Dec 2012 03

Overcoming the past through cleansing

Posted in Featured, News

By Francis Opio and Christopher Maclay

Muduu North-West village is located less than 6 miles from the Uganda-South Sudan border in Lamwo District. The village has a violent history from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) war in northern Uganda.

Due to its geographic location, LRA rebel attacks were common, and much blood was spilt on these lands. This war-torn history continues to haunt locals to this day, with claims of haunting, illness, and unusable land blamed on spirits from those events. The Grassroots Reconciliation Group recently supported two groups – Orem Can (meaning ‘Chase Poverty’) and Wadi Cwinywa (meaning ‘Be Strong’) – who decided to respond to this problem.

Group Development Planning with Orem Can, when the group developed the plan to cleanse the land

According to traditional Acholi beliefs, GRG’s group members explained, evil spirits have traversed this area since the atrocities of the war. Members claim that members have been haunted by these spirits, which have also brought illness to children and caused abnormal weather including drought and hailstorms. In accordance with Acholi tradition, much of this land cannot be cultivated because the spirits have not been cleansed. During group development planning – a process which GRG facilitated to help groups to analyze their problems and develop their own solutions – two groups decided that a traditional cleansing ceremony, commonly known as “moyo cere”, was needed for this land.

Group members consulted with the wider community, including the traditional leaders, to decide what was required and how to conduct the ceremony. GRG agreed to provide some of the inputs for the ceremony, including a sheep, while the community provided the rest. As the rwot (traditional cultural leader) of Paracele explained, “From the start of the return process to our ancestral land we have been lamenting on this issue for quite some time… I am happy that GRG has come to our rescue… GRG would have helped chase the evil killing us in this village.”


GRG group members consult with the community

GRG joined the community members as the ceremony took place. Due to the remoteness of the location and the lack of roads, as well as a bridge washed away by rain, we had to walk for roughly 10km to get to the site. Landmines and unexploded ordinance still litter the area.

Community members on the long walk to the site

When community members arrived at the site, the ceremony began. Elders used traditional languages for the ceremony, one part of which is translated here: “you the hill of paracele, there you are, today we have brought the sheep for you because we surely know that a sheep washes all the impunity from the body of human beings. And if you are the one bringing problems to us, then today we are bringing you blood; now we do the cleansing. The eye of the morning sun should take away all the bad things. It has taken them take them far.”

The local traditional cultural leader cleanses land using the blood of a sheep

After the ceremony had been concluded, and the sacrificed sheep was eaten, the elders had one last task to do: all of them went back home to alert the other community members not to pick up any quarrels as it would annoy the gods (evil spirits). Since the event, the community has felt freer to move in that area. One member even explained that the ceremony has caused more rains to fall, after a long period of dryness.

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