Everybody has a culture, actually many staunched traditionalist would justify their practice by alluding that even Jesus Christ had a culture and that is why he was circumcised and they forget to read the Old Testament where God ordered Abraham to begin by circumcising all the male children of Israel as a mark of God’s Chosen nation(Genesis 17:10-14) –so in context, everything is interpretation or having dog’s sight sense .Similarly I wonder if people who came out with articles saying that president Yoweri Museveni attacked ‘Ryemo-Gemo’ one of the Acoli powerful practice of chasing bad spirit , bad omen or misfortune normally performed in the wee hours of every new year or in case of agreed cultural calamity, did really listen to the president’s address of 31 February 2020.
Many social media gurus and renowned bloggers went amok because they heard the president mentioning the name of the paramount chief without understanding under which context the chief’s name was mentioned. To hit the nail on the head, it was on record and reported in the local media that some clan leaders allegedly from Okaka clan who claim to be the oracle of Lagoro hill, one of the spiritual hills of Acoli in Kitgum Matidi were recorded in of the Radios in Gulu , mobilizing people to do the ‘Gemo (the rites of exorcism )and they went ahead to utter other things which included, eating food without salt, all food leftovers should be poured near a well, all ashes in the fire place should be removed, people should eat boiled cassava without salt and after doing the ‘Ryemo Gemo’ in the entire Acoli, district by district would be clear sense that Corona-Virus is no more .The paranoid Acoli elites and bloggers including social media activists just narrowed their scope in ‘Ryemo Gemo’ and deliberately with clear intent of malice and spreading propaganda to their interest neglected detail explanation on the other practices these alleged clan leaders were spreading which many people followed as evidenced by district to district practice of the rites, indeed when the president was speaking on Tuesday evening both Amuru and Gulu had registred in the list of performing the rites.
This clearly presents that those who buy this school of thought deeper that just the smeared’ RYEMO-GEMO ‘ campaign would not practice the WHO health guild lines of preventing Corona Virus but would concentrate on eating food without salt, throwing leftovers at the well. In case we are to go culturally ,with due respect, Acoli gods like Labeja and Loka of Koch,Baka of patiko, Kalawinya in Pader ,kilak for Pabbo, Langol for padibe,Guru-Guru of Lamogi,Lagoro in Kitgum have jurisdiction likewise implemntatation of mass RYEMO-GEMO because of calamity will require all the chiefdoms heads to agree for a joint incarnation against the epidemic and immediately the exercise of banging doors, ululations, beating jerrycans or making nose begins immediately after where all the chiefs would have met in the wee hour of the morning.
Alternatively if the epidemic has attacked only chiefdom, is only that chiefdom that implements and the neighbors can also participate. But in this case where did all the Acoli chiefs met to decide what happened?
To be precise, Rwot David Onen Acan II is the head of all cultural institutions in Acoli and if a small group of people are suspected to be misleading people or passing contrary message to what all the chiefs have not agreed upon ,is the responsibility of the head to prevail and in my understanding was how President Yoweri Museveni zeroed on sending his Minister direct to the palace to tell the Paramount chief that the most way to prevent CORONA-VIRUS that is not just an epidemic in Acoli but rather a PANDEMIC matter needs scientific approach and if there are other traditional leaders straying ,Rwot should prevail and guide as the administrative head, period. Many still misinterpreted that the president talked as if Rwot Acana was the one who operationalized the RYEMO-GEMO which was never the matter. When Minister of Presidency Mbayo-Esther visited the Acoli palace, the position of the institution as read by Olaa Ambrose the prime-minister was clear and assured the nation that they are following the presidential directives based on WHO guidelines and was the assurance government wanted since the Palace is the official position of the Acoli culral institution and not just a sect going on Radio or bloggers and social media activists garnering followers with alarmist’s approach.
Therefore, the elites who poured their hearts as if RYEMO-GEMO as a cultural practice was attacked should now start telling people , GEMO was chased but they should continue washing their hands with soap, stop sneezing in the public, stop greeting for now, stop touching parts like the nose,eye,mouth , take a lot of juice because eating food without salt,boiling cassava without salt, throwing food leftovers at the well will never stop CORONA-virus and those who can rewind and make an objective statement of the President in ensuring there is one preventive measure of WHO standard against the deadly CORONA-virus should do so, without merely narrowing the debate to RYEMO-GEMO that over the years has not gotten permanent solution against AIDS one of the global epidemic mistaken as witchcrafts in the region then.
Ojok James Onono Is the author of two poetry books, BUT MY HEART 2005, HEAVEN WILL WAIT 2017 and Assistant Public Relation Officer in Gulu University.