Wang-Lei, the place where Gipir, Labongo parted ways

Believed to be the point where the forefathers of the Nilotes separated from. Wang-Lei has come to be appreciated as more than a spiritual place. Leaders of the Jonam Kingdom plan to develop the location as a tourism site.

Saturday August 17 2013

River Nile, on which banks Wang-Lei is located.

River Nile, on which banks Wang-Lei is located. The area is where Nyipir and Nyabonogo parted ways.PHOTO BY DEAR JEANNE. 

By Dear Jeanne

Nebbi-To many, it is Wang-Lei, a place of wonders and miracles where an axe comes out of the River Nile when it so pleases.
Yet to the Nilotes, who came from Bahel-Gazel and settled in the current day West Nile region before separating and covering three countries, it is a historical site where their centuries-old conflicts and hatred is dated back to.
And to Uganda it is a tourism site that tells a culture rich of African tradition, conflict resolution and revenge.

It is the separation point of Nyapir (Gipir) and Labongo (Nyabongo), the forefathers of the Luo, who are spread across East Africa.
Under the management of the Jonam Kingdom in Nebbi District, though located within a UPDF military detachment, Wang-Lei is located as you enter Pakwach District, 100 meters from the Uganda Revenue Authority checkpoint and about 50 meters from the main road.
Though it is one of the most accessible historical sites in the West Nile region, little did I know that it would take me three days to access the place.

After seeking permission from the head of the military unit, it was now time for me to get clearance from the cultural leaders, who happened to be away in northern Uganda.
“If you want to see the axe, you will have to come in February when the winds are blowing to the north western,” Mr Odong Madir, the head of Puvungu Clan and also the Rwodhi of Jonam, told me.

Entering through the Pakwach UPDF detachment, only a dilapidated structure can be seen at the area where the Jonam Kingdom prime minister, Mr Isaac Oucha, points for me.

Due to the cultural restrictions, the king and the prime minister cannot go close to the site unless a number of rituals have been performed.

Ten meters away from the site, I am told by my tour guide to remove shoes as I am stepping on holy ground.

“Some years back, these structures were a dormitory for military personnel, they failed to respect the ground and one day wind blew the iron sheets away. Since then, no one resides there,” says Mr Alfred Onen, the general secretary of the Albert Nile Conservation and Tourism Association, also acting as my guide.

After removing the shoes we move closer to the river bank.
With no proper demarcation, a bunch of logs have been put together to bar onlookers from falling into the River Nile.

The Jonam kingdom is planning to launch the development of the historical site in December 2013 with a reconciliation fete at the kingdom’s palace.

The fete is meant to bring back all descendants of the two brothers back to their routes and scrap away the ritual requirement for the Acholi when they come to the site.
The kingdom views the site as a revenue collection centre and an opening for other historical and cultural sites in West Nile to the international community.

“We have come up with a budget and plan for developing the site. We request government to come and support us in developing this site,” Mr Odong said.

The history

Nyipir and Labongo are believed to have been the forefathers of the luo people. The two brothers lived happy after moving from Bahel-gazel and settled on the current-day West Nile region.

One day after they had all started families and had children, Nyipir asked Labongo for his spear so he could go and hunt.
During the hunt, Nyipir aimed at an Elephant but failed to kill it and it ran away with the spear.

On reaching home, Nyipir tried to explain to his brother Labongo, but he could not understand him as he demanded that he brings back his spear.
Nyipir, having no other option, packed his food and went back to the forest. For days he moved looking for the spear. Luckily, four days later, he found a place where the elephant had dropped the spear as it moved.

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