UGANDA: CHOOSING MUSEVENI AS CHIEF GUEST AT A CULTURAL FESTIVAL ATTRACTS “HULLABALOO”

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A typical poor Acholi man, pauses for the camera while exploring his sesame (simsim) garden in Lamwo district recently.

“Event organizers around the country worth the ink used to write their names know this fact-that President Museveni is Uganda’s only chief guest”

“There is hullabaloo among the Acholi elite-on and offline-about the wisdom or lack of it in Ker Kwaro Acholi (the Acholi Cultural Institution) extending an invitation to President Museveni to be the Chief Guest at the Acholi Cultural Festival scheduled for December 14-16, 2017”

GULU-UGANDA: Acholi Times (www.acholitimes.com)-an online publication, wrote two articles on December 10 and December 12, 2017 respectively; on the wisdom of the Acholi Cultural institution to invite Uganda’s dictator of 32 years, Yoweri Museveni, to be the Chief Guest at the upcoming Acholi Cultural Festival scheduled for December 14-16, 2017.

The article on December 10, had its headline; “Museveni is a Delicate Guest at The Acholi Cultural Festival”.

“If this festival was not merely to bring the president, the vision would have even been stronger. The event would have been followed by Acholi Development Conference, or the cultural institution launching something like Acholi Development Foundation, Acholi Tourism Board, Acholi Bursary Scheme or something like that to rehabilitate education to launch an Acholi Investment Bank to offer soft loans in the Agricultural Sector for grains etc. Farming is Acholi’s comparative advantage as food basket”, reads part of the article that day.

The article on December 12 had its headline; “Acholi Cultural Festival: Hullabaloo over Chief Guest”.

“Event organizers around the country worth the ink used to write their names know this fact-that President Museveni is Uganda’s only Chief Guest….There is hullabaloo among the Acholi elite- on and offline-about the wisdom or lack of it in Ker Kwaro Acholi (the Acholi Cultural Institution) extending an invitation to President Museveni to be the Chief Guest at the Acholi Cultural Festival scheduled for December 14-16 2017”.

In the social media, especially Facebook forum, debate was sparked by one Okano EMar, who questioned, more than three weeks ago, the wisdom of choosing President Museveni as Chief Guest yet he has been on record saying that cultural leaders should not meddle in politics; yet it was under his regime that the Acholi as a tribe, suffered most.

There was a two decade war in the northern Uganda where the people lost their livelihood when their only source of wealth-cattle were stolen, many people were either killed or died of preventable diseases, under his watch and those who escaped death were herded into concentration camps dubbed; “Protected villages”.

“It is very annoying that the Acholi Cultural Institution decided to invite President Museveni to be the Chief Guest yet it was under his leadership that the Acholi, as a people suffered most” adding; “If he doesn’t want cultural leaders to meddle in political matters, then why is he meddling in cultural matters like in this particular event?” asserts Okano.

It is argument like this by Okano, that has forced very many elite sons and daughters of Acholi, both within the country like renowned international lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo; and those in the Diaspora, to cancel plans to attend the three-day’ festival in protest.

“For a long time and for various reasons including repression, conflict, social, economic and cultural regression, the Acholi have not been able to coalesce and celebrate the great attributes that make them a people”, reads part of the concept paper of the festival.

Because of the grave mistake the cultural institution has made, the Prime Minister of Ker Kwaro Acholi, Mr. Ambrose Olaa, addressed a press conference together with some sponsors like Africell telephone company and Uganda Breweries Limited at the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) and tried very much to correct the damage caused by the invitation to Museveni.

 

According to Mr. Olaa, the organizers have decided to create the position of a Guest of Honor, who shall be the head of the cultural institution, Rwot David Onen Acana II, while President Museveni has been invited as Chief Guest.

“You should not forget that President Museveni is also the Fountain of Honor of this country. If he chooses to come, then he will automatically become the chief guest, by virtue of his status. He has, however, not yet confirmed if he will come or not”, says Mr.Olaa.

Organized under the theme: “Kwero Deyo pa Acholi”, meaning; celebrating the ‘pride and glory’ of the Acholi people, the event is estimated to attract over 10000 guests and over 1000 performers and artifacts and cost over shs.150 million (about $42,000 dollars).

Major activities will include Acholi games, learning history, foods and drink exhibition, music and dances.

“The festival will galvanize and endear the people of Acholi to their culture and tradition, promote the unity of Acholi people and reinforce values such as freedom, faith, integrity, a good education, personal responsibility, a strong ethic, and the value of being selfless”, says part of the concept note.

According to the Presidential Advisor on Agriculture, Professor J.J. Otim, Acholi of the olden days had 200 different cuisines (types of food), but regrets that their cultural institution has kept record of only 56 different types of seeds.

He says the region is full of foreign researchers; he calls ‘gene hunters’ who come to do research on the different types of seeds and take it to their countries; later returning them back to Africa as their inventions.

Will such festival unite the Acholi; or will it bring food to table to a poor Acholi who eats less than a dollar per day?

 

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