Time in memorial the Luo Gang, later assimilated to Ganda believed that Pandemic outbreak need mass mobilizations as preventive measure before total lock down, that is they mobilize their community through (Ryemo Gemo )
GULU-UGANDA: Richard Jomeo P’ Mao one of the Uganda poem writer says when President Museveni condemned Ryemo Gemo which was carried out in Acholi Sub Region on March 31st prior to President Museveni total lock down, Museveni was misinformed about the beautiful important cultural norm of Acholi demon casting, its not devil, but a way of mass creating awareness that pandemic indeed is dangerous.
“I must says that every tribe has their cultural value, and Ryemo Gemo is coordinal aspect of wisdom beside Bahima wisdom of cattle keeping, when Janet Karta Museveni in his book page five which she wrote about the value Bahima have love for their Cow.” I do belief too that we must be prude, Jomeo urged.
Jomeo adds on that Uganda should not be surprise of Acholi Ryemo Gemo, because Ryemo Gemo phanonomane happens else where to, when President Museveni in 2001 also casted demon of the Forum for Democratic Change FDC and when Robert Kyagulanyi a.k Bobi Wine threaten his helm of power, did Museveni embark in Luwero where the match to state House? Jomeo urged.
“Don’t get misinformed about Acholi Deity, every tribes have their Deity, even the Kabaka Ronald Mwenda Mutebi, the Buganda have their Deity, and like Bahima too, as we have Lagoro Acholi Deity.”
Ker Kwaro Acholi Response to Statement of disinformation about Cultural leaders on COVID-19 Pandemic.
On particular incident created a fundamental misunderstanding that was wrongly relayed to the president. A deity Lagoro conducted a traditional prayer and pronounced that people should perform ritual of cleansing the land (Ryemo Gemo).
This act is performed individually in household where noise is primary tool used in anticipation that this is a noise will throw out all bad omen and warn people of impending dnanger. There is an epicenter and the action snowballs all through the land.
So, everybody got whatever could make noise including shouting to send away evil or bad omen, it is also used as unique communication method to warn people of an impending threat and that people should be prepared.
We remember in Uganda during the HIV/AIDS pandemic how drum became an effective tool to warn the public of the pandemic.
Traditionally IN Acholi the banging of things and shouting is done when there is an impending threat or when disease or pestilence has befallen the society, this is commonly referred as Gemo or Ayweya. In Acholi, Gemo or Ayweya can be characterized in three ways, the physical affliction on people and their life sustenance means these include disease like leprosy, measles, yaws and others.
Its also include pest like Locusts recently or presently attacking East Acholi, the second relates to psychological or mental affliction largely resulting from trauma this in conventional term is what is considered Post Traumatic Stress Disorders when it occurs in large number like today where there is rampant suicide, social deviance.
And GBV, rituals as therapy are performed. The latest aspect of Gemo is spiritual affliction on people mainly resulting from curse, an abominable act that evokes anger of God and our ancestors and the apportion punishment accordingly.
In the CORVID-19 case the consideration that COVID-19 is a physical affliction obtained; often time Ryemo Gemo at any one moment is intended to take care of all these aspects.
Therefore, reference that Acholi consider COVID-19 as an evil spirit is erroneous, Acholi recognize that there are physical afflictions that exist and has to be dealt with, that ryemo gemo involved congregations people is also fallacious instead it relates to focusing people as an individual towards a threat that confronts them, that ryemo gemo is an end in itself and that it solves the problem at hand is also fallacious.
There are several precautionary or management actions that people take before and after ryemo gemo to make it effective, these include;
Quarantine or isolation the patient in house at least 100 meter from all other houses, with no visitor allowed.
Social distancing was strictly advised and observed and termed “Gwoki Iguda” meaning don’t touch me was used to effect the space required between people
A Survivor of the epidemic should feed and care for the patient, if no survivors are available, an elderly woman or man should be the caregiver.
Houses with ill patients should be identified with two long poles of elephant grass, on each side of the door.
Villages and household with ill patients should place two poles with a pole across them to notify those approaching.
Everyone should limit their movements, that is, sta6t within their household and not move between villages. Visiting is prohibited.
No food from outsiders should be eaten
Parent woman and children should be especially careful to avoid patients.
Pregnant women and children should especially careful to avoid patients
Ha=armony should be increased within the household, that is, there sexual relations,that should be no harsh words or conflicts within the family.
Sexual relations are to be avoided.
Washing the body frequently with concoction of a herbs called pobbo which has slippery sapp mixed with aloe vera.
Marry making is not allowed.
Rotten or smoked meat may not be eaten, only eat fresh cattle meet.
Once the patient no longer has symptoms, he or she should remain in isolation for more full lunar cycle before moving freely in the village.
If the person dies, a person who has survived gemo or has taken care of several sick persons and not become ill, should bury the persons; the burial should take place at the edge of the village.
These along with many others formed the basis of action in the fight against epidemics. Together with conventional approaches foe epidemic control these can be every powerful tools to fight epidemics pandemics.
Ryemo Gemo is therefore a mechanism for sounding communal alert towards a grave situation at hand; which called for prayers, discipline, compliance with rule of behavior, and observance of peaceful societal activities.
it is a reminder that interpersonal relationship- physical and emotional- must be well conducted.
In the existing circumstance it calls for strict adherence to rules of conduct laid down by the government; nothing more. In fact, it is what president Museveni and the Minister of Health has been doing all along, using modern medium of communication.
This is partially the reason why discipline and compliance in the Acholi is amazing today in the fight against COVID-19, owing to this age old traditional of understanding and responding to epidemics and this time the COVID-19 pandemic.
But most importantly, it a mode of communication and warning that the people understand best.
It is therefore, not surprising that today in this world driven by competation and domination, cultures and traditions of the seemingly weak become the first causality and the main tool in this, is disinformation and obscurantism.
The danger is that we lose every sense of opportunity for communities to self mobilixer for their own well being and deal with their problems and lends them out as dependent on others for every little means of survival.
Acholi tradition has been victim of ravaging interests and opportunism and yet when flipped over it has been applauded world over for it ability to drive the resilence of community.
Today Mato Oput is soon turning into a English vocabulary for the value it has added in peace building.
Ker Kwaro Acholi bears the contention that since culture is dynamic considering the emergence of contentional practice is important and integrating it to support our people’s wellbeing is what Ker Kwaro Acholi has all along pursued in its programmes.
We need stronger bridges as we fight COVID-19 and eliminate actors who end to break these bridges even at a time of crisis like this, Ker Kwaro Acholi will work promoting the presidential directive as the primary tool and will continue to insist that whatever is done is in compliance with the directive.
It will commit to value to the directive using tradition and culture.
The Prime minister Acholi Ker Kwaro.