Lanekatuk Memorial, Inc.
LUO / ACHOLI
The Luo (also spelled Lwo) are an ethnic linguistic group located in an area that stretches from
Southern Sudan, in Ethiopia (Anuak) through northern Uganda and eastern Congo (DRC), into
western Kenya, and ending in the upper tip of Tanzania. These people speak an Eastern Sudanic
(Nilotic) language, a branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family. According to various classification
schemes, they are sometimes referred to as River-Lake Nilotes or Western Nilotes, which also
includes the Dinka-Nuer language group. People who speak Luo languages include the Shilluk, Anuak,
Acholi, Lango, Palwo, Alur, Padhola, Joluo (Kenyan and Tanzanian Luo), Bor, and Kumam.
Acholi (also Acoli) is an ethnic group from the districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader in northern
Uganda (an area commonly referred to as Acholiland), and Magwe County in southern Sudan. The
1991 Uganda census counted 746,796 Acholi; a further 45,000 Acholi live outside of Uganda.
Acholiland or "Acholi-land" (also known as Acholi sub-region) is an inexact term that refers to the
region traditionally inhabited by the Acholi. It is composed of the present-day Ugandan districts of
Gulu, Kitgum, and Pader. While Acholi also live north of the Sudanese border, they are often
excluded from the political meaning of the term "Acholiland".
The Acholi are a Luo people, who are said to have come to northern Uganda from the area now
known as Bahr el Ghazal in southern Sudan. Starting in the late seventeenth century, a new
sociopolitical order developed among the Luo of northern Uganda, mainly characterized by the
formation of chiefdoms headed by Rwodi (sg. Rwot, 'ruler'). By the mid-nineteenth century, about 60
small chiefdoms existed in eastern Acholiland. During the second half of the nineteenth century
Arabic-speaking traders from the north started to call them Shooli, a term which transformed into
Their traditional dwelling-places were circular huts with a high peak, furnished with a mud
sleeping-platform, jars of grain and a sunk fireplace, with the walls daubed with mud and decorated
with geometrical or conventional designs in red, white or grey. They were skilled hunters, using nets
and spears, and kept goats, sheep and cattle. In war they used spears and long, narrow shields of
giraffe or ox hide.
Acholiland, Uganda: During Uganda's colonial period, the British encouraged political and economic
development in the south of the country, in particular among the Baganda. 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 in June 1985 (thus terminating the second regime of
Milton Obote), 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 in January 1986.
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 activities of the LRA have been
devastating within Acholiland (though they spread also to neighbouring districts and countries). As at
September 2009, large numbers of Acholi people remain in camps as internally displaced persons.