THE ACHOLI HISTORY
Rwot Awich reigned as Rwot of Payira Kingdom from 1890-1946)
His heroic deeds include:
1886: His decisive victory in the war between Pader/Arab/Nubian forces versus Pajule/Payira combined forces sent a strong message to the Arabs. The armies of Pader and their Arab/Nubian allays suffered a humiliating defeat and as a result, when the Arabs were petitioned by Rwt Ogwok of Padibe the following year in 1887, to join Padibe and wage war against Payira, the Arabs were eager to avenge that defeat.
The combined Padibe/Labongo/Arab/Nubian force waylaid Rwt. Labwor Rwotcamo-wod-Awino and his Payira convoy. The Arab force was led by Awash Effendi based at Lado while the Assistant Commander was Salim Effendi(s/o Mohamed Effendi).The Padibe force and their Arab allies sprang a surprise attack on Rwt Chamo’s convoy and achieved easy victory as Payira men were caught completely unawares. Rwot Chamo’s convoy was scattered and the people fled in disarray, leaving their king undefended. A Padibe man named Cakai Lukiromoi is said to have been the one who speared Rwt Chamo to death, for which he earned the chivalry ‘moi’ title ‘Lukiromoi’.
The Arabs then went on and did what only the Arabs can do best; they beheaded Rwt.Chamo and took the severed head with them. According to another Nubian, Moorjan Effendi based in Gulu at that time the severed head of Rwot Chamo was wrapped in a white linen cloth and taken to Lado via Dupile by non-other than Awash Effendi, the Arab military Commander. It was from Lado that Emin Pasha (Edwardo Schultz), the last Governor ruled Equatoria, from 1878 to 1886, the year Egypt gave up responsibility over Equatoria.
1901-1902: Rwot Awich was arrested by Captain Harman and tried by the British Trouble Shooter, Delme Radcliffe (aka Langalanga), so knick- named in Juba (Pidgeon) Arabic because he was restless; he was all over the region, trouble shooting. Following the ruling in that court Rwot Awich was detained by the British colonial administration, more likely because he was seen to be sympathetic to the Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro.
He stubbornly, and rightly refused to repatriate the refugees, Nubians, Banyoro and the Omukama’s children who had fled from the combined British/Buganda army which defeated Omukama Kabalega’s army, in 1893. His objection was based on a deeply rooted Acholi traditional moral belief about the sanctity of human life.
The traditional religious Acholi belief, holds that if he were to send back the refugees to face possible death then the souls of the deceased would come back to haunt him, if they were killed! Perhaps needless to say that time has vindicated Rwot Awich for upholding this very important principle of Acholi’s criminal justice system. He held steadfast Acholi’s high moral ground.
Quite simply he was ahead of his time as it took Europe, the USA and other major nations of the world two world wars and over fifty million deaths to come up in Paris with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10th, 1948. Within the four rights enshrined in the charter is the right of asylum, i.e. Anyone having well-founded fear of persecution in his/her country of origin became entitled to seek refuge in a neighbouring country and the host nation, since then is under a legal obligation not to repatriate such a person to face near certain death or persecution.
1912-1919: Rwt Awich was again rearrested based on a trumped up charge that he was in possession of illegal gun (luduku taci, i.e. 303 rifle) which had gone missing. Rwt Awich’s own sub-chief, Jago Aluca of Patira, testified against him in an ill-constituted court presided over by the Resident D C Mr Bens (aka Benge) in January, 1912.
This make-shift court sentenced Rwt Awich to another period of detention lasting eight years. He was again detained in Kololo, Kampala.”Kololo” hill, now a VIP residential area in Kampla was named by him. It is derived from Acholi word “Kololo” meaning single or alone/lonely. Immediately following his release in December, 1919. Following his initial detention, he went out of his way to meet the British missionary Albert Lloyd in Hoima and requested him to open up similar schools as he saw in Buganda and Bunyoro in Acholiland.
Indeed in June, 1904 Albert Lloyd travelled to Acholiland where he established the first Anglican Mission at Keyo, Lamogi division in 1904.
In short what makes Rwt Awich stand out head and shoulder above other Rwodi in Acholi is that he resisted all foreign invaders both violent invaders(Arabs) and the more peaceful but subtle and guileful invaders, i.e. the Europeans. Moreover most of the wars Payira fought were either retaliatory, or were for just causes, i.e. “causa belle” or lapii.
Out of about ten of Payira’s inter clan wars only about three can be classified as wars of aggression. Fr J P Crazzolara. In his third volume “Lwoo Clans” page 500, he writes: Ogwok who committed suicide in 1924, entangled Padibe in many wars and with the aid of the slave traders, whom he called for his assistance was responsible for much suffering over a large area of Acholiland.
Similarly Rwot Lakidi of Paimol who fought more than ten inter clan wars, most of them were wars of aggression against neighbouring fellow Acholi clans. For instance, Rwot Lakidi did wage a war against Lira Palwo to assert his claim over “kono udo”, i.e. ostrich feathers. In his last and most memorable war in October, 1918, Rwot Lakidi and his Commander, Mr Ogal Luwamoi went all the way to Ethiopia, to recruit Ethiopian(Munu-Lucamcwa) mercenaries, returning via Turkana region in Kenya to wage war on Rwot Amet of Lira-Palwo.
In a dawn raid on that fateful day they attacked Rwot Amet’s county headquarters’ residence, when he was away on a visit to Lira, his village.
During the raid the two Acholi catechists, Jildo Irwa (of Labongo) and Daudi Okello (of Payira) were martyred. The two Catholic martyrs were recently (2002) beatified by Pope John Paul 11. It is the first step towards their recognition as Christian saints. The next step is their canonisation, after which they joined the list of many recognised martyrs of the Catholic Church worldwide.