It would be fair to assume that Richard Esolu will be the first trained killer to be invited to speak in Kaikohe.

The former Ugandan warlord will address five meetings, the first two at Kohewhata Marae, for the whole community on Thursday night then for men only on Friday, on overcoming violence, anger and abuse.

New Zealand friend Bob Hamilton said Mr Esolu would deliver a powerful message of family and community transformation.

He has emerged from a background of extreme violence and brutality.


At 13 he was kidnapped by anti-government rebel soldiers, taken into the jungle and trained to kill. By 17 he had risen to the rank of commander, but after decades of fighting, murder, rape and mayhem he laid down his arms and surrendered himself to the Ugandan Army.

"It's a miracle they didn't put him against the wall and shoot him right there," Mr Hamilton said.

"But when they heard his story they had some sort of compassion for him and gave him an amnesty. Then he had to go back into the jungle and rescue his woman."

He went on to become a policeman and is now a pastor.

And, now aged 50, he thanks the Lord for keeping him for all those years.

"Many of my friends, junior and senior to me, fell dead," he said.

"I shall serve the Lord with all my heart, my soul and my spirit."

Pastor Mike Shaw, who met him in Uganda and invited him to Kaikohe, said everything possible was being done to deliver a message of hope to the community by supporting Men Against Sexual Violence, It's Not OK and any other groups that would help men take responsibility for their own actions and make positive change.

"Richard's life is evidence of the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. He has gone from a trained killer to a transformed man. His story will give any man hope and the knowledge of how to make permanent, positive change." he said.

Mr Esolu will also addresses a meeting at Kaikohe's Celebration Church on Saturday and two on Sunday.