Below: Acholi elders at the Wang OO gathering of the Acholi: Left to right, Norbert Mao, Odongo Onyango (99), Ananiya akera (104), Mr. Akera, Titus T. Okot (92) and Rwot John Ogenga (96).
“In Acholi, it is only those who are fools who remain poor. Acholi riches flow like milk-Land. If you educate your child with the aim of him/her getting white collar job, then you are a fool yourself. I was in an office for so many years, but never held one million shillings at a go; but when I started farming, I got five million shillings in one year. Those who stay in offices are poor”.
GULU-UGANDA: Rwot (Chief) John Ogenga, a 96 year old Acholi from Northern Uganda, has castigated African elites who prefer white collar jobs in urban areas to farming as fools saying such elites will remain poor for the rest of their lives. He says youths should not struggle to look for employment opportunities, but should rather go back to tilt the abundant rich and fertile land if they are to be rich.
Rwot Ogenga made the remarks on Sunday, October 23, 2016 in Gulu town during “Wang OO” -an Acholi traditional meeting usually held at a bonfire gathering – held under the theme: “Mainstreaming Gender, Women and Youth Specific Issues in the Socio-economic, Cultural and Political Recovery Program in Post-War Acholi Sub-region.
“In Acholi, it is only those who are fools who remain poor. Acholi riches flow like milk-Land. If you educate your child with the aim of him/her getting white collar job, then you are a fool yourself. I was in an office for so many years, but never held one million shillings at a go; but when I started farming, I got five million shillings in one year. Those who stay in offices are poor”, says Rwot Ogenga.
He counseled Africans and Ugandans in particular to desist from praise singing of politicians in order to induce them to pay those who sing praises, saying it makes Africans vulnerable to manipulations. He said in the past, it was the electorates who facilitated their preferred candidates for political offices and not the reverse as it is now.
“Acholi used to despise praise singers, especially if they are aliens. They give you sachets of hard alcohol in order to destroy you but not to help you. Let the youths go back to hoes to fight poverty instead of running after aliens, which is not productive”, says elder.
According to one presenter who was at the meeting, Dr. David Onen-Otto, the over two decade war in northern Uganda between various rebel groups and the National Resistance Army (now the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces, UPDF), cost the people of northern Uganda in many ways like loss of lives, physical assets, food, internal displacement, loss of will to produce, loss of investments and investment opportunities and erosion of cultural values, norms and customs.
According to the International Youth Foundation (2011), 1.7 million young persons in Uganda are orphans and vulnerable children; 73% of persons aged between 14 and 35, are involved in drug abused and that Uganda has the highest alcohol abuse rate in the world with the youth leading.
The conference is aimed at creating environments for women and youths so that they can make decisions of their own for their personal benefits as well as for the society and also to increase and improve the social, economic, political and legal strengths and to ensure equal-rights and to make them confident enough to claim their rights.
“It would help to reduce the problem of unemployment and under employment that is rampant amongst women and youths…it would help to exploit their talents for their own benefits and that of society… it would reduce poverty since income generated by them would be used for their own benefits”, says Dr. Onen-Otto.
Another presenter, Dr. Daniel Komakech a senior lecturer at the Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies, Gulu University, said all the problems being faced by the people of northern Uganda are a category whose peculiar social space and challenges are fundamentally economic.
He gave the example of Rwanda where between 1994 and 2004, during the post war period, empowerment levels were dire and that abject poverty existed and people were still walking barefooted as a result of poverty. He said Rwanda today has favorable narrative about the economy because empowerment was seen from a macro-level of stimulating investment.
Wango OO is a loose organization of the Acholi community of northern Uganda initiated by a few elite meant to address the socio-economic, cultural and political recovery program in post-conflict Acholi sub-region. It is convened quarterly and the interim chairman is former legislator, John Livingstone Okello Okello.