The current era of Acholi’s King David – the community’s paramount chief Rwot Onen Acana – will be remembered for having curbed the exploitative demands for money by parents from suitors who want to marry their girls.
The Acholi cultural institution, Ker Kwaro Acholi, has revised requirements and prices in traditional marriages which have been skyrocketing in recent years, a phenomenon blamed on influence of other tribes and cultures.
Uganda has over fifty main ethnic communities, Acholi being one of the most prominent. Chances of a young man from any tribe falling in love with an Acholi girl met in any of the country’s urban areas are high.
In the revised requirements, a man seeking to marry an Acholi girl shall only be required to pay the parents 5 million shillings as dowry. The figure has been drastically cut from the 15 million that had become common and there was no upper limit to what the parents could charge.
The suitor shall also be only required to give 6 heads of cattle, 6 goats, 1 spear, a chicken, and 1 goat; plus materials for the suit and gomesi for father and mother-in-law respectively accompanied with 100,000 shillings each for tailoring.
Others requirements are washing and bathing soap, paraffin and a lamp, a saucepan and father-in-law`s chair among others. One is also given up to two years to complete the submission of the requirements before the marriage ceremony is done.
Some items have been scrapped are the “Obal Kwan” which is paid when the girl was engaged or eloped while still at school. The Acholi elders have abolished this payment for what modern society considers a crime, as it endangers the education of the girl child victims.
The new rates that take immediate effect have been endorsed by the Chief Justice of Uganda, Alphonse Owiny Dollo, in his private capacity as an Acholi citizen, who attended the climax of the cultural deliberations In Gulu over the weekend.
Owiny-Dollo describes the current trend in marriage as modernized human trafficking, saying that marriage which used to be an appreciation and a unifying factor for two families and clans has turned out to be a money-making venture which he says is degrading the cultural values of Acholi.
Payments received from cultural marriage functions are exempted from legal requirements related to income tax and the leadership code act. So parents who are senior public officials or elected leaders do not have to declare whatever millions they may be given by their prospective in-laws to the IGG.
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