By: Sabir Musa
Arua City: Uganda is one of the countries with a wide range of ethnic groups; all these various ethnic groups have their own beliefs, culture, traditions, norms and more to easily identify them.
These include different languages spoken, different ways of dressing, food, even symbols and emblems as a way of identification.
Lugbara in West Nile region is one of these groups, making up to over 50 culturally diverse population potion of the country, Uganda.
For a long time now, the Lugbara have been using a leopard as their cultural symbol, but this has however drawn mixed reactions, as a section of elders oppose it saying that the symbol for Lugbara is a bull.
Despite the number of years this symbol has been used here, a section of elders have disagreed over the use of this symbol, saying that the original animal to represent Lugbara people is a bull.
The use of leopard as a symbol dates back to history, years ago when Lugbara and other tribes in the region were all together under Chief Jalosiga.
But concerns arise at a time when an emblem of Lugbara is proposed to be constructed at Arua main round about in Arua city.
A project to construct leopard at the roundabout by Arua City Council Authorities (then Arua Municipal Council) with support from MTN Uganda is contracted to Joada Consults.
The Prime Minister of Lugbara Cultural Institution (Lugbara Kari), Mr. Ismail Tuku explains that, the decision to use leopard as the symbol was agreed upon by Chiefs in the region some years ago.
The current Chief (Jason Avutia) is the third Lugbara Chief. The first was Jalosiga and when he left, the chiefs of different clans came together and selected amongst the Chiefs Marko Boroa to replace Jalosiga.
The Prime Minister adds that, the nature of leopard explains character of Lugbara people.
The Lugbara believes that the leopard is two way system; it’s either a very peaceful animal, or a very dangerous animal, so that’s what the Lugbara are, don’t take them for granted. When they mean peace the Lugbara are entirely peaceful but when they complain and not satisfied or when provoked is dangerous.
Arua City Mayor, Alhaji Isa Kato says, he received mixed reaction from some elders about the symbol of Lugbara in regard to construction of the emblem at the roundabout.
The Mayor says he was challenged by the elders, opposing that the leopard does not have relation to the people of Lugbara.
Immediately I got challenges, some elders came and said it not this (leopard) but a bull because Lugbara uses the animal to solve problems.
Some people also link the leopard to Alur culture basing on the fact that former Chief of West Nile Jalosiga came from Alur land.
According to the Coordinator of Madi-Lugbara Cultural Foundation, Mr. John Tutu, the leopard has no meaning to the Lugbara culture but rather a bull.
He says, leopard was a symbol of West Nile region introduced by King Jalosiga but not for Lugbara.
We are saying the leopard belongs to Alur and it has no meaning to Lugbara, there is nothing attached culturally or traditionally. We don’t even wear the skin of leopard not even when dancing.
Tutu also confirms that, a bull was later introduced as the symbol of Lugbara by Chiefs Marko Boroa.
Because he was the one who was here first (Jalosiga) and when Boroa came in, he forgot about that symbol (leopard).
Those opposing leopard believe that a bull is very important in the Lugbara culture as it is used to solve problems, as wealth, for cultural practices and also for other celebrations.
The statements of John Tutu were in line with Arua City Commissioner, Mr. Nahori Oyaa who is also the Chairperson for Madi-Lugbara Cultural Foundation.
While speaking to Radio Pacis on the plans to revive Lugbara literature, Nahori expressed disappointment over the symbol.
It is funny, for over 100 years that Lugbara has been using leopard as the emblem in this area which has nothing to do with Lugbara, it has no reference in the culture of Lugbara and there is no place for leopard; all these years no body was able to realize this.
Recently, an envoy from the Alur Kingdom paid courtesy visit to the Mayor of Arua City to deliver congratulatory message from the King, His Royal Majesty Obimu Phillip Olarker Rauni the III.
According to Dr. Amos Nyathirombo, representative from the Alur Kingdom to Lugbara Kari who was part of Royal Envoy of Alur Kingdom, the history has it that Alur and the Lugbara have common origin and the symbol of leopard represents all the tribes. End.