and Political Background
SOCIAL AND CULTURAL SYSTEMS
Arua District is comprised of four main ethnic groups namely;
Lugbara the largest and dominant tribe is approximately 80%, the
Madi 8%, the Kakwa 10% and the Lendu 0.01%. The Lugbara, Madi and
the Lendu are of the Sudanic origin, while the Kakwa are Nilo-Hamitic.
Though there are different tribes, they have and share almost similar
social structures and culture systems.
The families are made up of family clusters as the basic unit.
Extended families are very common. The home steads and Kinships
composed of the husband, wife, father, sisters, children, grand
parents, uncles, cousins, grand children and great grand children
that constitutes three or four generations living together in a
few huts either on the same compound or spread out within the clan
area. All relations are found or confined with the immediate neighborhood.
An old woman taking a meal.
Background is the hut.
Lugbara people do not have a king, nor do they recognize traditional
chiefs. Their social organization is based upon a segmentary patrilineal
system whose minimal lineage is led by one or more elders referred
to as (‘ba wara). The lineage are grouped and based upon clans
headed by (“chief elder”) known as “Opi” who used to be the supreme
political leader responsible for the clan. The role of the Opi
has been minimized and the word Opi today usually refers to an
administrative chief (Middleton, 1960; Barnes-Dean,
Patriarchal lineage and marriage
Old woman supported
by walking stick
A lineage usually incorporates people from three to five generations
living together in huts, either in a compound, or spread out within
a clan area. Family clusters form the basic family unit. Household
size range from 2 to 25 persons.
Men are expected to respect their
senior kin, both living and dead. As in most patrilineal systems,
the memory of an ancestor's name fads only after a number of
generations. Men are figures of authority within families and are
seen as the custodians of culture values. Men owe their allegiance
to elders who are the source of ancestral power and strength.
Boy children are also important because they are responsible for
continuing the family and the clan.
Marriage is embedded in minimal lineage and is considered both
necessary and inevitable. Successful marriages should be blessed
with children. A marriage is fulfilled when a woman becomes pregnant
and completed when she has a son. Society has maintained two main
forms of marriage practice: the traditional and the modern form.
In traditional Lugbara society, daughters are considered to be
a source of wealth within
families. Parents are responsible for
identifying suitable marriage partners for their children. Settlement
of marriage is marked by transfer of bride price (dowry) from
the minimal lineage of the bridegroom to the minimal lineage of
the bride. Difficulties may arise if a prohibitive dowry is sought.
Dowry settlements are reached through negotiations between the
parties concerned. A community of interest is established between
the paternal relatives. Such relationships are less established
or often virtually absent between maternal relatives.
Old aged woman. Background is the papyrus mat for bedding
Remarriage after divorce or widowhood is common. Widows are frequently “inherited” by
brothers-in-law. This practice originated from a philosophy of
protectionism (i.e. the brother of the husband was responsible
for the widow), in some cases it has degenerated into an exploitative
relationship (the brother of he husband has the right of possession
of all his brother's property, including his wife.
Another common traditional in Lugbara marriage is polygamy, which
allows a man to have as many wives as he can support. This assumes
implicitly that all women must be under the protection of men.
Since the 1960s, the proportion of polygamous marriages has decreased
considerably. Approximately 10% of all marriages are polygamous.
In some areas, however, the figure is as high as 25%.
In rural areas, inter-family relations and interactions are determined
by age and sex. The socialization of children is controlled by
the economics of rural life. Boys and girls are assigned different
roles and they may be segregated. In patrilineal societies, male
children are given privileges and prestige because they are responsible
for the continuation of the family name. Female children assist
in domestic chores and in taking care of siblings.
In this setting, men are figures of authority and are responsible
for the family's possessions. Men tend to dominate the household
and its individual members:
Dominance is equated with power. As household production methods
do not allow for the economic independence of its members, absolute
respect for an authority figure, and the acceptance of eventual
oppression becomes inevitable. In such a context, the one who is
powerful, (i.e. he who owns the land), is the “manager” and makes
the decisions. Women are oppressed by their husbands (they are
controlled both directly and indirectly) as well as their social
environment; they are expected to obey their husbands, to be quiet,
and to accept their fate.
A woman's progression through life is marked by a series of transitions
in status in terms of her relationship to the head of the family/household.
She begins life with the status of a daughter and progresses to
daughter-in-law, wife, mother and ground mother. Different authority
relations with other women in the household characterize each of
the periods in her life. In general, older women dominate younger
women: mother in laws dominate daughter-in-law; elder brothers'
wines dominate younger brothers' wives and so on. Age stratification
amongst women with patriarchal interests (both share domination
and exploitation of younger women) and gives younger women something
tom aspire to with advancing age. The process of sex-role socialization
during childhood, where young girls spend most of their time learning
the work roles, skills, and tasks t! hat constitute the women's
hare of the division of labour, engenders unambiguous and powerful
norms regarding responsibilities of males and females. The social
features of a woman's life have particular significance for the
social control of women and the perpetuation of patriarchy in Lugbara
Respect for women as producers of children and as such responsible
for the continuity of the lineage and clan is expressed by naming
clans abs sub clans after the eldest mother.
Modernity, Christianity and Islam have tended to disrupt the continuation
of traditional marriage practices, especially in the urban environment
and among the educated classes. Today, the identification and choice
of a marriage partner is increasingly a matter for the young to
decide for themselves.
Modern marriages still retain certain aspects of traditional marriage.
For instance, the fulfilment/settlement of a dowry. However, the
concept of “dowry” has been transformed, in many cases, into a
culture of ownership: a man ‘buys' his wife and consequently ‘owns'
her, her property, her children and benefits of her work.
The educated and urbanized population often has their marriages
blessed by the clergy in churches or mosques. Civil marriages may
be presided over by an authorized government representative.
Some cultural practice (African Traditional Religion) such as
belief in the power of drought and rainmaking, as well as worship
of their ancestors still persists. However, the influence of Christianity
and Islam has affected and eroded many such customs and practices.
There are three modern religious practiced by the people of Arua
District. These are:
Roman Catholic church 54.3%
Protestant ( Anglican) 22.3%
The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Uganda have been partly
responsible for the modernization of the society. They have been
active in education, health care, supporting women's and community
groups, and in preaching and religious education. When the Churches
first confronted the Lugbara culture, they condemned traditional
religions, dances, funeral rites and beer drinking. The churches'
attitude contributed to the decline of those traditions. However,
the fact that there are more Catholics than Protestants in the
region if often attributed to the Church of Uganda's more radical
disapproval of local traditions.
Education was based on the Western models and did not regard traditional
values and know ledges as consequential.
In the years between the two world wars, the colonial army was
home to a large contingent of Muslim soldiers. After the soldiers
were retrenched, they settled in the West Nile region principal
in Aringa County. They married local women and thus helped spread
Islamic religion. Islam was, therefore, disseminated in a completely
different manner to Christianity, which had been preached by foreign
(often colonial) missionaries.
Muslim soldiers were often rewarded with posts as (sub) county
chiefs, and their higher status is also thought to have contributed
to the spread of Islam. Islamic education and health services have
only developed recently.
The Muslim community in Arua is composed of two groups: the indigenous “Aringa” Muslims
and the “Nubians” settlers. The majority “Aringa” group is mainly
found in the rural areas of Aringa County and, to a lesser extent,
in Koboko and Madi. The Nubians came in later and settled in the
main trading centers, primarily around Arua and Koboko. Although
they form a numeric minority, they have great influence not only
in trade and commerce, but also in public and political administration.
The power struggle between the Suni and the Shi'ite factions of
Islam, which prevails in Muslim life in southern Uganda, is not
significant in Arua.
However, under the influence of foreign teachers, the issue of
Islamic fundamentalism may become more prevalent in some sectors
of the ‘Aringa' group.
Today, Islamic religious education is taking place in a large
number of Madarasatis (Garaa) where generally, no secular
or English education is provided. The number of Muslim schools
registered with the Ministry of Education and Sports is increasing.
It is widely agreed that the main constraint on the development
of education in the Muslim community in Arua is lack of indigenous
teachers, both religious and secular.
Christianity and Muslim co-exist peacefully in the District, although
mutual exchanges and contacts are minimal.
The number of adherents to traditional religions is not reflected
in the official census, however traditional practices persist.
People seem to be able to reconcile “modern” religions with traditional
rites. Appeals to customary religion and rituals tend to be made
during periods of crisis.
The first foreigners in Northern Uganda were Egyptian and Sudanese
traders and slave-hunters who came in the 17 th century. They introduced
Islam and established important trade routes up to Khartoum. However,
it seems that their influence was limited to the Eastern side of
the Nile. While the kakwa were affected by the slave hunters proceeding
from what is now Central Africa Republic.
Early European contact in West Nile came with the Austrian Emin
Pasha (1885-1889), former governor of Equatoria Province under
the Anglo-Egyptian Sudanese Government. He came in with an army
of some 9,000 Sudanese Muslims and settled in Wadelai. His soldiers
were to play an important role not only in the colonial army, but
even more so in spreading Islam in Arua.
After the colonization of Africa by the European powers the area,
which is now West-Nile, became a source of dispute, largely because
of the strategic importance of the river Nile.
Until the partition of nations, the area West of the Nile was
part of the Lado Enclave, which was leased in 1894 by the British
to the Independent State of Congo. In 1900 the Belgians began to
administer the region, opening several garrison posts (Yumbe, Wandi,
Ofude). The Belgian administration introduced agents or “chiefs” (meaning “King
of the village”) who had wider powers than the powers, which had
previously existed in the indigenous society. These chiefs were
paid in cattle, which made them rich beyond local conception and
provided them with the resources to maintain many wives. Thus orientated
much of the status, which is still attributed to cattle and polygamy.
Chiefs were directly responsible for collecting levies; some greatly
abused their traditional powers. In 1907, after the death of King
Leopold II of Belgium, the Lado Enclave b! ecame an area of dispute
among the different colonial powers. During this time, no control
or governance took place and elephant poaching occurred on a huge
scale, with ivory being taken by different nations.
In 1914, the Southern portion of the Lado Enclave was assigned
to Uganda under the British Protectorate. A.E. Weatherhead took
over the administration of the ‘New area' as District Commissioner,
building a station in Arua, the present headquarters. He waged
continual war against the Lugbara groups in an attempt to impose
British Colonial rule. He referred to Lugbara as “wild and unattractable”,
and as “shy and unorganized”, requiring “severe measures before
submitting to administration”. Following the British policy indirect
rule, he used the chiefs appointed by the Belgians for the administration
and control. In 1919, the chief participated in the Odupi uprising,
which was the last indigenous resistance against colonization.
Weatherhead then chose to install so called “native agents” who
were mostly Sudanese remnants of Emend Pashas's troops ! who had
settled throughout Uganda. They liaised between the District Commissioner,
the chiefs and the local population, and they were not withdrawn
until the mid-1920s when the administration was handed over to
the local chiefs (“native administration system”). At the higher
(district) levels, local leaders did not have sufficiently high
educational backgrounds, so the indirect rule system was modified
in 1925 to make way for the system of local government whereby
administrators from other parts of the country were appointed.
In 1925, ten counties were created in the West Nile District,
with a regional headquarters in Masindi. Since the gradually, with
administrative reforms, Moyo, Nebbi and Yumbe have each attained
District status (Moyo in 1961, Nebbi in 1974 and Yumbe 2000).
The African Mission (Protestant) from the Congo and the Verona
Fathers (Catholic) from Sudan entered West Nile in 1917-1918. They
provided only western education in the area until Independence.
Their schools generally excluded non-Christian children. Muslim
children were thus unable to obtain the necessary skills for advancement
within the colonial system. Consequently, they developed commerce
in the region as a means of achieving material advancement. Today,
Muslims still dominate the commercial sector.
As the colonial administration consolidated its base, modernization
unfolded with the introduction of the money economy, and with it
taxes, cash crops, and labour migration to plantations in Buganda
and Busoga. All of this contributed to the erosion of the traditional
Lugbara culture and its replacement by a western-oriented pattern
of beliefs and values. It is important to point out that at time,
the colonial rule in Uganda also systematically favoured the south
over the north. This due to the fact that the British considered
that the hierarchical social structure of the Baganda Kingdom,
which was similar to the British system, to be superior and was
hence easier to work with. The level of favouritism laid the ground
for the disparities in economic and educational development that
still exist between the south and the north of the country to !
date. This history has contributed to the tensions, which have
been responsible for much of the civil strife in Uganda's recent
Arua District is the home area of former president Idi
Amin Dada (in power from 1971-1979), but the district
did not benefit from any sustained structural improvement. On
the contrary, during the so called liberation war (1979), both
fleeing troops and their pursuers i.e. the combined forces of
the Tanzania Peoples' Defense Force (TPDF) and the Ugandan National
Liberation Front (UNLF) dislodged a major section of the population
(at least 300,000 persons) and looted virtually all infrastructure.
Most of the people who were displaced, settled in refugee camps,
others just fled across the borders into Zaire (now Republic of
Congo) and Sudan and stayed with relatives (Lugbara and Kakwa live
on both sides of the border). People slowly started coming back
as security improved a process, which continued up to the end of
the eighties. Unquestionably, it was a dreadful experience to have
to flee into exile, to fully depend on others (tribe-fellows or
relief agencies), and to come back to find all possessions destroyed
and fields abandoned. This happened to virtually all the inhabitants
of Arua. After the repatriation, reconstruction of homesteads,
fields and infrastructure was tackled with great dedication and
effort. Although some relief/development agencies such as UNHCR,
SCF, CARE and LWF contributed to the resettlement, a large part
of th! e costs of reconstruction relied on the contributions and
work of the local population.
By 1994, although all homesteads had been reconstructed and agricultural
and other economic activities had been taken up again, the wounds
of the war are still to be seen, especially in the social infrastructure,
which has not recovered.
After the NRM government pacified the area, it deployed efforts
to restore and extend buildings and infrastructure destroyed during
the years of civil strife, and thus narrow the gap in development
between the northern and southern parts of the country. These efforts
culminated in the design and present implementation of the Northern
Uganda Reconstruction Programme (NURP).
LIST OF COUNTIES, SUB-COUNTIES AND PARISHES OF ARUA DISTRICT
Ayivu : County
4 : Sub-counties
32 : Parishes
Vurra : County
4 : Sub-counties
15 : Parishes
Terego : County
6 : Sub-counties
24 : Parishes
Town. B. Koboko
Madi Okollo: County
Arua Municipal Council: County