From R MP Amoru Paul Minister Kwiyucwiny LG Minister Rapeal Magezi and ex URF ED Moses Odongo Okune

Interview: I’ve a 40 year plan to transform Lango culture – Tekwaro Lango Chief

(Last Updated On: 1 March 2024)

The only problem we have at Tekwaro Lango is the lingering hangover of people who are not accepting to go peacefully……” he said.

Kampala | The head of Tekwaro Lango—Dr Eng. Michael Odongo Okune has laid down his preeminent schema in order to develop and transform Lango’s lost cultural practices.

Eng. Odongo, 53, who was speaking to this contemporary news website on Monday afternoon, says, it’s just a matter of time before his plans show impacts.

Mr. Odongo was elected by the council of clan elders [Owitongi] who are loyal to him on 9, February 2017 in what he termed as the new ‘King of Lango’.

On 12 May same year, the head of Tekwaro Lango was sworn in as Won Nyaci of Lango, working separately from Won Nyaci Yosam Odur Ebii of LCF.

That election was questioned and met a lot of protests by Mzee Yosam Odur Ebii, who later dragged Tekwaro Lango’s leadership to Lira High Court, accusing them of dethroning him from office, illegally.

The Lira High Court this year ruled against them, disorganizing the status quo.

tndNews interviewed him .

Who’s Odongo, how old are you?

I’m 53 years old. I was born at Lira hospital [then] on Saturday 6th, March 1965. I convened the first-ever Lango cultural conference in 2012, an achievement nobody has ever done. I worked with a committee of clan leaders, youth, and women, and political and religious leaders to have it end successfully.

Is there any impact [s] you’re proud of from that conference?

We have a constitution we are proud of—the Tekwaro Lango constitution is the product of that conference and the court upheld it. We also came out with Lango Development Agenda that Lango at different levels is now implementing alongside the government. The government of NRM gave us Lira University out of that conference.

The government has also finally designed Apac – Masindi road, and she is just looking for funds. Culturally, Lango is now critically aware of their cultural leadership and affairs.

From the conference, the government gave us [appointed many] to be ministers, ambassadors, name them and the construction of Lango Cultural Palace is soon to start.

Who inspired you to join cultural leadership?

 My grandmother Elizabeth Arao Odora died in 2013 at 103 years. She groomed me, mentored me, and taught me into traditional leadership of Lango. She was the daughter of the late Rwot Arum in 1930. She taught me the traditions, culture, and philosophies of the people of Lango; she drilled it all into me.

Another person was Honorable Joseph Okune [my father] and a former Minister of Planning and Economic Development—he was an extremely intelligent person. One time he beat the whole of East Africa in English in EACE exams.

He also studied from Ntare, where he met President Museveni. My father was an accomplished economist and up-to-date, I don’t miss reading a copy of the Economist published in the United Kingdom.

They don’t recognize you as the Won Nyaci of Lango. What are your thoughts?

The only way is to accept that the change has come. The most powerful weapon in the country is an idea whose time has come. The time has come for leadership change at Lango Cultural Institution and you can’t resist it; we all must embrace it because Lango Conference embraced it in 2012.

To resist it, you’re resisting the tide of history—we must all accept that the change has come through a constitutional order, not through anarchy, dominion or coup. The court has upheld that change.

Two, we need to accept that leadership is a sacrifice. Our cultural leaders must understand that leadership is not a source of living or earning. At the moment and once we accept that change is a constitutional process and leaders accept it’s a sacrifice, not a source of living, the cultural leaders can now settle down and plan for Lango.

What do you have for Lango?

We need to protect our language—what we speak now is a borrowed language. Since we came from Abyssinia in Ethiopia, we have inherited everything—from marriage to food we cook and eat.

We need to preserve our language by documenting it. Our children must be able to speak our local dialect right from the nursery, primary and secondary. Now it’s only some mothers teaching children with local language.

Once we are well organized as Lango and as cultural leaders, the government can absorb it into their curriculum. This government listens to organized groups.

Also, we need to register every clan and its leaders; and document their practices and demography. Every clan must be documented and mapped.

Every clan must have a constitution. We must also identify, preserve and document our tourist sites and use such tourist sites as a source of income.

When are all these plans starting?

When the current tension has cooled, we intend to start the preservation of cultural norms. The cultural leaders should handle the current problem affecting Lango.

At the Lango conference, we found out that Idii Amin killed many prominent and intellectual Lango sons and no government has come openly to apologize to us and to compensate their families. People like Abdalla Anyuru, Otim Ben, Yokosafati Engur and Ebek from Amolatar, among others. The government should come clear and compensate them.

What have you told the government about compensating those you have mentioned their names above?

Lango Conference 2012 came out with four pillars, although I cannot remember all of them now. Germany killed the Jews and they are being compensated up to today. They did not build Rome in one day. Step by step, they will be compensated.

What is the problem now?

The only problem we have at Tekwaro Lango is the lingering hangover of people changes have set aside and are not accepting to go peacefully. They are fighting changes in which they will not succeed; they are fabricating lies, using politicians to stay, using rouge elements in the Police to beat cultural leaders, using bogus court cases which they lost and some of the leaders are failing in leading their clans. They are natural failures and desperate people using cultural institutions for survival.

What do you have for them should they announce exit?

That’s the work for me as new Won Nyaci to give them confidence that they are part of the new leadership. There is a role for each of them in the new dispensation. There is a lot to do in Lango and for Lango and I can’t do it alone—it’s like farming [puru awak]; you start from that point, I from here and we finally meet at the last point.

How do you see Lango in the next five years?

Five years? That’s too small and near. I see Lango growing again in the next forty [40] years because we suffered for long. I’m now 53, so at 80 years when I will be leaving, we will be in a better place.

Why do you need forty years? Is that what the Tekwaro Lango Constitution gives you?

Like Israel, they stayed in the wilderness for forty years. In 40 years ahead, Lango shall be healthy, our culture preserved. In 40 years, we shall be living longer on earth because we shall have embraced local medicine, farming, and food. We shall have protected our land with the environment not abused or used it economically. We shall be respected locally, nationally and internationally as our children shall have attained higher education and become engineers, doctors, etc.

What more are you looking to accomplish in 40 years?

Also, in 40 years, we shall have developed our cultural institution to a very mature system, prepared a succession of leadership, well-entrenched constitution respected by everybody and clearly defined.

We shall have opened doors to other people to come and work to develop Lango through trade and investment, among others.

Do you have a final reflection about Lango cultural leaders?

I strongly agree and believe that the cultural leadership in Lango has an enormous opportunity to reunite the people of Lango and cause development in the different communities.

Engineer Odongo Okune in summary

He’s a Civil Engineer, holding Bachelor’s Degrees in Engineering, three Master’s Degrees in Engineering and an MBA plus PhD in Engineering, and a member of the Uganda Institution of Professional Board of Engineers.

Mr Odongo is a registered engineer with UERB, a fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers in the United Kingdom, and chair of the Engineers’ Registration Board of Uganda.

He has been the Executive Director of Uganda Road Funds [URF] for the last 10 years.

He’s a married man with children, including one grandchild.

 

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