I were getting ready for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Earlier that day
Everyone went out that day, my siblings and I went to school and my both parents went to work despite it was Good Friday.
Easter is one of the celebrations of the Christain faith acknowledging the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As usually, my father always has visitors from our home town during every festive period, some of whom would stay up to seven days before going back to our home town.
Uncle Elias was the one that visited us for the Easter celebration. He always visits with bread or Yale Cabin biscuits. When he arrived my father hadn’t come back from his office, so we had the opportunity to converse and ask him some Children questions while listening to his stories.
Back to the Friday night
My father came back around 7:00 PM because he was down with fever, so he had to visit the hospital before coming home. After dinner, he went out to sit on the balcony with uncle Elias to have some late-night gist.
While the environment was still noisy from the sounds of fireworks, something strange happened. The sounds became louder and human movements increased, initially my father and uncle Elias thought it was just the fireworks and people celebrating until a bullet hit past one of the windows in the house we were staying in.
The next thing we heard was my father and Uncle Elias shouting at us “ everyone lie down flat”, they said the sounds were now that of bullets as against fireworks, ah!!! What is going on?
My father could barely move properly because of the medication he had earlier, while my siblings and I were lying down, my father went down to check on our neighbours within our compound to know what we all could do, to my father’s shock and disappointment, out of the eight apartments in that compound, it was only my family and one other person that weren’t aware that war had ensued between two communities in that area.
Apparently, other neighbours knew but they didn’t tell us on time to plan our escape. That night was terrible, we couldn’t sleep, we were all lying down, the sound of bullets kept increasing and the night became longer.
The walk to the camp
Immediately it was morning, we all left to the nearest protected refugee camp a public school in Umuoba Anam, which was more than three hours walk from our house. We could not pack anything, just the cloth we were putting on and some change of clothes. Thankfully then, uncle Elias told us he had a bullet charm on his waist, he was in front while we followed him. We all had green leaves on our palms with our hands lifted above our heads while walking. Not to mention, we saw dead bodies along the road.
We stayed at the camp for more than three days including Easter Sunday. My experience there and after is a story for another day.
Otuocha is a town and Headquarters of Anambra East Local Government Area of Anambra State, Nigeria. Otuocha comprises of Umuleri, Aguleri and Umuoba-Anam communities.
The Umuleri and Aguleri 1990 Communual war
Aguleri and Umuleri are two sister communities co-habiting within themselves, in the eastern bank of the Omambala River, in Anambra East L.G.A of Anambra State, without a clear delineation of boundary; fighting over the rightful ownership of Otuocha land. Both communities share the same descent, but the indigene-settler’ syndrome tend to distort the fraternal relationship. This led to the distortion in the reconstruction of their history, as the Umuleri community changed their name to Umueri, to substantiate their claim of being the direct descent of Eri, their acclaimed progenitor.
The crux of problems that militate the growth of this town lies in the age-long land disputes over Otuocha land which have led to lots of violence and animosities between the two hosts, Aguleri and Umuleri communities.
Comments on the Communal war
In April 1999, “thousands” of people in Nigeria fled from their houses to seek refuge in schools and other public buildings following violent confrontations between the Umuleri and the Aguleri communities (AFP 23 Apr. 1999; AP 23 Apr. 1999).
“Hundreds” of people are reported to have been killed during the clashes over the ownership of land located on the border of the two communities (ibid.).
According to a 23 June 1999 IRIN report, “automatic weapons and dynamite were used to kill and destroy houses More than 300 people were reported killed and thousands displaced.
A 8 May 2000 report published in the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard quotes Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju of Anambra State as saying that “complete peace” has been restored between the Umuleri and Aguleri communities. The report also states that the governor called for Federal assistance to rebuild primary and secondary school classrooms destroyed during the confrontations.