At exactly 5:00 a.m thousands of the residents old and young, male and female drawn from the four divisions of Bardege, Laroo, Pece and Layibi banged jerry cans, containers, drums and clubs and blew whistles purportedly to drive away disease which they described as a curse.
Gulu district woke up to noise and shouts this
morning as residents banged containers and cursed the corona virus disease
pandemic alias COVID-19.
At exactly 5:00am this morning thousands of residents
including both the old and young in the four divisions of Bardege, Laroo, Pece
and Layibi in Gulu Municipality banged jerrycans, containers, drums and blew whistles purportedly
to drive away disease, which they described as a curse.
about forty minutes, residents moved from their different locations as they headed
towards nearby wells and springs. Some of the
residents told URN that they were chasing the corona virus disease, which is
considered a bad omen by the gods of Acholi land.
‘’Wang ceng otee ci otee, gemo ceti, two corona ceti, two
corona a ki ilobo Acholi wan pe wa miti.’’ They chanted. English
Translation: ‘’let the sunset take it away, this bad omen go away, corona virus disease go, corona virus disease leave Acholi land. We don`t want you.’’
Allan Tookwiny, a male adult in Tegwana parish told URN from
‘’Wang Odoch’’ spring that he is chasing the coronavirus from their homes,
arguing that in Acholi such disasters are ordered out by banging containers and
making noise. Tookwiny said that he learnt of the cultural practice
from traditional leaders who appeared over a local radio station in Gulu last
A female elder from Layibi division who only identified
herself as Apiyo, said she was chasing away ‘’Gemo’’ loosely translated as bad
omen. She explained that culturally ‘’gemo includes health
ailments, bareness, strange deaths, curses, disunity, and defeat in wars.
Apiyo believes that the practice of banging containers and
cursing ‘’Gemo’’ pushes it away from one’s vicinity. Several other people
who participated in the practice told URN that this is a practice that Acholi
ancestors practiced for decades.
Paska Anyoda from Bardege division didn’t participate in
banging containers and shouting to chase the virus. She said that she is
instead praying and adhering to the guidelines issued by government to contain
the spread of the virus.
The Tegwana Parish Chairperson, Geoffrey Onekalit told URN
this morning that he is saddened by such primitive acts, which expose the lives
of residents at risk of spreading the virus. Evangelist Erick Peter Odoch, a Deacon at Gulu Baptist Church
urged the public to continue praying and follow the required guidelines to
combat corona virus.
The Pageya Sub Clan Chief, Rwot Yusuf Okwonga
Adek told URN that he is disappointed by traditional leaders who are misleading
the public in the fight against the deadly virus. Adek explained that corona virus is not a bad omen or wrath of
the gods but instead an imported disease that needs scientific intervention. He
asked residents to follow the required guidelines issued by government.
Last week, Ker Kwaro, the Acholi Cultural Institution issued
a statement suspending its activities due to the coronavirus pandemic and asked
the public to adhere to the guidelines issued by government to combat the
disease. Uganda has 33 confirmed corona
The disease was first reported in Wuhan City of China but it
has spread worldwide and has since been declared a pandemic by World Health
Gemo/Driving Away Bad Omen Explained
Rwot Yusuf Adek exclusively told URN that in Acholi culture
ryemo gemo is conducted to seek answers to the unknown or persistent bad
It is done at dawn when people have been informed not
to eat, to quarrel, not to fight or even have sex and even court a woman for
over two weeks. It is done once at the beginning of each year.
This is a prayer to the gods to give good crop yield, birth,
happiness, victory over enemies, and good health. It also involve cleansing of
hills and mountains.