Two individuals are claiming rights over the Lango cultural institution in a rivalry threatening to tear the body apart.
Yosam Odur Ebii and Dr Michael Odongo Okune separately claim to be the legitimate elected paramount chief (won nyaci) of Lango. Each has a cabinet headed by a prime minister, Dr Richard Nam and Luciano Opio Omara, respectively.
Whereas Uganda government still recognises Odur as the gazetted paramount chief of Lango, those supporting Odongo are wondering why the central government is delaying the recognition of Odongo, following a ruling by the High Court in Odongo’s favour.
Peter Ocen Akalo, the member of parliament for Kole South, told The Observer the dispute has now turned into a political battle, with neither side interested in peaceful resolution. Akalo says more than 100 clan leaders out of 155 elected Odongo Okune.
“The incumbent doesn’t want to leave. The two camps even signed the Karuma agreement saying that Odur stays on for two years, but the two years passed long ago and he doesn’t want to hand over,” Akalo said.
Akalo is perplexed that there are two constitutions of the Lango cultural institution registered with the government; one says the paramount chief hands over office, while another says the chief dies in power.
“As Lango parliamentary group, we even called the two to a reconciliation meeting at Lira Municipal Hall but none of them appeared. Now everything is in jeopardy!” he added.
The Observer has also learnt that a mediation offer made by Kwot Lango Forum, an association of the Lango diaspora community, in June 2017 also failed to bear fruit.
Odongo was elected on February 10, 2017 and took the leadership oath on May 12, 2017, after which he was sued in the High court at Lira. An injunction was placed against his coronation. On April 12 this year, court dismissed the case with costs to the petitioner. It also upheld Odongo as the elected king of Lango.
Molly Kia, NRM women’s chairperson for Dokolo district, was dismissive of the whole issue. “I am not in any way interested in those paramount chiefs who mean nothing to the people. Me, I am interested in the affairs of my father’s clan and of the clan I am married in.”
Simon Adoo, a magistrate in Lira and a clan leader, told The Observer that what exists now are two separate institutions: Lango Cultural Foundation of Odur and Lango Cultural Institution (aka Te Kwaro Lango) of Odongo.
He said although the Foundation was dissolved in 2012, it was later resuscitated.
“As a lawyer, I was not surprised that court dismissed the case with costs. But where will the Foundation get the Shs 700 million bill of costs to pay to Te Kwaro Lango? As minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, we have been meeting these people. We want them to exit gracefully. We prefer dialogue, but they are insistent against that!”
Adoo accused the Foundation leaders of wasting a lot of money in many court cases they could have honourably avoided by vacating the office of paramount chief. He says when any clan leader disagrees with them, they split up that clan, which is causing a lot of disunity in society.
Adoo said Odongo’s team appreciates the work done by Yosam Odur but his time has passed. They credit him for reviving the cultural institution, but they blame him and his council for failing to implement the resolutions of the Lango Conference of 2012.