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Excerpt from A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Moonless, Starless Sky

Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa

by Alexis Okeowo

A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo X
A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 256 pages
    Oct 2018, 256 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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Print Excerpt

The girls eventually crossed into Sudan and stopped in an area of tall grass and thick, looming trees. More men emerged, including Kony. Rebels began plucking girls from the group, choosing the prettiest ones first. Eunice watched with a swelling sense of dread. There was nowhere to run. They were everywhere. A boy named Bosco, who looked like he was no older than seventeen, appeared in front of her. He was wearing rain boots, a green military uniform that slouched on his thin frame, and a matching cap over bushy hair. Another rebel, who seemed like he was one of the men in charge, nudged Bosco closer toward Eunice and told him, "This will be your wife."

Eunice was still; she felt paralyzed. She had nearly just died when the Ugandan military emerged out of nowhere and fired gunshots at the rebels as they led the girls through the bush, and death, she thought, would make more sense than what was happening to her right now.

"You're blessed that you've come to me. We thought that you girls might refuse us. You'll be okay," Bosco said to her.

Bosco was nineteen. Three years earlier, the LRA had also kidnapped him and trained him to be a soldier. Bosco had felt himself become hardened to the killings and kidnappings he was ordered to carry out. But when he first saw Eunice, he fantasized of a new family that would replace the siblings and mother he had lost. He imagined that he had finally found someone to trust. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.

Eunice was repulsed. I have no interest in this man, she thought. How will I get to know him when I absolutely do not want to be with him? Bosco led her to a tent constructed of tree branches with a tarp laid on top, a fragile bush hut, where they would begin the rest of their lives.

* * *

Uganda was a sheet of green unfurled over slopes and through forests that stretched to its borders with South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and sometimes it extended over those boundaries, too. The range of greens within a single field looked like a child poured buckets of every hue of green paint into the plants, the trees, the bushes. There was also red dirt, and redder mud, but it was the green that stood out. The cities were always under construction, choked with pollution, traffic, and new malls and apartment complexes. In the northern countryside, above the Nile River, the green still meant fertile land and roots, that what once belonged to your ancestors was now yours to bring to fruition. It could mean both struggle and fortune. The green never felt completely familiar; there was a reason people left so much of it intact in the great expanses between their houses and the houses of their neighbors, and why, no matter how much intruders tried to tear it down, it sprang back up again. To the people of northern Uganda, the green did two more things: It sheltered those who needed a home and camouflaged those who sought to destroy the very idea of it.

Called the "Pearl of Africa" by former British prime minister Winston Churchill, Uganda won its independence from Britain in 1962 after seventy-two years as its colony. A landlocked teardrop in East Africa, the country has a population of almost 40 million people and multiple ethnic identities that the British exploited as they divided and ruled. The British army recruited mostly from the Acholi ethnic group in northern Uganda, while many of the Baganda in the south worked in business or civil service. After independence, these groups competed for jobs, land, and power. The new nation quickly became beset by a series of violent coups and armed rebellions.

Milton Obote, Uganda's first postindependence prime minister, was from the Lango region in the north and drew support from the Lango and Acholi groups. He formed an alliance with the Baganda in the south, but soon dissolved the constitution and declared himself president, beginning a dictatorship that terrorized opponents and stole from the national coffers. A general named Idi Amin from the northwestern Kakwa group overthrew Obote to begin his own brutal regime that disappeared and killed thousands of people, and purged Lango and Acholi soldiers from the military.

Excerpted from A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo. Copyright © 2017 by Alexis Okeowo. Excerpted by permission of Hachette Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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