Peasant Autonomy
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Story 130

Northern Uganda – 1970 (2)


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(Photo: Adam Cohn)


“Away with the old villages! We will destroy all stuffy, stinking, unhealthy huts. We will burn down all old villages.” Ocol worked himself up, like he had to address a crowd, and had to stir them up to put an end to all backward African customs.

Exploitation of women and slaves must stop. Also cattle theft, initiation rites, subservience, superstition, and healing rituals where ill children die right before your eyes. Glorifying tribal wars of olden days has to come to an end.

So much poverty is still there. Let villagers do something against it themselves, let them roll up their sleeves instead of blaming 'the politicians' that nothing is happening. Who ever said that in the morning after gaining independence gold as dew-drops would lay on the grass? That the olam trees would rustle of banknotes?

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(Photo: Kaj17)


He himself is a politician, and he has certainly become a bit richer. That is right. He has a nice house now in the city with a big garden and a Mercedes. So what?! Didn't he fight for Uhuru, for independence? Didn't he ask the minister to build schools in the villages?

By the way, he is still a 'farmer'. He has a big farm in the countryside. Every weekend he goes there. It is delightful to be in the fresh country air and to smell the fragrant earth. He isn't ashamed of it. He has wheat, barley and coffee and a huge flock of sheep. It brings in quite a lot of money. At the same time, he shows the people how to practice agriculture in the profitable, modern way.

To be fair, the village world as it used to be has gone. In fact, there are only two alternatives: you move to the city or you hang yourself. It might sound crude but that is how progress is.


In Song of Ocol (1970) of the Ugandan author Okot p'Bitek, an African member of the new elite reacts on the complaints of poor villagers.

Go to:
= part 1: Come back to your own Acoli people - Northern Uganda – 1966 (1), story 125.
= the next page: A lizard on my arm - a bush in Australia – 1971, story 131.
= the Table of contents, story 130.