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Gulu Residents Bang Containers to Drive Away Coronavirus

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At exactly 5:00 a.m thousands of the residents old and young, male and female drawn from the four divisions of Bardege, Laroo, Pece and Layibi banged jerry cans, containers, drums and clubs and blew whistles purportedly to drive away disease which they described as a curse.
Rwot Yusuf Adek and Amb David Mwaka address the crow at Cereleno market

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Gulu district woke up to noise and shouts this morning as residents banged containers and cursed the corona virus disease pandemic alias COVID-19.    

At exactly 5:00am this morning thousands of residents including both the old and young in the four divisions of Bardege, Laroo, Pece and Layibi in Gulu Municipality banged jerrycans, containers, drums and blew whistles purportedly to drive away disease, which they described as a curse.  

For about forty minutes, residents moved from their different locations as they headed towards nearby wells and springs. Some of the residents told URN that they were chasing the corona virus disease, which is considered a bad omen by the gods of Acholi land.   

‘’Wang ceng otee ci otee, gemo ceti, two corona ceti, two corona a ki ilobo Acholi wan pe wa miti.’’ They chanted.  English Translation: ‘’let the sunset take it away, this bad omen go away, corona virus disease go, corona virus disease leave Acholi land. We don`t want you.’’   

 

Allan Tookwiny, a male adult in Tegwana parish told URN from ‘’Wang Odoch’’ spring that he is chasing the coronavirus from their homes, arguing that in Acholi such disasters are ordered out by banging containers and making noise. Tookwiny said that he learnt of the cultural practice from traditional leaders who appeared over a local radio station in Gulu last week.   

A female elder from Layibi division who only identified herself as Apiyo, said she was chasing away ‘’Gemo’’ loosely translated as bad omen.  She explained that culturally ‘’gemo includes health ailments, bareness, strange deaths, curses, disunity, and defeat in wars.  

Apiyo believes that the practice of banging containers and cursing ‘’Gemo’’ pushes it away from one’s vicinity.  Several other people who participated in the practice told URN that this is a practice that Acholi ancestors practiced for decades.   

Paska Anyoda from Bardege division didn’t participate in banging containers and shouting to chase the virus. She said that she is instead praying and adhering to the guidelines issued by government to contain the spread of the virus. 

The Tegwana Parish Chairperson, Geoffrey Onekalit told URN this morning that he is saddened by such primitive acts, which expose the lives of residents at risk of spreading the virus.   Evangelist Erick Peter Odoch, a Deacon at Gulu Baptist Church urged the public to continue praying and follow the required guidelines to combat corona virus.  

The Pageya Sub Clan Chief, Rwot Yusuf Okwonga Adek told URN that he is disappointed by traditional leaders who are misleading the public in the fight against the deadly virus. Adek explained that corona virus is not a bad omen or wrath of the gods but instead an imported disease that needs scientific intervention. He asked residents to follow the required guidelines issued by government. 

Last week, Ker Kwaro, the Acholi Cultural Institution issued a statement suspending its activities due to the coronavirus pandemic and asked the public to adhere to the guidelines issued by government to combat the disease.  Uganda has 33 confirmed corona virus cases. 

The disease was first reported in Wuhan City of China but it has spread worldwide and has since been declared a pandemic by World Health Organization (WHO).    

Ryemo Gemo/Driving Away Bad Omen Explained     

Rwot Yusuf Adek exclusively told URN that in Acholi culture ryemo gemo is conducted to seek answers to the unknown or persistent bad happenings.  

It is done at dawn when people have been informed not to eat, to quarrel, not to fight or even have sex and even court a woman for over two weeks. It is done once at the beginning of each year.    

This is a prayer to the gods to give good crop yield, birth, happiness, victory over enemies, and good health. It also involve cleansing of hills and mountains.