Interview: I’ve a 40 year plan to transform Lango culture – Tekwaro Lango Chief

The head of Tekwaro Lango in an interview with TND News Uganda on Monday.

The only problem we have at Tekwaro Lango is lingering hangover of people changes has set aside and are not accepting to go peacefully…… he said.

The head of Tekwaro Lango – Dr Eng. Michael Odongo Okune has laid down his preeminent schema in order to develop and transform Lango’s lost cultural practices.

Won Nyaci Odongo, 53, who was speaking to this contemporary news website on Monday afternoon, says, it’s just a matter of time before his plans give impacts.

Mr Odongo was elected by the council of clan elders [Owitongi] who are loyal to him on 9, February 2017 in what he termed as the new ‘King of Lango’.

On the 12, May same year, the head of Tekwaro Lango was sworn in as Won Nyaci of Lango, replacing His Highness Yosam Odur Ebii.

That election was questioned, and met a lot of protests by Mzee Yosam Odur Ebii who later dragged Tekwaro Lango leadership to Lira High Court, accusing them of dethroning him from office, illegally.

The Lira High Court this year ruled against them, disorganizing the status quo.

TND News Uganda engaged him and below we bring you verbatim.

Who’s Odongo, how old are you?

Eng. MOO: I’m 53 years old. I was born at Lira hospital [then] on Saturday 6th, March 1965. I convened the first ever Lango cultural conference in 2012, an achievement nobody has ever done. I worked with committee of clan leaders, youth, and women, political and religious leaders to have it end successfully.

Is there any impact [s] you’re proud of from that conference?

Eng. MMO: We have a constitution we are proud about – the Tekwaro Lango constitution is the product of that conference and it was upheld by court. We also came out with Lango Development Agenda that Lango at different levels are now implementing it alongside government. Government of NRM gave us Lira University out of that conference.

Government has also finally designed Apac – Masindi road and she is just looking for funds. Culturally, Lango is now critically aware of their cultural leadership and affairs.

From the conference, government gave us [appointed many] to be ministers, ambassadors, name them and the construction of Lango Cultural Palace is soon to start.

Who inspired you to join cultural leadership?

Eng. MMO: My grandmother Elizabeth Arao Odora who died in 2013 at 103 years. She groomed me, mentored me, and taught me into traditional leadership of Lango. She was the daughter to late Rwot Arum in 1930. She taught me tradition, culture, philosophies of the people of Lango; she drilled it all into me.

Another person was Honorable Joseph Okune [my father] and a former Minister of Planning and economic Development – he was extremely an intelligent person. One time he beat the whole East Africa in English in EACE exams.

He also studied from Ntare where he met President Museveni. My father was an accomplished economist and up-to-date, I don’t miss reading a copy of the Economist published in United Kingdom.

They don’t recognize you as the Won Nyaci of Lango. What are your thoughts?

Eng. MMO: The only way is to accept that the change has come. The most powerful weapon in the country is an idea whose time has come. Time has come for leadership change at Lango Cultural Institution and you can’t resist it; it’s important we all embrace it because it was embraced by Lango Conference in 2012.

To resist it, you’re resisting the tide of history – we must all accept that the change has come through a constitutional order, not through anarchy, dominion or coup. That change has been upheld by Court.

Two, we need to accept that leadership is a sacrifice. Our cultural leaders must understand that leadership is not a source of living or earning. At the moment and once we accept that change is a constitutional process and leaders accept it’s a sacrifice not a source of living, the cultural leaders can now settle down and plan for Lango.

What do you have for Lango?

Eng. MMO: We need to protect our language – what we speak now is a borrowed language. Since we can from Abyssinia in Ethiopia, we have inherited everything – from marriage to food we cook and eat.

We need to preserve our language by documenting it. Our children must be able to speak our local dialect right from nursery, primary and through secondary. Now it’s only some mothers teaching children with local language.

Once we are well organized as Lango and as cultural leaders, government can absorb it into their curriculum. This government listens to organized group.

Also, we need to register every clan and its leaders; document their practices, demography. Every clan must be documented and mapped.

Every clan must have a constitution. We must also identify, preserve and document our tourism sites and using such tourist sites as source of income.

When are all these plans starting?

Eng. MMO: When the current tension has cooled, we intend to start the preservation of cultural norms. The current problem affecting Lango should be handled by the cultural leaders.

At Lango conference, we found out that Idii Amin killed many prominent and intellectual Lango sons and no government has come openly to apologize to us and to compensate their families. People like Abdalla Anyuru, Otim Ben, Yokosafati Engur and one Ebek from Amolatar, among others. Government should come clear and compensate them.

Eng. Dr Odongo Okune was elected in February last year.

As new Won Nyaci, what have you told government about compensating those you have mentioned their names above?

Eng. MMO: Lango Conference 2012 came out with four pillars although I cannot remember all of them now. Germany killed the Jews and they are being compensated up to today. Rome was not built in one day. Step by step they will be compensated.

What is the problem now?

Eng. MMO: The only problem we have at Tekwaro Lango is lingering hangover of people changes has set aside and are not accepting to go peacefully. They are fighting change which they will not succeed; they are fabricating lies, using politicians to stay, using rouge element in the Police to beat cultural leaders, using bogus court cases which they lost and some of the leaders are failing in leading their clans. They are natural failures and desperate people using the cultural institution for survival.

What do you have for them should they announce exit?

Eng. MMO: That’s the work for me as new Won Nyaci to give them confidence that they are part of the new leadership. There is a role for each of them in the new dispensation. There is a lot to do in Lango and for Lango and I can’t do it alone – it’s like farming [puru awak]; you start from that point, I from here and we finally meet at the last point.

How do you see Lango in the next five years?

Eng. MMO: Five years? That’s too small and near. I’m seeing Lango growing again in the next forty [40] years because we suffered for long. I’m now 53, so at 80 years when I will be leaving we will be in a better place.

Why do you need forty years? Is that what the Tekwaro Lango Constitution gives you?

Eng. MMO: Like Israel, they stayed in the wilderness for forty years. In 40 years ahead, Lango shall be healthy, our culture preserved. In 40 years, we shall be living longer on earth because we shall have embraced local medicine, farming, and food. We shall have protected our land with environment not abused, used it economically. We shall be respected locally, nationally and internationally as our children shall have attained higher education and become engineers, doctors, etc.

What more are you looking to accomplish in 40 years?

Eng. MMO: Also in 40 years, we shall have developed our cultural institution to a very mature system, prepared succession of leadership, well entrenched constitution respected by everybody and clearly defined.

We shall have opened doors to other people to come and work to develop Lango through trade and investment, among others.

Do you have a final reflection about Lango cultural leaders?

Eng. MMO: I strongly agree and believe that the cultural leadership in Lango has a huge opportunity of reuniting the people of Lango and causing development in the different communities.

Engineer Odongo Okune, Lango Won Nyaci in summary

He’s a Civil Engineer, holding Bachelor’s Degrees in Engineering, three Masters Degrees in Engineering and MBA plus PhD in Engineering, a member of Uganda Institution of Professional Board of Engineers.

Mr Odongo is a registered engineer with UERB, a fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers in United Kingdom, chair of Engineers’ Registration Board of Uganda.

He has been the Executive Director of Uganda Road Funds [URF] for the last 10 years.

He’s a married man with children, including one grandchild.


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