UGANDA: PROMOTING AGRIBUSINESS, FARMING, TOURISM, EDUCATION AND UNITY THROUGH CULTURE

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Rwot David Onen-Acana II, the Acholi Paramount Chief in traditional gear

“Since independence in 1962, Uganda has been plagued by ethnically driven, politically manipulated violence referred to by some as a history of cycles of revenge and mistrust. Deep –rooted divisions and polarizations remain between different ethnic groups and these have been greatly exacerbated by the way in which the country’s leadership has developed since independence”

“People are born in a cultural setting with neither political party nor religious group; however the three must co-exist without any disharmony. We should therefore use our rich cultural heritage to transform our society to develop our land and leave it a better world than when we found it”

GULU-UGANDA: The Acholi cultural leader, Rwot David Onen-Acana II, has launched the 2018 edition of Acholi Cultural Festival with a call on his subjects to embrace the good cultural heritage of the Acholi in order to mobilize the people for greater agricultural productivity, tourism, education and unity.

“People are born in a cultural setting with neither political party nor religious group; however the three must co-exist without any disharmony. We should therefore use our rich cultural heritage to transform our society to develop our land and leave it a better world than when we found it”, says Rwot Acana II.

He made the remarks on Friday, November 16, 2018, while drumming, to symbolize the launch of the 2018 edition of the annual Festival from his palace in Bardege Division, Gulu district. The three-day event will take place at Kaunda grounds in Gulu starting on Thursday December 13, 2018 to Saturday December 15, 2018.

The first ever Acholi Cultural Festival was organized in December 2017, but it received a lot of protests from a section of the community who boycotted it because Uganda’s dictator of 32 years, General Yoweri Museveni, was invited as Chief Guest.

General Museveni gave out 20 million Uganda shillings (About US$5400 dollars) into “Aduku pa Rwot” (The Chief’s Basket), a fund initiated by the cultural leader to support education initiatives of the poorer members of the Acholi community. This time round, organizers are silent if he is invited.

Invited however, are all the cultural leaders surrounding Acholi sub-region plus that of other Luo ethnic groups like Jo’pahdola of eastern Uganda and the Luo of western Kenya.

The Acholi (Acoli) are a Nilo-Semetic Lwo (Luo) ethnic group who migrated south from Bahr-el-Ghazel in South Sudan in about 1000 AD. They occupy Magwi county of South Sudan and part of northern Uganda.

The Arab speaking traders who came to the region in the second half of the nineteenth Century called the people they found ‘Shooli’, a term which was transformed into Acholi/Acoli.

The Acholi of northern Uganda are about two million people while those in South Sudan are about six hundred thousand people.

During the colonial period, the Acholi and all the other ethnic groups in northern Uganda were reserved for manual labor jobs and majority of them were recruited into the military thereby creating a kind of military ‘ethno-centric’.

Uganda has never had a peaceful transfer of power from one president to another. All changes in leadership have been marred by violence and bloodshed.

“Since independence in 1962, Uganda has been plagued by ethnically driven, politically manipulated violence referred to by some as a history of cycles of revenge and mistrust. Deep-rooted divisions and polarizations remain between different ethnic groups and these have been greatly exacerbated by the way in which the country’s leadership has developed since independence”, laments James Ojera-Latigo, one of Acholi scholars in 2000.

Rwot Acana appealed to the youths, who are the majority, to embrace faming as a business and protect their land from land grabbers who are always interested in idle land, he cautioned the youths from wasting their time in urban centers drinking and socializing. He noted with concern the new trend of selling or leasing out land to ‘foreigners’ who later turn the former land owners into casual laborers in the farms.

“It is shameful that it is other nationals who are effectively utilizing our rich and fertile land as if we don’t have people/youths to utilize this land. My people have become mere laborers in their own land”, laments Rwot Acana II.

The chairman of the Central Organizing Committee, Mr. Charles Odora-Oryem, noted that because of the over two decades of war in the region, the Acholi had had no opportunity to gather together and showcase its rich cultural heritage which would have attracted tourists to the region.

 “It is now time to mobilize people to come together and showcase our cultural heritage to attract tourists to our region. Last year our people presented twenty-four different types of dances. This time we want them to come in real costumes and regalia in order to show the real Acholi culture”, notes Odora-Oryem.

 

 

 

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