ACHOLI CULTURE

The Acholi are of Luo Nilotic ethnicity that thrives in the northern part of Uganda popularly referred to as the Acholi land. The land includes the district boundaries of Amuru, Agago, Gulu, Nwoya, Kitgum, Pader and Lamwo. It is noted that about 1.17 million Acholi exists as per the 2002 population Cenusus thoufhh more 45,000 Acholis are known to be thriving in South Sudan.

The language of the Acholi is a western Nilotic Language and is classiefied as the Luo and it is mutually intelligible with he Lango, the Alur and the other Luo Languages. The Language Luo in a common dialect spoke by a range of tribal groups of Luo attachment inhabiting the parts Eastern Uganda, Western Kenya, Northern Uganda, South Sudan and the West Nile.

It should be note that the Acholi word is a misnomer that was adopted for convenience over the years referring to people that are known locally as the Luo Gang. In fact, their neighbors in Lango refer to the Acholi as Ugangi which means people of the home.

The Acholi people are known to have migrated from Bahr el Ghazal in the South of Sudan around 1,000 CE to the present day northern Uganda. Towards the end of the 17th C, a new socio political order developed amongst the Luo in the north of Uganda marked mainly by Chiefdoms by Rwodi or Rwot literally translated as the ruler and the chiefs traditional emerges from one clan and every chiefdom had a range of villages that were made up of various patrilineal clans. In the middle of the 19th C, around 60 minor chiefdoms were in existence in the east of the Acholi land. In the 2nd half of the 19th C, the Arab traders who had come to the area started calling them Shooli, the term that later resulted into the Acholi.

The traditional Acholi Communities were arranged hamlets where they lived in circular huts marked with a peak with a mid-sleeping platform, a fire place and jars of grain. The women smeared the walls with mud with conventional or geometrical decoration designs of grey, white or red. The Acholi Men were primarily hunters and used nets and spears to capture wild game and get meat. They also kept livestock including cattle, sheep and goats. The Acholi women were agriculturalists who grew and processed a range of crops including simsim, millet, sorghum, peas, and vegetables among others. In times of war, men were so active and would use spears, long and narrow shields of giraffe of hides of ox.

When the British colonialists came to Uganda, the Acholi were preferred in the military service and manual labor creating sort of military ethnocracy. This stereotype stayed longer even after when Uganda had gained her independence.

The 1995 constitutional reform recognized the cultural leaders as they had been removed by the Obote I government in 1966. With the recognition of cultural leaders, the Acholi Rwot gained ground the chiefdom of Acholi reigns up to now. In the traditional African society before the coming of colonialists, the Acholi believed in Nyarubanga through an intermediary called Jok-ker meaning a ruling deity. To kill a person was prohibited among the Acholi Culture but it happened, the negotiations for blood money were spear headed by the victims of family with agreement which was followed by the reconciliation ceremony rituals to restore the killer back to the community and to re-establish peace between the clans. The Acholi have got important rituals that are meant to cleanse sites and homes, welcome back the people who have stayed away for some time, clearing spirits from killing places and welcoming people who have been in captivity. For example the Lords Resistance Army returnees counting to 12,000 are noted to have undergone Nyono tong gweno literally translated as stepping on the egg which was meant to restore them back into the community. The Acholi elders in some parts of the Acholi Community are still practicing the acts of atonement and purification.