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Acholi After Jacob Oulanya

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Acholi after Jacob Oulanyah
What you need to know:

Just when the Acholi were starting to bask in the limelight of the former commander of Uganda’s peacekeeping contingent in Somalia, Maj Gen Paul Lokech, he died suddenly in 2021 of a relatively short and minor illness that puzzled many.
The later Speaker of parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, was laid to rest on Friday at his ancestral home in Omoro District.
It ended two months in which from the time he was flown to a hospital in the US city of Seattle in early February to the state funeral in early April, much was discussed, argued over, eulogised, asserted and contested in the public sphere.

Speaking at the state funeral at Kololo in Kampala on Thursday, President Museveni chided those who portrayed Oulanyah as an Acholi politician when he was a national leader
To respond to President Museveni, it’s true that Oulanyah was the Speaker of the national assembly. However, in public life interest and focus of discussion tend to move on quite fast to the next topic and personality.

Only within one’s immediate and extended family and sometimes among one’s clan, circle of close friends and tribe do the memories and the pain linger on much longer.

What next for Acholi

Long after Oulanyah has left the front pages of national newspapers, he will still be reflected upon and memorialised in his home area of Acholi.

There has been mourning both for the loss of Oulanyah as an individual and collectively for Acholi as a political and cultural entity
Most journalists and political analysts view most offices in the NRM government as largely symbolic without any real powers, but that’s not how the holders of these offices are viewed in Acholi.

Acholi culture places great emphasis on public service and the visibility of public office.

Just to be a former permanent secretary in a government ministry is enough to have a road named after one in Gulu.
Therefore, it can only be imagined what position Oulanyah will retain in the cultural and historical memory of Acholi for years to come.

The Acholi as a people right now are returning to a feeling of isolation from the national power centre.

The Acholi find themselves in a strikingly similar position as their Luo cousins in western Kenya.
Since independence in 1963, the Luo have felt increasingly short-changed in national politics. Kenya’s Luo feel that they are the victims of a bias against their ethnicity and a determination to see to it that Kenya never gets a Luo president.

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a Luo from the Nyanza province, agreed to make way for Jomo Kenyatta to lead the country to independence, only for Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe to take advantage of this and dominate Kenyan public life for the next decade and a half.

At some point, Odinga was even jailed by the Kenyatta government.

The second most prominent Luo in Kenya and a rising star on the African stage, foreign minister Tom Mboya, was shot dead in 1969 under mysterious circumstances.

Nearly 21 years later in 1990, another prominent Luo and also foreign minister Robert Ouko also died under suspicious circumstances.

This left Jaramogi Odinga’s son, Raila Odinga, as the most prominent Luo figure for the next 30 years, but who each time he took a shot at the presidency, a new tribal coalition between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin denied Odinga victory.

Like Uganda’s Acholi, many roads in Kisumu, Kenya’s Luo-dominated city along the shores of Lake Victoria are named after Luo who held mid-ranking public offices.
Every Luo of some prominence is viewed as important, a historical figure.

This is what it has felt like to the Acholi since the late 1960s.

Then highest ranking Acholi military officer, Brig Perino Okoya, was gunned down at his home outside Gulu in 1970.

When Idi Amin seized power in a military coup in 1971, toppling then president Milton Obote, the Acholi bore the brunt of purges by Amin’s regime and a large number fled into exile.

In 1985, the two most prominent Acholi military leaders, army commander Lt Gen Tito Okello and Maj Gen Bazillio Okello came to power in a military coup that ousted Obote.
People & Power
PRIME
Acholi after Jacob Oulanyah
Sunday, April 10, 2022

By Timothy Kalyegira
What you need to know:
Just when the Acholi were starting to bask in the limelight of the former commander of Uganda’s peacekeeping contingent in Somalia, Maj Gen Paul Lokech, he died suddenly in 2021 of a relatively short and minor illness that puzzled many.
The later Speaker of parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, was laid to rest on Friday at his ancestral home in Omoro District.

It ended two months in which from the time he was flown to a hospital in the US city of Seattle in early February to the state funeral in early April, much was discussed, argued over, eulogised, asserted and contested in the public sphere.

Speaking at the state funeral at Kololo in Kampala on Thursday, President Museveni chided those who portrayed Oulanyah as an Acholi politician when he was a national leader.

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READ: Many firsts as Parliament sees off Oulanyah

To respond to President Museveni, it’s true that Oulanyah was the Speaker of the national assembly. However, in public life interest and focus of discussion tend to move on quite fast to the next topic and personality.

Only within one’s immediate and extended family and sometimes among one’s clan, circle of close friends and tribe do the memories and the pain linger on much longer.

What next for Acholi

Long after Oulanyah has left the front pages of national newspapers, he will still be reflected upon and memorialised in his home area of Acholi.

There has been mourning both for the loss of Oulanyah as an individual and collectively for Acholi as a political and cultural entity.

Most journalists and political analysts view most offices in the NRM government as largely symbolic without any real powers, but that’s not how the holders of these offices are viewed in Acholi.

Acholi culture places great emphasis on public service and the visibility of public office.

Just to be a former permanent secretary in a government ministry is enough to have a road named after one in Gulu.

Therefore, it can only be imagined what position Oulanyah will retain in the cultural and historical memory of Acholi for years to come.

The Acholi as a people right now are returning to a feeling of isolation from the national power centre.

The Acholi find themselves in a strikingly similar position as their Luo cousins in western Kenya.

READ: The desecration of Jacob Oulanyah

Since independence in 1963, the Luo have felt increasingly short-changed in national politics. Kenya’s Luo feel that they are the victims of a bias against their ethnicity and a determination to see to it that Kenya never gets a Luo president.

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a Luo from the Nyanza province, agreed to make way for Jomo Kenyatta to lead the country to independence, only for Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe to take advantage of this and dominate Kenyan public life for the next decade and a half.

At some point, Odinga was even jailed by the Kenyatta government.

The second most prominent Luo in Kenya and a rising star on the African stage, foreign minister Tom Mboya, was shot dead in 1969 under mysterious circumstances.

Nearly 21 years later in 1990, another prominent Luo and also foreign minister Robert Ouko also died under suspicious circumstances.

This left Jaramogi Odinga’s son, Raila Odinga, as the most prominent Luo figure for the next 30 years, but who each time he took a shot at the presidency, a new tribal coalition between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin denied Odinga victory.

Like Uganda’s Acholi, many roads in Kisumu, Kenya’s Luo-dominated city along the shores of Lake Victoria are named after Luo who held mid-ranking public offices.

Every Luo of some prominence is viewed as important, a historical figure.

This is what it has felt like to the Acholi since the late 1960s.

Then highest ranking Acholi military officer, Brig Perino Okoya, was gunned down at his home outside Gulu in 1970.

When Idi Amin seized power in a military coup in 1971, toppling then president Milton Obote, the Acholi bore the brunt of purges by Amin’s regime and a large number fled into exile.

In 1985, the two most prominent Acholi military leaders, army commander Lt Gen Tito Okello and Maj Gen Bazillio Okello came to power in a military coup that ousted Obote.

ALSO: Inside Oulanyah’s battle with cancer

Barely had the Acholi began to enjoy state power than the Okellos were toppled six months later by Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army.

For the next 20 years, Acholi was the scene of a bitter and traumatic civil war involving various remnants of the defunct national army, the UNLA.

From scorched earth operations by Museveni’s army to displacement in camps and brutal attacks on civilians by both Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army and the national army, Acholi endured two decades of an existential threat to its very being.

Just when the Acholi were starting to bask in the limelight of the former commander of Uganda’s peacekeeping contingent in Somalia, Maj Gen Paul Lokech, he died suddenly in 2021 of a relatively short and minor illness that puzzled many.

Like Gen Lokech in the prime of his life, just months into his role as Speaker of Uganda’s national assembly, Oulanyah also dies
At best, it feels like too much bad luck trailing them a bit too coincidentally for 36 years, hence all the conspiracy theories around the deaths of Lokech and Oulanyah.

As explained in Sunday Monitor of March 27, this is why every Acholi who rises to any public office of prominence is looked up to by the Acholi.

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