The ashes of cremated Ugandan music legend Geoffrey Oryema will be brought into the country and spread over Acholi land under French police protection.
Oryema passed away on June 22, 2018 in France after losing a long battle to cancer. He left behind a will that ordered that his body be cremated once dead and his ashes be spread in his homeland in Acholi.
However cultural leaders from Acholi chiefdom warned against cremating his body, saying such an act is an "abomination with serious consequences under the Acholi culture."
This prompted Oryema's family to petition the High court in France seeking to block the cremation of the remains of the music icon. Oryema's will prevailed over an advisory letter the chiefdom wrote to the family on June 26 during a High court hearing in the capital of France, Paris last Friday. He was cremated last Saturday on June 30.
After losing the matter in court, the widow Regine has turned attention to interring the ashes in Oryema's home in Paris. A source within the family says the ex-wife again petitioned court seeking police protection to deliver the ashes to Anaka (northern Uganda) and Soroti in eastern Uganda in accordance with Oryema's will demands.
"She [Regine] told court that she will use the French police to repatriate the ashes to Uganda as the will of her late husband demanded should the family resist the move to return the ashes and scatter it in Anaka and Oryema's birthplace in Soroti," the source stated.
Jude Ogik, the family's attorney says court has granted the wishes of Oryema's spouse and those who testified in favour of his will wishes. Gertrude Auma Oryema, Oryema's elder sister says the family in Uganda is yet to get the full details of developments in France.
She says they will only communicate more accurately after getting the details. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the presiding judge based his ruling on testimony filed by Acoyo Oryema, Oryema's daughter that it was the wish of her father to be cremated. It is still unclear when Oryema's ashes will be repatriated to Uganda.
It follows the warning by the Acholi chiefdom to the family against cremating the remains of the music icon and attempting to repatriate the ashes to Acholiland.
The council of chiefs chaired by Rwot David Onen Achana II, the Acholi paramount chief are afraid that the cremation and repatriation of the ashes will bring about 'bad omen' in Acholi land including unprecedented massive crop failures, lightning strikes, hailstorms or outbreak of strange diseases capable of wiping out a massive number of people.
Francis Ongaya Acellam, the personal adviser of Achana on cultural matters, says it was regrettable that the late Oryema left an unprecedented will in the Acholi culture.
"In Acholi there is one rule relating to precedence. A person should not make any will that will cause effects to the people who will survive him. It [will] is always talking for the good of everybody so that life after he has departed remains normal and good without creating any problems. The will should be beneficial to the people the dead will leave behind," said Ongaya.
Ongaya says cremation is considered an abomination under the culture of the Acholi people because ancestors never practiced it. Oryema was cremated on Saturday last week after a well-attended funeral service in Saint Pierre De Ploemeur Church 56 in Morbihan, France.
During the service, an unidentified priest hovered a short wooden cross taken from East Africa several times over the casket bearing the body of the deceased.
According to Mzee Ongaya, the ashes can only be welcomed in Acholi land if a cleansing ritual is performed to rid the land of bad omen, which could result from the deed. He stated that the ritual involves sacrificing an animal.
Getrude Auma Oryema, the head of the greater Wilson Erinayo Oryema family in Uganda says they are yet to receive the full details of events in France. It is unclear if the family will receive the ashes.
Oryema is survived by his wife Regine and children Chantal, Ajoline and Oceng.
The remains of the music legend were placed in a golden casket which was placed eastward in front of the altar while the legend's personal guitar sat westward.
The feet of the casket pointed towards the altar with a large portrait of the fallen music icon held by a colleague facing the congregation. The service was celebrated in a mixture of French and English by a French priest. Several pieces of music performed by the legend were played during the service.
Several former colleagues who performed with Oryema stood shoulder to shoulder during the service to perform one of his favourite songs - Makambo.
"I had the privilege to perform with Oryema on stage and what he loved the most was to see people join him in songs and dance along. So I invite you to join us as we sing in his memory today" a lead singer whose name was not readily available said during the service.
Oryema's memoir was projected on a wide screen for the church congregation who later paid glowing tribute to the Ugandan music icon one after the other.
Some mourners wept as they touched the casket while others placed flowers onto the casket. His family members were the last to pay respect to the musicians before his casket was led into the crematory.
Oryema was a son to the late Erinayo Wilson Oryema, Uganda's first African inspector general of police (IGP) who also served the country as minister of Lands, Housing and Physical Planning.
His father was brutally murdered under unclear circumstances, allegedly on President Idi Amin's orders. Since leaving Uganda at the age of 24, Oryema returned home in December 2016 for the first time in 40 years. His last tour and concerts were in Kampala and Ouagadougou Jazz Festival in April 2017.