Love and Romance in Acholi Land

John Otim
John Otim, a nature enthusiast, composer, poet, writer and journalist. Studied literature at Makerere University, went to graduate school at Indiana University and taught at Ahmadu Bello University in Northern Nigeria. Favorite line – I pick no flower that wins the bee





Location? A remote corner of a crowded market place, a lonely village road, or perhaps a deserted school yard on a Sunday afternoon; youth must and will always find a way. Now that they have and are there, they size each other up, they let their eyes speak for them. Like Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in the thriller in Manila they circle each other round and round. That’s Acholi love.  The way it used to be. Before Kony and the Uganda People’s Defense Force, the UPDF, entered Acholi land and turned the world upside down.

Acholi Dancers


Now against the background distant drums and song play of birds the youth pull and push; they pull and push. The moment comes and it is time for a showdown.  They draw close, nose to nose, and eyeball to eyeball, they wrestle each other. It may happen that one or the other may miss a step and may fall or stagger. But he or she will rise again and the game will go on, till at last there is a winner. It may be that the boy will win; he usually does. It may be that the girl will win; she sometimes does. This is normal.

Acholi love is vigorous and prolonged. There is no quickie. It is not for the faint of heart. Not for the Acholi are the tender lyrics of Dona Summer’s sweet surrender or the melancholy of Kenny Roger’s We got tonight who needs tomorrow!