By Emar Okanokodi
In February the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) began broadcasts of peace messages from the Acholi cultural leader, Rwot Onen David Acana II.
The broadcasts are part of NUMEC’s ‘‘Communicating peace building and reconciliation’’ project which aims at providing communities in northern Uganda with accurate, timely and conflict sensitive information that promotes and fosters peace building.
The broadcasts comprises the feature format fortnightly ‘‘Voices for Peace’’ and a string of radio spot messages carrying various messages on peace building.
The programmes are broadcast on a network of radio stations reaching audiences in northern Uganda. The radios include: Mega FM, Radio Rupiny, Radio Speak, Gulu FM, King FM and ABS Radio.
The Communicating peace building and reconciliation project is funded by USAID SAFE (Supporting Access to justice, Fostering Equity and Peace).
Among the messages currently broadcasting includes those in which Rwot Ahana II calls on the communities in northern Uganda to use land to rebuild their lives after the end of conflict in northern Uganda. The region witnessed a two-decade long war which devastated lives and infrastructure.
“Acholi land has soaked so much blood that is why we should use it in ways which helps us instead of shedding blood,’’ Rwot Acana says in one of the peace messages adding that people should not resort to violence in resolving conflicts over land.
Acana also warns on the sale of land saying: “We should also be mindful of the future generation like our forefathers did, they did not sell the land, and they didn’t fight over it but used the land to preserve life.”
According to mediators at Ker Kwaro Acholi, the Acholi cultural institution– land related conflicts accounts for about 80% of the cases brought before it for mediation. Most of the conflicts, the mediators say, are on conflicts over land boundaries and inheritance rights.
In his peace messages Rwot Acana also weighs in on the human- animal conflict in communities around the Murchison Falls National Park in Nwoya district.
‘‘I know the relationship between the people who live around the park and the park workers are not that good. I am also aware that there is no law which states that if animals destroy people’s properties the people should be compensated. I think this is an area on which we should engage because this directly affects us. Animals do not only destroy properties but at times kills people creating many problems in communities. We have the national parliament, the district council and Sub County were laws are passed. We know that laws are put in place for the people and it is the people who can change laws. I urge that only laws which protect and bring harmony between animals and humans be instituted.’’
The Acholi Paramount chief also offer pieces of advice to Acholi singers who recently had in-fights resulting into release of provocative and insensitive songs targeting each other.
‘‘As musicians you are like teachers. You are role models to many not just in Acholi but the world over so if you are such a person you should be mindful of the songs you sing, it should be songs which encourages but not that which divides people.’’
The Acholi cultural leader also warns on the dangers of climate change resulting from destructive human activity like rampant and indiscriminate cutting of trees.
“This things [erratic rainfall pattern] happens because the environment is changing. There has been lots of tree cutting which you have all witnessed in the name of doing business. Please stop cutting the trees in the name of making money we should preserve our environment and save our climate.” he said.
Overall the peace messages from the Acholi cultural leader calls for tolerance for each other, coexistence and for communities to use peaceful means to resolve disputes.