CJ Dollo

Recalling what Acholi leaders said during ‘Gure me Pongdwongo’ in 2023

(Last Updated On: 10 January 2024)

Gulu I From December 27 to 29, 2023, Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, Ambassador Dr. Olara Otunnu, former MP Reagan Okumu, and other sons and daughters of Acholi attended the Pan-Acholi Convocation (Gure me Pongdwongo).

One of the major aims of the convocation going forward is to unite Acholi to eliminate poverty in the sub-region.

Held at Sir Samuel Baker Secondary School in Gulu City, the conference theme was ‘Dyere-ki-ribbe pi laro-rocu paco: Kati woko! ka-pe-in, ci anga?

Today, tndNews reminds you of some of the statements said by the Acholi leaders.

Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo Chigamoi is one of the prominent Acholi elders. He told the Acholi community to stop lamenting and attributing the current extreme poverty to past armed conflicts.

Whereas it is evident that past wars had undesirable impacts in the sub-region, Dollo said it is inexcusable to always lament about it and attribute the challenges the people are facing today to the past.

For two decades, like Lango, Acholi sub-region experienced brutal rebellion waged by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and the NRM/NRA security forces. The war [has] left thousands of people dead and forced about 2 million people into Internally Displaced People’s Camps (IDPs) across the region.

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But Owiny-Dollo noted that the sub-region wasn’t the only place in Uganda or the world where wars took place.

“Wars haven’t only been fought in Acholi but also in other parts of the world. This war devastated Acholi sub-region, but why do we all the time lament about it?” Dollo said during Pongdwongo

“I hear you boast of being the elephant, but can an elephant not be able to rise and shake off a tree that fell on it so that it moves away?” Justice Owiny-Dollo.

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He noted that despite the war(s), heavy consumption of cheap but potentially deadly alcohol and laziness among able-bodied men and women are to blame for the extreme poverty situation in the sub-region.

“Many people have now abandoned agriculture, which remains a key source of wealth and resorted to drinking, leaving the region to feature among the poorest and famine-prone regions in the country.

“There is famine in Acholi because of these reasons and let me tell you: ‘Alcohol has replaced households in Acholi. People here drink heavily including a ten-year-old child, a newly married woman, and an 80-year-old woman during the farming season’.”

According to the Chief Justice, the current level of poverty is also because of the decline in education standards, and lost morals of the Acholi people, adding that the purpose of the convocation was to seek answers to their challenges.

To address the problems of famine and dismal education standards, Dollo believes that good leadership in respective districts of Acholi through bylaws for compulsory agriculture and the education of children will be key.

Ambassador Dr. John Olara Otunnu, the former President of Uganda People’s Congress said the fundamental collapse of the Acholi sub-region is worse than any other society globally. 

“It calls for the efforts of all willing persons for its revival.

“I have been to every corner of this world. I have witnessed every kind of problem, including bloodshed and wars that lasted over 60 years. I worked hard to lift them from the problems. But I have to be honest and confirm to you that I haven’t seen anywhere in the world where everything has collapsed and sunk under a muddy ditch like the Acholi people.

John also said men in the sub-region have abandoned their responsibilities of taking care of their homes to women while they are really drinking alcohol.gure me pongdwongo

“We don’t have men now within the community in Acholi. If you go, at 8 am, you find that they are either still resting or in a bar wasting away. During the rainy season, you will only find a woman heading to the garden, the men will be in the trading centre wasting away,” the former diplomat added.

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The veteran politician and diplomat blamed the cultural institution’s degeneration on the challenges facing the region in general, noting that unless the Acholi community started embracing their culture like other prosperous nations, there would not be any progress in moves to remove them from poverty.

John Amose Okot, MP of Agago North County who also doubles as the Secretary-General for Acholi Parliamentary Group gave a highlight on the engagement of Gure me Pongdwongo

Okot said the convocation was to check the root cause of the lost morals and decayed life of the Acholi people starting from post-war which drove people to poverty.

MP Okot blamed poverty on the poor leadership structure in Acholi, calling for a revision and a revamp of hope in the local people. “For the intervention to succeed, we have to revise and restore the level of agricultural production, education and health standards as of the previous years where Acholi has been leading among the tribes in Uganda.”

Reagan Okumu is the former Aswa County Member of Parliament. He also attended Pongdwongo and spoke to tndNews on the Balaalo and Apaa land issues. 

“They (Balaalo) originated from different countries like DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Bahima from Uganda. They are all generals and ministers with guns and money to manipulate our local people. This is the root cause of our poverty.

“Apaa land conflict is being supported and fueled by two big people in the country, the president of Uganda and his General Moses Ali of West Nile making issues of Apaa not to end up to date due to their interest in Acholi land.

Gure me pongdwongo

“As Acholi people, we need not allow common sense to be tampered with by the chief saucepans. We have to involve on board alliances from Buganda, Lango, West Nile to support the matters of unity and check for the solution as Acholi,” Okumu added.

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