By Robert Egwea
The people of Lango in Northern Uganda are preparing for a historical conference that will take place next December in Lira under the theme “Lango United for Development”. It is being organised by Tekwaro Lango, the highest traditional institution in Lango sub region, under the wise leadership of His Highness Won Nyaci, Won Deo Yocam Odur Ebii.
A 40-person strong steering committee has been formed to organise and manage the conference. Shs450m budget has been produced to cover costs. Contributions, cash or in-kind shall come from clans, local governments in Lango, business community, individuals and the central government.
The conference will bring together about 1,000 participants comprised of leaders of Lango including those from Diaspora, central and local government representatives, religious and cultural leaders, youth, business people, farmers, politicians, development experts and others. It shall run for three days from December 27 to 29 with a Lango Youth Conference congregating about 500 youth being held on the first day.
This will be the 2nd all-Lango conference aimed at finding ways of speeding up the development of the sub-region following a prolonged period of turmoil and war. The first of such meetings, called Lango Diaspora Conference, took place in 2006 in London, United Kingdom under the theme “rebuilding Lango sub-region after decades of Conflict”.
Why is the conference taking place?
According to Engineer Dr. M. Odongo, Chairman of the organising committee for the 2012 conference, there is a dire need for Lango to put behind four decades of turmoil and war so as to build a firm foundation for the future.
“Lango is emerging from nearly 40 years of war and turmoil. The community has declined in national visibility. Quality of life has declined as shown by various indicators such as low school enrolment, high child and maternal mortality, high incidences of HIV and related killer diseases, low calorific intake, compromised food security and others”, he said during a meeting with Diaspora Langi in London last June.
“Society is divided and fragmented along various non-beneficial lines and leaders do not have a coherence of vision to tackle society challenges. The people hanker for social progress and desire to move on beyond the past turmoil” he added.
What turmoil & war?
Since 1971 when the government of Dr Milton Obote, a Lango, was overthrown in a military coup by Idi Amin, the people of Lango have been victims of a series of violence from various sources. This has adversely affected the people politically, socially and economically.
Between 1971 and 1979, almost every family in Lango lost a loved one following systematic persecution by the military government. Most of the prominent Langi were either killed or were forced to flee into exile.
Following the overthrow of Amin’s military junta in 1979, there was a brief period of peace for the people of Lango and especially from 1980 when Dr Milton Obote returned from exile and was elected as president again.
In 1985, Dr Obote’s government was violently overthrown again. Dr Obote fled to exile and once again the people of Lango underwent systematic persecution by the new authorities.
In 1986, there was another violent change government. The people of Lango continued being on the receiving end of violence from various armed groups including heavily armed cattle raiders from neighbouring Karamoja, who took away almost all of the livestock in the sub-region, and thus deprived the population of their main source of income.
As if that was not enough, the people of Lango got caught up in the conflict between the Holly Spirit Movement and later then Lords Resistance Army (LRA) on the one hand, and government troops on the other hand. The Langi neither instigated nor participated in this war. At the height of LRA war, thousands of people in Lango were forced to live in IDP camps under terrible conditions.
It was not until 2006 that the conflict finally ended. However, during the period of turmoil and war from 1971 to 2006, Lango became one of the most deprived sub-regions of Uganda. The people who once played an active role in the fight for independence and post-independence Uganda were pushed into near helplessness and oblivion.
The effects of all these episodes of violence have not yet been satisfactorily addressed. Hundreds of Langi and especially the elite who survived the conflict have been living in exile for all these years. Generations of Lango children are growing up with unresolved trauma and serious deprivation. Lango has consequently become voiceless and seems to be of no consequence in socio-political development of Uganda.
How will the conference help?
This historical gathering will agree on strategies for righting historical wrongs suffered by the community over the last 40 years’ post 1971 as part of post war resettlement and reconstruction efforts.
In this rank shall be included justice and compensation for the killings of the 1970’s by agents of the state, economic crime of cattle rustling, and the LRA imposed mayhem. The Banyoro are rightly relentlessly pursing compensation for the injustices caused on their Kingdom by colonialism. Lango might want to borrow a leaf. The conference will thus:
In a nut shell, the conference will discuss and promulgate a Lango Development Agenda (LDA), the blueprint for social cultural, economic and political development of Lango over the coming decades.