Acholi leaders break silence on exorbitant bride price

Acholi leaders break silence on exorbitant bride price
Acholi dancers from northern Uganda

Lamwo, Uganda | URN | Cultural and political leaders in Acholi sub-region have decried the exorbitant bride prices charged in the region. They say the bride prices are abnormally high and don’t reflect the culture of the Acholi people.

The Lamwo Resident District Commissioner, Nabinson Kidega says his office has got numerous complaints from young men about the exorbitant bride price imposed on them by their in-laws. Kidega says the vice has discouraged many young from marrying their spouses. He says there is need for the Acholi cultural institution to intervene and restore sanity in traditional marriages.

According to Kidega, majority of men in the region are financially unstable, adding that with such high demand from girl’s parents, most of them may end up living single lives. “Our young men are no longer marrying because they can’t afford the high bride prices being asked from them, this region has been at war for two decades and people are just recovering. We want the cultural institution to help out these young men through regulation of ride prices,” Kidega said.

Yusuf Adek, the Pageya Clan Chief told this publication in an interview on Monday that majority of people in the region have copied the lavish traditional weddings from Central Uganda. He says as traditional leaders they are trying to liaise with the various local government leaders to ensure that bride prices are regulated through enactment of ordinances.

According to Adek, possibilities of regulating bride prices can only be possible if government recognizes the powers of traditional chiefs. Adek says marriage has completely lost meaning in Acholi region because people are taking it in their own way, adding that policies and guidelines of the various clans are no longer respected by subjects.

He also called for unity among cultural leaders in Acholi so as to come up with a common voice against the vice. Speaking over the weekend at the launch of the Acholi Cultural festival in Kitgum Municipality, the Acholi Paramount Chief, David Onen Acana II, said traditional marriages have become a show off.

Read Also: Acholi chief court subjects to raise funds for cultural festival

He wondered why people in the region are going against their culture, which ushers them towards starting a family built on their norms.

Acana says despite the presence of guidelines regulating traditional marriages in the region, most people opt for what they think suits them better.

He says cultural leaders have faced criticism and even at worst been arrested by their own subjects for trying to come up with regulations.

While delivering the end of year message last year, Acana said the cultural institution is moving towards drafting a by law to streamline payment of bride price among his subjects.

Who are the Acholi people?

The Acholi or Acoli are part of Luo-speaking Nilotic people of East Africa who lives predominantly in Northern Uganda (an area commonly referred to as Acholiland), including the districts of Agago, Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum, Nwoya, Lamwo, and Pader; and Magwe County in South Sudan.

Prior to colonialism, the people known today as the Acholi referred to themselves as An-loco-li, which means “I am a human being”, or “black” (Doom 1999, 10).

The label An-loco-li did not have any ethnic delineations or geographical boundaries initially, although the Acholi people had a collective identity encapsulated in cultures and customs that governed their existence for thousands of years. As a result of the Acholi people’s self-understanding as human beings, they embraced peaceful coexistence among themselves and their immediate neighbors (Doom 1999, 11).

However, since the colonial period, the Acholi people developed a distinct ethnic identity that characterizes them as “northerners” or dark people, something that sets them apart from the people in the “South” commonly referred to as southerners. Another theory also posits that during the second half of the nineteenth century Arabic-speaking traders from the north started to call them Shooli, a term which transformed into ‘Acholi’.

The Acholi were considered a martial people by the British, and many joined the military. Kasozi (1994) said there has been a developed myth that the Acholi are martial race and a warlike-people because former Ugandan president Milton Obote used their strength in the army to consolidate his government.

However, one would realize that speaking Acholi is one of the gateways into the world of Luo, one of the major cultures of Africa spanning across southern Sudan and northwestern Kenya. Their complex customs and social organization, their traditions of conflict resolution, their variety of specialized dances, and their rich material culture are some of the attractions to studying the culture and arts of the Acholi people. It is estimated that approximately 1.677, 000 Acholi people lives in Uganda and about 58,000 lives in Southern Southern in Opari Disrict, Acholi Hills.

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