I Was a Witness to Mass Murder!
Wildlife viewing in a national park proves to be the wrong place at the wrong time!
close calls & great escapes • danger • East Africa • fear • Idi Amin • life-threatening situations • military & soldiers • Murchison Falls National Park • nine lives travelers • Uganda • witness to murder • wrong place/wrong time
I was a witness to a mass murder during the atrocious reign of the cruel dictator, Idi Amin of Uganda. It took place in the famous Murchison Falls National Park for a particularly ominous and gruesome purpose. You’ll shortly see why.
by Michael Brein, PhD,
The Travel Psychologist
Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda
Told to me by Jack J.
This is not a wildlife story; it’s a people story.
I was a witness to mass murder that took place in the famous Murchison Falls National Park for a particularly ominous and gruesome purpose. You’ll shortly see why.
We were in the national park to view wildlife. We camped out of sight behind some bushes, and we heard some trucks coming up late at night.
We were out of view and turned the lights off and got very quiet. We were now out of our vehicle and were about to walk toward these trucks to see what was going on. We were sort of peering very cautiously and quietly around the corner at them, of course.
It was dark; it was pitch black, actually. And that was a very good thing, I can tell you. There were four sort of army troop carrier-looking trucks that were parked there. And they were definitely Ugandan soldiers.
They were ushering a bunch of people off the trucks and taking them aside where they point-blank shot them.
Michael: How did you feel when you heard that?
Well, I knew these things were happening in Uganda. So of course we weren’t surprised, but of course, we’re, you know, alarmed simply because we were witnessing something that we shouldn’t at all be witnessing.
Michael: That would have been instant death if they’d seen you. How did they not see you?
Because it was pitch dark.
The trucks, after they had done the grisly work, threw the bodies into the Nile River. Because we were right on the edge of the Nile, they put the bodies in there for the crocodiles so they’d eat all the bodies, so that none of the bodies would ever wash over the wild Murchison Falls right there. And the gruesome truth was if any of the bodies did manage to breach the Falls, there were more crocodiles down on that side as well to intercept them.
Michael: How many would you say they killed on that night?
And at that time, approximately a hundred or so.
Michael: Were you scared when you heard all those gunshots? Could you hear screaming and that sort of thing?
Oh yeah, but I wasn’t scared while I was watching because I was in the dark, and they couldn’t see me. So there was no more reason for me to be frightened or to hold my breath.
The other two people that were with me were more concerned.
Michael: Like maybe terrified?
So the more terrifying thing was we couldn’t turn the lights back on on our vehicle after the army trucks left. They wouldn’t come back on.
We had to be very careful for the next several days in the area of the National Park in case some of the military would put two and two together and realize that our vehicle must have been in the area.
So we had to carefully evacuate that part of the park and stay in other parts of the park for the next time period.
Supposedly thirty thousand people were killed that year by Idi Amin’s troops.
Michael: Is it fair to say the other people with you were terrified?
We talked about it a fair amount. But I don’t think they were frightened because we weren’t in direct contact with the military.
Michael: About how far away were they from you?
Maybe a hundred yards or so, probably three hundred feet. Lucky for us we were still fairly far from them and hidden in the bushes, so fortunately they hadn’t any idea we were there.
Michael: Was that your closest call?
In Uganda? Oh, hell no. (Laughs.) But I mean a close call to what?
No, not by any means! I didn’t feel I was that close to death at all in that particular situation.
Michael: Oh, no! You were very lucky! They could’ve turned on you in a flash. Just from maybe a light reflecting from one of the army trucks on the metal on your vehicle.
I mean, it certainly might have been possibly life-threatening, but again, you have to separate a possible life-threatening situation from an actual life-threatening situation.
Consider for instance, what happened to me: you’re driving on a mountain road in Morocco and a truck comes around the corner. And you’re on the outside, and you veer to the right to get around the truck because he’s not going to slow down. The bigger the truck, the more it’s the “King of the Road!”
And you’re literally going around the corner with two wheels up in the air with the other two wheels still on the ground. Now, THAT’S what I call a life-threatening situation!
Michael: You did this?
Yes. That was 1968. And after that, we’d then get back onto the road and just continue driving.
Michael: Jack, you’re what I call a “Nine-Lives Traveler!”