Acholiland

I have seen something wonderful here. I have seen the re-emergence of a culture that, a few years ago, one may have thought destroyed beyond repair.

This afternoon, I was sitting with a few companions around a campfire, in a remote Acholi village, slurping greedily on mangoes and gazing aimlessly over the rolling meadows and pastures before me. Acres upon acres of lush farmland, and all owned by my hosts, a particular Acholi clan that boasted they owned the largest amount of land in the region.

My companion, who had been a former child soldier in the notorious Lord’s Resistence Army (LRA), dreamed of one day returning to this land and building his own house. Since he is a member of this clan, he can do this, even though he may have been away many years. I found this quite wonderful.

But, even more wonderful, I saw that what is happening in this village is the re-emergence of a beautiful culture that years of fighting has been unable to wipe out.

My companion told me of a time, not all that long ago, when Acholi tribesmen would have gathered around an open fire – much as we were gathered now – and told stories well into the night.

“Such traditions must return,” said my companion.

I looked at him and, in joking fashion, suggested that he begin regaling us with some Acholi legend.

But he bashfully declined, insisting that it was usually the older tribesfolk who would tell the stories.

I looked around. There simply were no elderly people people around. Most were killed by the LRA, deemed unfit to be of any good to their aims.

But it is so nice to think that this tradition might one day return to this beautiful area. The singing and dancing is all part of the tradition, too.

As I gazed dreamily over the pleasant green pastures, the goats grazing silently beneathe the shade of the mango trees, the chickens scratching in the dirt, I found myself thinking that, one day, it will be my battle-scarred companion who, in his later years, ends up being persuaded to tell stories around the campfire.

And he will tell of this mad fellow, with unkempt hair and wild starig eyes, who they called Joseph Kony. And how he came from a village not far from here, perhaps 40 kilometres, give or take, and how he once set out on a mission to seize Uganda, so that he could run the country along the lines of his own warped interpretation of The Ten Commandments. And, in so doing, tore apart an entire culture, which slowly-slowly had to rebuild itself. But eventually, and quite remarkably, it did so. And the old traditions, such as telling stories around the campfire, started to reassert itself.

Perhaps they’ll also be tales of spirituality and witchcraft, as a way of explaining why the Wizard of the Nile was never ever caught. And why, to this day, no one knows what has become of him.

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