Origins of the Acholi

Origins of the Acholi

  • They fall under the bigger group of the Luo speaking communities.
  • They currently occupy Northern Uganda in districts such as Gulu, Pader and Kitgum.
  • They emerged out of intermarriages between the Luo, Ateker and Sudanic Madi.
  • They originally lived in Bahr-el-Ghazel in Southern Sudan.
  • Their migration took place between 1200 – 1350 AD.
  • They entered Uganda through Northern Uganda following the Albert Nile.

Political organisation

  • The Acholi had a decentralized system of administration with no central authority.
  • Political power was centered around the Rwoth chief.
  • Rwoth was the political head and religious leader of his people.
  • He ruled on the advice of a council of elders from all major clans.
  • Rwoth gave favours according to work done.
  • Political affairs were handled by the clans with each having its own rituals and regalia.
  • Each family belonged to a particular clan that shared a common ancestry.
  • Clan councils upheld traditional, religious and legal customs.
  • The family was the basic social unit.
  • The man had a lot of power over his wife and children.
  • The Rwoth appointed village heads called Jogos.
  • The duty of the Jogos was to maintain law and order in their respective villages.
  • The Jogos were also charged with tribute and tax collection.
  • The Acholi had no standing army but the youth were supposed to defend the chiefdoms incase of war.
  •  The youths were also supposed to carry out raids for cattle.

Social organisation

  • They believed in a supreme god called Jok-Lubanga as the creator and sustainer of the world.
  • The Acholi always prayed to him through the spirits.
  • The Rwoth was the religious head of his people.
  • He was believed to have direct links with the ancestors.
  • Inheritance followed the father’s line.
  • Land was communally owned.
  • It was the duty of the clan heads to protect it on behalf of his people.

Economic organisation

  • Their main economic activity was pastoralism and they kept short horned cattle.
  • They also carried out agriculture and grew crops such as millet, peas, beans and sorghum.
  • They highly valued cows for prestige, bride wealth and rewards.
  • Fishing was also carried out by those who stayed near the rivers.
  • They traded with their neighbours like the Langi, Banyoro and Sudanese.