ARUA. 63- year old William Onzima was one of the hundreds of people who lined the streets to welcome Mustafa Gerima as he arrived in Arua after his 15-day heroics of walking from Kampala.
He visibly expressed mixed emotions at the sight of Gerima who was walking primarily to create awareness about the depletion of the shear nut tree in the West Nile region.
“He is right to feel the concern by walking from Kampala to Arua because the shear tree is very useful to the government and to us the citizens”.
“I appeal to the communities to join this cause and save the remaining trees and even plant more”, Onzima appealed.
Ms Grace Draru from Eruba in Vurra Sub County also lining among the hundreds said the shear oil had helped her child from rushes because the other oils would generate skin rushes once smeared on her child.
Draru despite expressing solidarity for the cause of the shear nut tree said she can’t do much to save the endangered tree because she has no authority to control its depletion.
Such was the debate generated by the decision of Gerima to walk in the name of awareness creation.
By 1:00 pm, Gerima, a teacher by profession clad in his trademark reflector Jacket, green T-shirt, Ugandan flag and his back bag walked bare feet, with his scarred feet unable to put on his walking boots.
I am physically fine, no problem apart from my toe (scared part) but I would not have minded so much even if I lost the toe because the loss of the shear tree is bigger than losing a toe”, a confident smiling Gerima said as he walked in the company of locals.
At intervals, he stopped to answer questions from the amazed locals who congratulated him upon reaching his destination after a hectic 15 days.
Speaking about the journey, Gerima said his message to the communities was a simple one to conserve the shear nut species, don’t misuse it, cutting it will extinct it.
“I think I have already delivered the message, what remains to be done is to transform the message into action, we now need to raise nursery beds of the shear nut so that we can distribute to the people,” he said.
Asked how hectic the journey of over 500km was for his body, Gerima acknowledged that the starting was particularly straining.
“After river Kafu, I had to walk in rain for more than three hours and it was the most hectic part of the journey, and at another moment I was left on my own by the Uganda Wildlife Authority team (UWA) and again rain caught with me at a place called Wii-Anaka at around 7 pm, there was fear in me because of the Elephants, Buffaloes and the rain”.
“After arriving at Latoro, there was nowhere to sleep, a Good Samaritan offered me accommodation, I shared the hut with him and the wife which I thought was interesting” he further narrates his ordeal.
Gerima would arrive at the town center at around 5:30 pm with the cheering crowds lining the streets to greet him as he was paraded around.