Mammoth Crowd Defies COVID-19 directives to pay homage to suspected Virgin Mary Apparition

Maracha district NRM chairperson, Mr. Ofeku Gabriel among those tolerating a cold night to see suspected apparition of Virgin Mary in Maracha

Maracha – Faith, trampled the law and fear of death, as thousands trailed Maracha district against COVID-19 pandemic prevention directives, to pay homage to a suspected apparition of Virgin Mary.

In hope of getting a last glimpse of the suspected Apparition, thousands within West Nile region and the Democratic Republic of Congo defied all rules set by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Groups of people started on Saturday evening to trickle to Ms. Felister Lekuru’s home, most of them taking safety neighbourhoods during the night. For, events of the last two weeks have melted hearts of the people in and around Minako village, to receive visitors amicably, as they had never witnessed such mystery in their lives before.

Others visitors, with a burning desire, riskily defied the curfew time to trek at night, in order not to miss out to bid farewell to the suspected supernatural occurrence, as news had spread that it would depart on Sunday.

On ground, at Minako village, Ombia parish of Yivu Sub County, Maracha district, social distancing became the culprit crucified at the sight of law enforcement officers.

Farmers were left in tears as the crowd turned acreages of gardens into a huge pavilion to view the suspected apparition.

The crowd inflicted more harm to the crops when the police vehicle commonly known in the region as “Alapapa”, meaning a butterfly, pertaining to its raised wing-like shades, arrived with ear-piercing serene.

Red Pepper digital followed the event from a night vigil held in silence, to racing with security personnel through gardens, valley, and taking cover on an encounter with the Alapapa.

As many women and children trickled in groups of fours, sixs and tens towards Minako village, RedPepper Digital took notes and laid plans to find out what would prevail on the last night of the suspected apparition.

The plan, to be undercover, without any Tom, Dick and Harry knowing a journalist in their midst. So, the dress code; an old pair of shoes, a tattered pair of trousers, a belt tied without a buckle and a crumpled shirt that has not tasted water for good days, as all these, to give a typical village peasant look, suitable for sleuthing.

A crumpled piece of paper with an old leaking ball pen without the lid in the pocket, were the only items one could carry on such a mission. No phone and note book, as the two were to be in the custody of a reinforcement team.

As the best rule, RedPepper Digital set an alarm bell on to give an alert to kick off the journey. The snoop woke up at 1:00 Am to embark on the sleuthing mission to the suspected Holy ground.

The journey of 7 kilometres through three valleys in darkness required boldness and great courage.

Ayi River which is the first, has a record of fatal accidents and dead bodies from unknown killers being recovered near the bridge, is the most Scarry point. I had to recite the Lord’s prayer for courage.

Omuze valley, is also another point that calls for God’s protection at night due to its proximity to Maracha district Central Police Station, poses fear of an imminent arrest for defying a curfew. Worse than that is a wild allegation of a huge creature that lifts any nocturnal traveler off the feet and taking them up to their destinations and disappears in the thin air.

Thank God, I didn’t encounter all these evils until joining a big gathering at Minako village.

Once in the huge crowd, it was so interesting to collect testimonies and to learn that some people had arrived as early as 8:00Pm on Saturday evening.

One particular woman, identifying herself as Margaret, had a thrilling experience to share as she walked about 15 kilometers from the Democratic Republic of Congo border with zeal to see the suspected apparition and bide farewell to Virgin Mary.

Margaret, being a stranger to the place, without any relative at whose home she could spend the night decided to pick a bucket, a small jerrycan. a hoe and a rake, as if going to a nearby garden. Nobody realised Margaret’s trick as she walked all this long distance up to Minako and the following day, except Red Pepper digital.

Red Pepper digital had encountered this woman on her way and then found her with all her luggage at the venue where thousands convened to pay homage to Mother Mary.

According to Margaret, she arrived Minako village in the evening and found her way direct to Filister’s home. Like any other visitors, the children received Margaret and made her comfortable after she told them her story.

Margaret joined Felister in reciting Rosary until she had supper with the children as their mother is still fasting.

The visitor interacted freely with others like a family member.

Claiming to have seen the suspected apparition, Margaret then joined the crowd in cheering and giving adoration to Mother Mary.

At dawn, before sunrise, Margaret packed her items and waked away back home as if she was going to a garden. However, an investigative mind would wonder how an ardent Catholic faithful goes to dig on Sunday but none questioned the woman as she passed near the security officers.

Immediately Margaret left at 5:00AM, on her journey back home, after narrating her story to Red Pepper digital, the police vehicle, the Alapapa arrived with threatening serene, sending the crowd to heels.

Even before the Alapapa came to a stop, the crowd, with Red Pepper in the midst, scattered like the people were chasing grasshoppers.

After the one-kilometer race with security officers, who were joined by garden owners, the defiant crowd, now clustered in small numbers started wild cheers at the suspected apparition.

But racing ensued and reached a climax when more security officers have added all around and Red Pepper digital manoeuvred a rescue avenue connecting from one thicket to the next until home without sustaining a scratch.

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