A Terrorist Takes Guard

By Carsten Ogwal

A few months back, newspapers in Uganda were awash with news of an Al- Shabaab attack on UPDF soldiers in Somalia killing 08 men according to official government records.

Just recently we had two bomb attacks in Kenya in the space of a week; one at the Dusit2 hotel and the other at Latema.

These attacks plus attacks like those that took place at Westgate in Kenya and Manchester in the UK indicates that terrorism is still a problem to reckon with.

The attack at Westgate not only left us and indeed many Kenyans with painful memories but also provoked a lot of statements and opinions. I was perhaps struck particularly more by a statement of the then Uganda Army Spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda in an article in the New Vision of 08th/Oct/13.

Ankunda wrote that “ the recent attack on Westgate has gone a little too far; not in terms of casualty but the way and style in which it was conducted” This confirmed my greatest fear and thought. The Ankunda  was surprised in short by the way and style of the attack.

For most career counter terrorism officers, terrorism is about bombings and in some occasions hijacking and hostage taking. Attacks by shooting are ‘farfetched’ because allegedly terrorist are cowards considering all their bombings are always called ‘cowardly acts’. This also explains why the guards at the malls only check under the cars and boots and occasionally the dashboard.

This attack therefore, brings out a couple of issues;

One that counter terrorism officers are thinking mainly within the box and should start thinking outside the box. You are wondering why the security forces in Kenya took long to respond to the Westgate attack?. Because they did not believe it is possible and were still debating whether these were terrorists or armed robbers because for many, terrorist just bomb.

The other issue is the versatility of the terrorists. Terrorist live on edge all the time and know their vulnerability even amidst their unquenchable thirst for innocent blood.

Consequently they think ahead of time and this is further facilitated by the predictability of state security units. So when a bomb explodes then all places in the country start to look for bombs and forget other methods of attack.

So while you are preoccupied with looking for bombs they take advantage and surprise you with AK47’s. It is therefore, important that counter terrorism officers remain aware of this. I actually think, it is time for the world to start guarding water and food sources because who knows where their interest could be next?

In most countries especially in Africa, security organs are reactionary instead of being proactive. Well, the heads of such units will talk about being proactive but their good officers will do the exact opposite either because they are not interested or most times because the same bosses do not see the point in supporting them until a threat appears.

This has created a big challenge. Without any offence intended, I think we need real and true strategists not just those with pips following and developing trends in terrorist activities, building scenarios and making projections.  

Perhaps the biggest issue is complacency. It is common to hear supposedly professional heads of such units assuring us of how we have controlled and defeated the terrorist and how our borders have been sealed that no ants can pass through.

The truth is, we cannot eliminate terrorism, and however, we can mitigate the effects of their activities. Besides, it is important to know that no measure is good enough to contain a problem if it is not closely monitored and assessed to be sure it is working well.

Most security managers in several institutions sit back and watch TV after deploying a few guards at the various entry points with gadgets that the guards may not even know how to use. It is important that persons and equipment deployed to control access are regularly checked on and assessed to be working well.

So how do we mitigate the risk of terrorism when the Mall owners are only interested in their rent from the tenants and do not care what the tenants do after that? Or when delivery trucks still deliver goods without anyone inspecting? Or when cars are still accessing all the major malls without being checked and all that the guards do is to remind you how hot the day is and how they would do with some water from you? A terrorist would be more than delighted to give you even a carton of water.

It is therefore, important that sniffer dogs are provided to help with delivery trucks because it may not be practical to offload all goods at the gate for checking. But well trained and well used sniffer dogs can detect any unusual deliveries.

It would also be better for Mall owners to profile their tenants and be interested in what they do with the room they rent just to be sure their houses are not being misused. They could also occasionally send a staff on unannounced checks just to make sure all is well.

Security managers and supervisors of the various premises should be interested in the performance of their guards whether contracted or company owned to avoid predictability and routine.

State functionaries need to be more proactive and avoid complacency. However, it is also important that they be supported in their work logistically in order to perform better. It is interesting as JB Kakooza noted in one of the weekend papers how the Police have details of how a terrorist moves and which buses they use but cannot arrest the terrorist. Is it because we do not want to close cases because then the taps will stop flowing? The truth is terrorists will always be there and there is no need to worry about the tap; it will keep flowing just catch the terrorist you can for now. Who knows, it could be your child’s school next.

The Author is a Security Consultant and can be reached at carstenog2012@gmail.com

How a Community Can Care for Its Mental Health Patients


By: Aliker David Martin
Pope John Paul II once said, “Nobody is so poor he has nothing to give, and nobody is so rich he has nothing to receive.”
In 2010, as a graduate student of University of San Diego (Kroc School of Peace Studies), I carried out my thesis research in Coo Pee (A Place with No Men) village.
One sunny day, the wind was wild and my respondents kept cleaning sweat from their faces.
We took shelter beneath a dilapidated hut that looked in every way the marks of post war.
My respondents looked poor, hungry and tired but anxious to find out what brought a young man to their village.
Suddenly, someone in a loud excited voice called out my full name. It was akin to how we were called while at Bishop Angelo Negri Primary School days.
I turned to find my former head boy (Head of Prefects) Kidega Robert. I turned and called him back in his full name too.
We were excited to meet after close to 20 yrs. Robert looked dirty, skinny and with unkempt hair that contained mud. He certainly had not showered in years and he was all smelly.

The community referred to him as a mad man who lived by an old scary and bushy abandoned dilapidated structure with bullet marks all over it.
Robert was an exceptionally bright student who got the dream score of aggregate 4 and joined a dream school St. Henry’s College Kitovu. Robert had dropped out of Law School at Makerere University.
Like fate would have it, here was a once bright boy who always topped his class but was feeding on rubbish pits; had no shelter and no clothes for close to 14 years then but still had a sharp mind and humor.
If I am a graduate student of University of San Diego (USA)on a scholarship then Robert would have been in Harvard Law School.
After my studies, I returned to Uganda got a job and in 2015 decided to look for Robert and support him through with his mental health challenge.
This is when I met Aloyo Jok Vicky (52 yrs old). Vicky is not as old as she looks,just that poverty and her disability has taken its toll on her too in the aftermath of a conflict.

The community informed me to find her if I have to find Robert. Vicky is an elderly looking mother who runs a small restaurant called Mego Lapit literally meaning grandmother’s care.
Here she was caring for a mad man by donating him food every day in a restaurant where food cost less than $1.(2000/= UGX)
I and other former students then met Robert’s family and mobilized to get him to the country’s best referral mental health hospital (Butabika).
The old students of Bishop Angelo Negri and a few from St. Henry’s College Kitovu using Facebook fund-raised for his medical bills and welfare.
In 5 months Robert recovered and was discharged. We returned him to his family looking healthy and smart. He was productive again. We trained his family on how to manage mental health and the need for medication for a life time and social support.

Robert at Butabika

Last Sunday, 20th January, 2019 I and a few former students decided to make a follow up visit to Robert to find out how he was doing.
Sadly, he had relapsed again and looked just the same way we had found him in 2010. His family gave up on supporting his medication and providing social support but one woman never gave up on him. The elderly looking lady with a low cost restaurant-Vicky!
As it happens with many old students Associations, they are only comfortable identifying with those who “made it in life”.

Robert in 2010 with I and Sam

Our individual monthly remittances had failed. We owed Vicky 250,000 Ugx ($100) for food bills for Robert but she still welcomed us and offered updates on Robert and how she has struggled to take care of him.
Vicky rents a small space where she has built a restaurant with un-burnt bricks and mud and iron sheets.
She uses a bench and one table to serve her customers. She offers food for less than $1(2000Ugx).

She is supported by two young girls to serve her customers in a restaurant of only 3 saucepans and less than a dozen plastic cups and plates and in return she cares for them too.

Her floor is clear dirt from the ground and not cemented. She separates the kitchen and the customers table using a bed sheet yet she has never run out of business in over a decade and has been able to feed and care for Robert every day.

 To ensure that Robert is not stigmatized she ensures that he is clean shaven and once a while gives him soap to take a bath.
In my interview with Vicky I asked her what inspires her resilience and generosity. Vicky says she was once married to Roberts’s family as a young girl but she divorced after bearing two children and she moved on.

Then Robert was a young handsome boy. Robert’s mother did everything she could to save her marriage and would host her whenever she faced domestic violence. If she lived her son would not suffer like he is suffering now. So in death she feels like giving it back to her by standing in to support her son before she dies.
The Sustainable Model
In  was clear our previous monthly remittance initiative from the old students was not successful; so our mission this time round was to find out what community model works to support people like Robert.

Since our intellectual ideas were failing, we needed a grassroots approach to what will work. We met Vicky attending her village savings and credit community meeting.

She excused herself to meet us and we placed these ideas to her. She responded with humility that she has no idea but she will continue supporting Robert for as long as her business is running.

Then Anthony who comes from a business family noted that, it’s simple we need to make sure her business keeps running and runs better.

We then discussed how Robert can be helped in a more sustainable way. We noticed that since Vicky’s restaurant has never closed despite its poor state and has been helpful in supporting Robert; we will start a membership community based organization and fundraise 20,000/Ugx ($10) each every month from anyone interested to donate to support Robert.
This funding will go to supporting Vicky’s restaurant to ensure she supports Robert better. Members present immediately started with their donation.
In return, Vicky is to ensure Robert takes his medicine after every meal like he has been having. Vicky will also ensure Robert travels for medical care monthly and update us on his progress. Besides, she will ensure he is clean and keeps both his medical records and accountability for how she has used these funds in her business.
Get Involved.
In the aftermath of the conflict in northern Uganda, the challenge of mental health is real. The cost of treating mental health is much more than HIV/AIDS and Malaria.

The choice to get involved is normally personal but the challenge is communal. We may do nothing about it because we are blessed with a clean bill of health but the reality is that as a community we will get affected.

That’s why we have more cases of suicide and we still think it’s their family issue not until we lose those we care about or one that society needs.

A mother who lives with the reality of a son struggling with mental health challenges cannot say she is mentally healthy when she has sleepless nights and so is a brother and a sister and just like his friends.

Other than donating $10 every month or making a one off donation to this cause; you may as well donate a dozen of cups and plates to Vicky’s restaurant.

You may as well donate chairs and tables to Vicky’s restaurant. But most importantly you may donate your time or bricks and we rebuild Vicky restaurant.

You don’t have to be Roberts old boy, you just need to care about community members with a mental health challenge.
The Bible tells us blessed is the hands that give for it shall receive. This simple act of kindness is enough to make the world we live in a better place. Vicky will offer her time and restaurant services, as old students we will offer funds and expertise.

Hopefully, the community based organization develops to serve others in his community who could be challenged too.

If you like to support Robert, Call Ojok Cornelius(0776800804), Chairman Bishop Angelo Negri Students Association-Gulu

The Author is a Blogger and Mental Health Activist and can be reached at: mdaliker@gmail.com

OPINION: Making Sense of Kenya’s Riverside Complex Terror Attacks.

Photo Credit : Kenya.co.ke

By: Herbert Ogwal
The terrorists have hit Nairobi again. This time it was not Wesgate or El Adde but the Riverside Complex killing an unconfirmed number of people (15 according to other sources and 45 according to Al shabbaab sympathizers) and leaving scores injured.
That this is a barbaric attack cannot be disputed and I condole with our brothers and sisters in Kenya.
However, it’s imperative that we learn from such incidents and explore ways of minimizing chances of their reoccurrence.
In part 1 of a series of my analysis of this terror attack, I will try to look through the incident and see if there are certain things Kenyan security can do better.
Lets take a look at what has been reported about the incident by the different sources particularly looking at the series of events and pick some talking points.
The media reports that there was a coordinated attack at the Riverside complex with the main target being the DusitD2 Hotel.
The word coordinated may not have easily surfaced many times in earlier attacks in the region as it has this time and this is not by mistake.
Most of the attacks that occurred earlier were indeed more lethal but lacked as much coordination as this one.
What this means is that the terrorists are becoming more and more organized, planning their activities in a manner that will not only bring out maximum damage and publicity but also show the world that they can be organized and indeed a force to reckon with.
It is also meant to show the world that they are better than some of the demeaning descriptions used against them by leaders of the world.
The reports also indicate that the attack was more complex than ever before. The terrorists came in three cars and accessed the complex through the main gate.
First of all, they did not kill the guards at the gate but just scared them off; then they exploded a car bomb within the premises as they entered the building firing before accessing the main target through the kitchen door.
It is also reported that they had suicide bombers too. The reason they left the guards to run was because they did not want to fire bullets and alert forces and other people which would compromise their mission.
Cameras show them walking through the compound like they owned the place firing their way in. The car bomb was meant to be a distraction for any would be first responders (Security Forces) to the crime scene to try and jeopardize their mission; and the suicide bombers opened the way. Even the car left at the gate was a scare crow to keep advancing response forces pondering their options first not knowing whether the car was armed with a bomb or not.
Most of the earlier attacks have been from either bombs only or active shooting but not attacks that deployed a combination of tactics like this one. So this in essence is a new trend in the region.
The heavy gunfire sent many people scampering for their lives. While this looked like a normal situation it could have also been a tactic to let people run around making it difficult for government forces to intervene quickly for fear of harming innocent civilians.
The Al Shabaab who claimed responsibility like many out there know what happened at the Westgate and are very sure the government would want no repeat of something like that. It’s difficult to know exactly what the terrorists wanted and what they actually did because certain information is privileged.
But the people scampering around actually gave the attackers more time to carry out their mission without being quickly contained by the security forces.
The bombs created fear not only in the public but also among security forces who may not have known how much more explosives these guys had. Consequently this gave the attackers more time to conduct their mission.
The terrorist parked the car bomb in the parking yard in between other cars. We need to always remember that our parking lot is a ‘mine field’ with massive litres of explosives in our tanks.
The impact of that bomb was much bigger because it was helped by the fuel in the tanks of the other cars.
The burning cars also distracted rescue efforts. The picture of cars burning emitting massive smoke in the sky is a good picture for publicity of a terror act.
The Dusit2D Hotel is located at Riverside, a complex that houses many international organizations and has restaurants frequented by foreigners especially from the Western World. The target thus was also chosen carefully. Truth is that Americans will always be prime terror targets and so is other Europeans especially from Western Europe. This does not mean they are the only ones that die in these incidents but the rest are usually just collateral damage.
This particular attack was no different and aimed at causing fear and destruction in one of Kenya’s’ most affluent areas targeting both whites and wealthy nationals.
Reports also indicate that the Terrorists breached the security barrier which was revered as one of the most efficient in Nairobi. “Most efficient” is the term security officers and practitioners should avoid.
Most efficient in what parameter? Tested by how many forms of attacks? How many scenarios were built to try and test its efficiency?. The message is very clear, there is no security measure that is most efficient in terms of providing security and if you start thinking with terms like ‘most efficient’ in mind then you may become complacent.
The terrorists carry out reconnaissance and plan according to what they see on the ground meaning they do not expect any surprises at their targets.
And finally, yesterday marked the third anniversary since Al shabaab attacked El – Adde military base killing about 140 Kenyan soldiers. Like we celebrate our anniversaries with parties, terrorist celebrate their anniversaries with other attacks and so it is always important to be alert on any such days. It may not happen in year 1, 2 or 3 but it will happen one day so such days for security officers should be like their wives birthdays that is ‘taboo’ to forget.
The author is a Senior Consultant with Bert Consults International Ltd.

Why We Should Include Men in Promoting Women Empowerment

By: Aliker David Martin

A few days ago, I got an invitation from Women in Action for Women (WAW) to make a presentation on,”Strengthening the process of participation of women and girls in applying UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions.” at Churchill Courts Hotel in Gulu.

Major Okot Lapolo -Gulu Resident District Commissioner(RDC) Speaking at the Workshop

This was a workshop that would host more than 10 women focused charitable organizations from most of the districts of greater northern Uganda.

WAW is a charity organization based in Gulu District whose focus is improving the quality of life of women and girls by enhancing their knowledge and skills.

Amidst my busy schedule I wondered, “Why can’t they find a competent lady to address fellow women on how to strengthen their participation in peace building in their communities?”

I called back and informed them I would not and thought it would be unfortunate to deny another lady such a great opportunity in their empowerment solidarity movement.

The lady then retorted, “That is why we need you; we need a man who believes in the competence of women but also the involvement of model men in our cause.”

In the year 2000, the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR 1325) formally acknowledged through the creation of Resolution 1325 the changing nature of warfare, in which civilians are increasingly targeted, and women continue to be excluded from participation in peace processes.

The resolution specifically addresses how women and girls are differentially impacted by conflict and war, and recognizes the critical role that women can and already do play in peacebuilding efforts.

UNSCR 1325 affirms that peace and security efforts are more sustainable when women are equal partners in the prevention of violent conflict, the delivery of relief and recovery efforts and in the forging of lasting peace.

The goal of this resolution is to increase the participation of women in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.

While discussing the challenges of domesticating the UNSCR1325, women leaders shared their frustration with the culture of masculine dominance in peacebuilding.

So why are men dominating the peace building processes even when research confirms that the participation of women guarantees more durable peace?

In an effort to address these concerns, this women leaders agreed to the need to involve men in their empowerment campaign in promoting the participation of women in applying UNSCR 1325.

But why would women involve men in their empowerment campaign?

First and foremost, the empowerment of women is a fact and reality that our generation has to live with. Therefore, living in denial is not an option but men have to rediscover themselves and their new role in this new world order of gender parity.

In any case, at the birth of every man is a mother next to a nurse(possibly a woman); in sickness and joy potentially is a mother, sister, daughter, or wife and similarly in a man’s death bed.

Development agencies increasingly argue that patriarchal culture norms are standing as the key barrier to women’s empowerment, henceforth projects must target on changing attitudes of men and boys in order to create lasting improvements for women and girls.

The role of men’s attitudes and behaviors should not be ignored in the debate and the design of gender related policies. If you don’t change men’s attitudes towards women, then gender programs which focus on women first won’t be successful. There is need to think of men’s real gender realities if men are to support women in their empowerment campaign instead of becoming protagonist, they can be stakeholders in this campaign.

A case in point is; a woman was asked what was wrong with men in their village disowning their responsibilities? She says, “men are pretending to be mad yet they are hiding their irresponsibility behind drunkenness.” Another man observed that men are only silently protesting the new changes in family roles that make them vulnerable to their women.

Therefore, men have to be brought into those efforts in a meaningful way. This approaches should be gender transformative [challenging deep gender norms and discrimination]; they shouldn’t just be inviting men in the door or setting quotas so that we have a few more women or a few less men.

Conclusively, the approach to empowering women needs to change from that which disenfranchises men to that which appreciates our cultural values and norms to that which makes men equal partners in their progress.

The author is a Weekly Blogger based in Gulu, Uganda.

Email: mdaliker@gmail.com


The Boys Junior Team Vs Fields of Dreams Clubs at the Launch of Troy Buttimer Foundation.

By David Martin Aliker

A new community based football club has been launched in Gulu. The Troy Buttimer Foundation (TBF).

The focus of The Troy Butimmer Foundation is to identify, tap raw talent and develop the football talents of youngsters in the age bracket below 8 years and below 10 years.

Troy is a youngster aged 7 years plying his talent at a club in Oxford, UK in a club that has already identified and tapped his talents for professional football.

Troy’s Mum (Brenda Clair Butimmer) is originally Ugandan from Gulu and his father (Neville Benjamin Buttimer) a Briton but Troys dream is to support football of youngsters in Gulu that he has been meeting as a child since she started visiting Uganda every Christmas Festive Season.

The Troy Buttimer Foundation is registered in England and is undergoing registration in Uganda.

However, locally the team is already established in Gulu and talent identification has started and will end in February.

The President of Nyamityobora Football Club, Ben Misagga on 2nd January 2019 opined a piece in the New Vision News Paper on the different yardstick of assessing progress in Uganda’s football.

Nyamityobora Football Club, also Nyamityobora FC, is a football club based in Mbarara, in the Western Region of Uganda.

They currently play in the Uganda Premier League after their promotion from winning the FUFA Big League Rwenzori Division in the 2017/2018 Ugandan football season.

In his piece, Ben argued that if Uganda is making football progress, Uganda should be capable of developing a player able to play in mainstream European leagues.

However, “most players have miserably failed trials for professional stints at European Clubs, partly due to lack of professionalism and cheating age. We all know our average of Cranes (Ugandan National Team) age is in the thirties yet on paper we have one of the youngest squads. The age-cheating habit has derailed our football to the extent that we are result-oriented at the expense of building for the future”.

So why are Ugandan players failing miserably trials for professional football? Why are they resorting to the unprofessional conduct of cheating age in football?

In my opinion, Uganda needs to focus on its national grassroots football structure at an early age to build for the future the game of football.

Just like to ensure we attain quality education up to University, learners start from an early age in nursery education, Uganda needs to focus on skills and provide access and a platform to develop the game at an early age.

This will ensure early identification of talent and its development in time so that, when players are in their teens they are fully developed and aware of their potential and ready for professional football without having to cheat on their age.

Unfortunately, our players today get to realize their talent and full potential when its already late and they are in their late teens or 20s; only then do they begin to prioritize the game as professionals.

This is why they are caught up in the age dilemma and their only choice is to cheat age hoping to get better opportunity to get to the professional league.

Secondly instead of exporting cheap casual labor, Uganda needs to begin looking at football as a business worth a long term investment if it is at all to benefit from its proceeds.

Already individual Ugandans are taking initiatives to start clubs and football academies; however, government needs to come up with strategies that directly support such initiatives.

In Gulu, The Troy Buttimer Foundation will be the local face of football talent identification and promotion at elementary level.

This will not only contribute to the pool of local players for local and national football but also help address unprofessional conducts like cheating age in football by undertaking authentic documentation and profiling of players.

The Author is a Director of The Troy Buttimer Foundation-Uganda Chapter

Email: mdaliker@gmail.com

Karin Marathon: Gulu’s Starface Using Creative Art to Serve Humanity

By David Martin Aliker
The 1st Annual Karin Health Marathon 2018 successfully took place today. The event was organized by a christian based Charity Karen Community Initiative Uganda (KCIU)
Karin Community Initiative Uganda (KCIU) is a local faith-based, not for profit organization providing health care in the communities, founded by Christians who realized a need to support governments efforts in arresting the country’s disease burden.
KCIU was registered in 2001. A full-time secretariat, supported by Pentecostal Churches of Uganda and partner churches in USA, UK and Norway, strengthen coordination among other partners and communities.
The theme of of this maternal health and child care marathon and health camp was “Saving mothers, Helping Families”
Gulu Catholic Arch Bishop John Baptist Odama flagged off the athletes after a brief prayer asking for divine guidance on how to serve humanity better and a safe and successful event.
In attendance was also the District Chairman Hon. Ojara Mapenduzi and Hon. Betty Aol, the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Parliament of Uganda amongst many other distinguished guests and participants
One of the most outstanding performance during the Marathon Winners Award Ceremony was a Christian Group of Artist- Starface Art Camp.
Lately,so much negative narratives-from Gulu is about the street kids (Aguu) and its new found identity of young prostitutes and drug addicts and alcoholics.
One would imagine, there are no youths trying to make a positive change in their lives in the aftermath of the war.

Gulu’s Starface Dance Group at the Marathon

Starface Art Camp is one such group creating a positive change in the lives of youths through creative Art.
In an effort to address the challenges of urban youths such as prostitution, alcoholism, betting and drug addiction, they offer music, dance and art design lessons and practice to any intending youths with passion for art.
They don’t only reduce the youths contact hours with these vices but also offer their skills for a few to support their livelihood and promote their initiative.
It’s this group that Karin Community Initiative Uganda offered a platform to entertain and show case the benefits of keeping young and healthy.
Their performance was exceedingly great that got every one off their seats. Their break dance skills meets any global standards. This was characterized with perfected and well rehearsed summersaults
As Gulu seeks City status,one way it can fight urban crime and poverty is through promptings Arts and Craft and supporting informal art groups like Starface Art Camp.
Today, Karen Coommunity Initiative Uganda granted them a platform, tomorrow another organization may offer them another platform but the district leadership must pick keen interest in the talent and trade of this youths and set up social community programs that promotes youths who come together using their art and skills to bring positive change, if Gulu City is ever to be a model city.

The author is an Opinion Leader based in Gulu

Email: mdaliker@gmail.com

ACF 2018: Why Did Hon. Jacob Oulanyah Close his Eyes?

By David Martin Aliker

Hon. Jacob Oulanyah Enjoys the Larakaraka Dance

The 2nd edition of the 3 day Acholi Cultural Festival 2018 (ACF 2018) ended December 15th,2018; but why is this event important to the Acholi People?

While the motto of the Acholi people is Ribbe Aye Teko (Unity is Strength); ironically, it’s not so often that Acholi Unite but the Acholi Cultural Festival United the Acholi People.

Keen observers will notice that the answer to this question is captured in a trending picture of Hon. Jacob Oulanyah deeply taken up with closed eyes and a smiling face and a clenched fist holding the calabash as he strikes it with exceptional ecstasy,passion and skill like a Rock Star in the climax of his most loved hit and all he can see with closed eyes are in his mind.

So why did Hon. Jacob close his eyes?

In his Twitter handle Jacob writes,

“In Acholi even the toughest warrior must show skills on the dance floor less you easily get stripped off your glory. The #AcholiCulturalFestival is a uniting festival meant to revitalize and awaken a diminishing pride in culture. Had such fun today, reliving and making memories.”

Metaphorically, Hon. Jacob in the eyes of his mind could see Acholi as warriors rising to regain its lost glory.  

Hon. Jacob with closed eyes can see that the Acholi culture is beginning to unite his people and their love for culture is reinstating the relevant roles and respect for cultural leaders.

This is seen with the humility with which he greets Rwot Acana II.

Jacob who is known for being pompous relishes his title as Deputy Speaker of Parliament of Uganda and postures before the Rwot as if to say, “You are my Leader.” One would imagine, this gesture implies if I respect the Rwot as my leader who are you not to respect him?

Those who know Jacob well know him for also being very emotional.

In February 28th ,2018 edition of the Observer Weekly News Paper, Moses Khisa writing about Hon. Jacob’s response to nodding disease in his constituency notes,” Mr Oulanyah appears to be a person predisposed to deep introspection and honest self-reflection.”

So when Jacob twits, he had fun reliving and making memories; he emotionally submerges himself to his sub conscious mind to relive the memory of Acholi past glory and the dignity of their culture that he experienced as a child.

Memories are a part of people. Human beings are incomplete without them. Memories are what humans have been through.

Memories make us, us.It’s this ability to have a deep introspection and honest reflection that makes Jacob a unique leader passionate about the Unity of his people.

As Ama Ata Aidoo notes, “humans, not places, make memories.” Certainly, Jacob was filled with memories of his people in his past and present and possibly not places.

In view of past history of war in northern Uganda, memories are all Acholi are left with and Acholi were losing this as well till the Acholi Cultural Festival sparked the thrill to identify and Unite through culture.

Acholi were once great people until the indignity of war, poverty and ignorance subdued them.

The Acholi Cultural Festival therefore, makes it feel good to relive these memories and many other positive adventures in power in previous governments but they too are fading fast but no one seemed to be that much concerned until the cultural festival united the Acholi people and they begun to see themselves as great again.

Finally, in Jacobs closed eyes Acholi listen to the rhythm and raw beats of their true identity in their culture. They see in closed eyes a great people ready to listen to each other again as exemplified by the attendance of political leaders in government and opposition determined to get back on its feet and ready to rise to the top again.

In this closed eye are the sight of the restoration of Acholi dignity and pride as a United people dreaming as warriors and dedicated to reliving the past, ready to rise again.

For the Jacobs, can prepare the way for time will come when the real messiah will proclaim his throne.

All Acholi need is to live by their motto of Ribbe Aye Teko (Unity is Strength). This Unity is not only Unity among themselves but their neighboring communities too.

Acholi will rise and Shine again.

Author is a Blogger Based in Gulu

Reasons to Bring Children for Acoli Cultural Festival (ACF 2018)

Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born black nationalist leader who sought to connect people of African descent worldwide once said,” a people without the knowledge of their past history,origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

The 2nd edition of the Acoli Cultural Festival started today at Kaunda Grounds in Gulu with immense dignity and pride of the Acoli people.

As they say, humans are cultural beings. Everyone has a cultural identity. While there were numerous sparkling dances, foods and drinks, the sight of two boys caught my attention as they played Coro. Coro is a cultural game similar to board games. Just that, this time the holes are made on the ground and stones are used as marbles to drop in a sequence in each small hole. (See Picture)

What came to mind was; where are other children? What are they doing? Rightfully thinking, they could be watching T.V or playing video games or possibly reading story books.

Children need to be exposed to their culture at an early age. The sounds and sight and text of life as seen in the different cultural songs and dances need to be experienced firsthand for children to develop a creative mind.

Books are wonderful but not enough. Why are we not concerned that our children’s value systems, beliefs and ways are like all they watch on T.V or in their video games? Is that the culture we want to inculcate in our children?

Culture helps children to learn to communicate and understand the world through the context of their languages, traditions, behaviours, beliefs and values.

Our cultural experiences and values shape the way we see ourselves and what we think is important.

That is why in the past as a result of low self esteem, many children from the north tried to convert their names to sound like they originate from central Uganda.

Traditions, beliefs, food and even the way a particular culture dresses influences a child’s development. Values are established and set by cultures.

 Exposing children to culture teaches them about different points of view, different ways of seeing things, which makes for a well rounded child.

For instance, many modest people detest witch craft however the only person without a tent that never lacked guests despite the rain and hot sun was a lady claiming to have powers to predict any ones future by consulting our ancestral gods.

Why would people not leave her alone since they detest witchcraft? It is because they are searching for meaning in their lives; the things that books and humans could not answer them convincingly.

Culture reminds us of our history in times of trial and unease. It gives one a sense of structure, ritual and habit.

One of the most outstanding dances during day one of Acoli Cultural Festival was the Otole dance from Pabo in Amuru District.

This team distinctively looked serious like worriers heading to battle; they held real spears and shields and made patterns like taking positions at war time.

Certainly, this did not only remind us of our history of war dances but also helped guests understand why they sing and dance to war. Otole is the Acoli war dance.

As parents, we don’t know what exactly a child is going to be passionate about or good at. Exposing them to different things help the child discover themselves.

Conclusively, in my personal experience, when people move to a new country, they inevitably hold on to their original culture more tightly, even when embracing the new cultures.

Most of our youths today never got a chance to identify with their culture at an early age because of the war.

Don’t make your children serve the same verdict if you can expose them to their culture to enable them discover themselves and learn their true values, beliefs and identity.

What You Missed at Gulu’s Wer Waa Art Festival

Recently, festivals have become the real deal in Gulu’s social scenes.

From Film Festival, Acholi Cultural Festival to Paul Mutanga’s Open Mic Festival and now Wer Waa Art Festival.

But what is an art festival?

An arts festival is a festival that can encompass a wide range of art genres including music, dance, fine art, poetry etc. and isn’t solely focused on “visual arts.”

I plead guilty as charged for not attending the 1st and 2nd editions of Wer Waa yearly festival.

Ignorance has never been an excuse and that’s why I will write this article so that ignorance should not be the reason for you to miss next years 4th Wer Waa Arts Festival.

At 6:00pm, Uganda had defeated Cape Verde to win itself a place in the African Cup od Nations (AFCON) finals in 2019.

It was a tense, nail bitting game from Uganda’s mediocre performance. Luckily, Kaddu Patrick nodded home a smart goal in the last minutes to the excitement of Uganda fans.

The mood for partying set in as fans in Gulu were spoilt for choices to either attend the Premier of the Movie “Tears of Akello” or attend Wer Waa Art Festival.

I finally chose to attend the festival which felt more fun instead of a passive moment watching Akello’s Tears.

If you have been to Gulu, the venue for Wer Waa Art Festival was in a quiet ambience in Senior Quarters at the extreme end of Upper Churchill Drive.

The quiet ambience with low volume music gave it a unique romantic experience.

At the entrance was a mini tail-agate of youths sipping beer at the bonnet of their cars. One would get a feel of young career youths with exclusively beautiful well dressed ladies that exuded pomp and confidence.

The dressing of the ladies portrayed absolute freedom as they showed a lot of modern culture and cleaverage defining their youthfulness.

There were all signs of love in the manner of their conduct. From their sexy smiles,  to the cuddles and caressing by their boyfriends.

As one approaches the point for payments, the aroma of the barbecue welcomes you.

Approximately, 5 meters from the payment point; a thick dark skinned young man is busy working at the barbecue, tossing my most pleasant of beer diets-pork from left to right.

As he works up the barbecue, he shakes his head to the beats of MC Wang Jok’s latest music Rec Agara. These are all delicacies that naturally instruct salivary glands to send saliva to the mouth and a good appetite.

The young man at the gate notices, who I am and out of respect decides not to receive my cash, only to say welcome sir. Your friends are the other side, turn left next to the bonfire.

This courtesy guarantees me already a very cold bottle of Uganda’s finest Bell beer. As a friend would say, BELL (Better Education Less Labour).

Walking beyond the barbecue, I approached the counter to get myself a drink. There is a racially inclusive crowd at the bar’s counter buying and sipping beer.

On a ratio of 1 to 5, you would find 1 African speaking to 5 Muzungus with a forged American accent. You can tell he has never been to the land of the White people but hopes to be there some day. His new accent is from listening to them speak.

A young friend comes over to keep my company. I open up the discussion. I asked him who are these naturally, strong young men with unimaginable dancing skills.

He answers,”these are street kids who come here to learn how to sing and dance. Wer Waa Art Festival which literally means Our Song is a platform to showcase different forms of creativity and art by young people.”

It hits me hard that the guy speaking with a forged accent could be a street kid with a natural artistic talent.He must have been speaking about his life and talent to interested Muzungus.

I excuse myself from this friend to try and trace “the guy with a forged accent”. He was no more at the bar counter.

I spotted him showing his Muzungu guests art paintings and drawings placed down on a well kept compound at the entrance and others hanging over a wall.

These were fantastic pictures that could earn thousands of dollars if it were being auctioned abroad. This talent could instantly change the life of this street kid if he were in the land of the White People.

But how did I miss to see this art pieces as I got in? Could it be that the aroma of the barbecue tampered with my attention to detail or the African in me failed me to appreciate creativity and art? For instance, there was a very meaningful art piece showing a picture of Legendary artists Okot P’ Bitek, Geoffrey Oryema , Lumix Da Don and Mc Wang Jok. The artist seem to say, the only Acholi living legend standing is Mc Wang Jok as the rest all passed on.

A lady friend noticed am in attendance and invited me to their company. I was fortunate to meet in this company Gulu’s top female music artists at the event. Janet Prisca and Pamela Peace welcomed me to their company.

A log was placed around the bonfire a reminiscent of life in the village around the fireside telling folk stories. Just that this time round, we shared urban stories.

As we all enjoyed great stories over beer about life and the festival, photographers comrades Pat Larubi and Walker were busy taking our photos giving us a little celebrity status.

Adjacent to our seats were a team of only Whites who presumably understand and appreciate better the meaning and importance of art festivals.

They sat on mats and car tyres decorated with artistic writings and improvised pillows in the middle making comfortable seats.

One could tell this companionship was purely of close and connected White community of Gulu.Ironically, as Pat Larubi focused on taking their pictures, Walker (Muzungu) focused on our team of “local celebrities.”

On stage, the music had changed to strong and fast Caribbean beats.Unlike many shows where the stage was lifted higher for proper viewing; this time round the stage was a laid carpet on grass with a unique artistic background showing creative unique drawings and writings giving it a beautiful artistic impression and a concentration of strong lights on stage.

The dancers were young, fast and physically fit as they made uniform twist and turns to the rhythm of   music. From acrobatic dancing styles to what looked like Acholi aerobics.

This was a highly rehearsed and perfected style of dancing. The climax was of one young tall and handsome black boy dancing Salsa dance with a polite and mild mannered jaw dropping beautiful Muzungu girl.

This certainly is life one must live before they die. Periodically you would hear jubilation and excitement from fans as they celebrated the night away by clapping hands to appreciate every stage performance.

Heaven threatened to open up and so the drizzle would only make it more of like the Tom Sawyer love scenes in the book.The drizzle only made it a more cosy and romantic night as fans dared the rain and never took shelter save for a few fans with no more beer and loved ones.

In conclusion Wer Waa Art festival was about culture, creativity and company.

While art has become more accessible, but interacting with paintings, installations or sculptures, or seeing them up close, often provides a deeper appreciation that could never be put into words.

Gulu has been known for its past record of insurgency, a new generation of creative youths is using Art to change its narrative using music, culture and film festivals.

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