Last Sunday, March 12 , I made 50! For God to have pulled me back from the mouth of the grave twice in two years is a miracle. I consider myself the luckiest man alive. I know that when God gives you a second chance at life, that balance of life is no longer yours. It belongs to Him.

Turning 50 brought back memories of incidents of surviving death. Eight months after I was born, my mother decided that she didn’t want to be married to my father. She decided to leave. She simply packed up her things and left Mbarara for Ngarama, Isingiro.

I did not see her until I was 18 years old. This only happened after I had pestered my father for years. During that encounter, I asked her about her sudden departure from my life and my father’s.

“I was young, so young, I did not know what to do, all I knew was that I had to leave. I am sorry”, she said between tearful sobs. At 18, I also did not know what to do. I only told her that I understood.

Sometimes I joke with my friends that I learnt how to be responsible and self reliant at the age of eight months. But that is no joke actually.

I could have crawled into the cooking fire and got burnt to death. Since the door was open, I could have also crawled out of the house and got myself run over by speeding military vehicles. We lived in a barracks!

As I grew older and continued asking my father about my earlier years, he told me of his actions when he returned home from work and found his first borne son all alone.

My father had a Volkswagen Beetle. In 1967 that was like being the proud owner of a limousine. After overcoming the initial shock, he decided that he was ill-equipped to take care of an eight year old baby all by himself. He decided that he would drive to Gulu and leave me in the care of his elderly, widowed mother, Yunia Lakop.

He set off for Gulu alone. I was the only other passenger. Later my father was to tell me of the thoughts that tormented him as he drove. First, he was not sure that I would live beyond my first birthday. The killer diseases that finished off infants were a real threat. He was not sure whether his elderly mother would cope.

When he reached Karuma Falls bridge he stopped. He considered hurling me into the raging waters as a kind of mercy killing. That is the sort of thing soldiers do to comrades in arms who are mortally wounded. Rather than leave them to die a slow painful death or leave them at the mercy of enemy soldiers they choose to kill them.

A soldier himself, my father seriously thought that his action would save me from a short, miserable life and an early death. He paused. Looked at the raging waterfalls and looked at his infant son. He decided that he did not want an infant’s blood in his hands. He then made the momentous decision that he would rather take me to his mother and let what may come, come.

In 1998, as a Member of Parliament, I took an early morning bus from Gulu and left for Kampala. It was about six in the morning. At Tochi Bridge, a few kilometres from Gulu, our bus was hit by a rocket propelled grenade.

The attackers hit the left front tyre. This was right below my seat. The bus driver did not stop. But the attackers, who we later learnt were from the LRA, were relentless.

They seemed to have lined up in the bushes along the road. They showered the bus with bullets. Terrified passengers wailed and prayed. Others fell in the aisle between the seats to avoid the bullets. I was seated near the window so I had nowhere to take cover. All I could do was to trust God. When the bus finally stopped near a military detach, we realised that luckily, nobody had been killed.

But a few were injured. A young man seated to my right, in the aisle seat, took a bullet in his leg. That bullet missed my leg. Another passenger, seated behind me, who had put his hand at the back of my seat, took a bullet which hit his left middle finger. That bullet could have hit me in the head. But here I am, alive!

mpmao@yahoo.com