Acholi people

From Academic Kids

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Acholiland, Uganda
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Children in an IDP camp in Kitgum

The Acholi are an ethnolinguistic group of the upper Nile valley dwelling on the east bank of the White Nile, about a hundred miles north of Lake Albert. The Acholi in Uganda live predominantly in the districts of Gulu, Kitgum, and Pader, a region known as Acholiland. Their language is called Acholi and is closely related to other Western Nilotic languages like Lango, Alur and Luo. By early explorers the Acholi were called Shuli, a name now obsolete.

They frequently decorated the temples or cheeks with wavy or zigzag scars, and also the thighs with scrolls; some pierced the ears. Their traditional dwelling-places are circular huts with a high peak, furnished with a mud sleeping-platform, jars of grain and a sunk fireplace. The interior walls are daubed with mud and decorated with geometrical or conventional designs in red, white or grey. The Acholi were good traditional hunters, using nets and spears, and keep goats, sheep and cattle. In war they used spears and long, narrow shields of giraffe or ox hide. Most Acholi identify themselves as Protestant, Catholic or, in lesser numbers, Muslim. Nevertheless, the traditional belief in guardian and ancestor spirits remains strong, though it is now often described in Christian or Muslim terms.

During Uganda's colonial period, the British encouraged political and economic development in the south of the country, in particular among the Buganda. In contrast, the Acholi and other northern ethnic groups supplied much of the national manual labor and came to comprise a majority of the military, creating what some have called a "military ethnocracy." This reached its height with the coup d'état of Acholi General Tito Okello, and came to a crashing end with the defeat of Okello and the Acholi-dominated army by the National Resistance Army led by now-President Yoweri Museveni.

The Acholi are known to the outside world mainly because of the insurgency of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Kony, an Acholi from Gulu. The LRA's activities have been concentrated within Acholiland and many hundreds of thousands of Acholi remain internally displaced persons. The prominent poet Okot p'Bitek is commonly considered to be Acholi.


  • Atkinson, Ronald Raymond (1999) The roots of ethnicity: the origins of the Acholi of Uganda before 1800. Kampala: Fountain Publishers. ISBN 9970-02156-7.
  • Dwyer, John Orr (1972) 'The Acholi of Uganda: adjustment to imperialism'. (unpublished thesis) Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International .
  • Girling, F.K. (1960) The Acholi of Uganda (Colonial Office / Colonial research studies vol. 30). London: Her majesty's stationery office.

External links

Acholi Sample at Language Museum (


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