Today, many people within and outside Uganda are visiting Gulu saying they want to show their solidarity with the war-affected people in the internally displaced peopleâ€™s camps. While there, they enjoy the good weather, food and visit some of the historical sites like Fort Barker. Chris Ocowun<
In Acholi, the word â€˜guluâ€™ means a valley that has been caused by too much erosion. The valley is located at Mican near St. Phillips Cathedral Church of Uganda in Bardege division, about 1km from the town. In the past, it used to be so deep and wide, but it is slowly disappearing because people are building and cultivating in it.
Gulu district has 23 sub-counties, one of which is called Amuru, which means â€˜boilingâ€™. The sub-county was called Amuru because of a hot spring located in the area.
Some of the tourists attractions in Gulu include the Baker Fort, which was built by Sir Samuel Baker in 1864 in Patiko sub-county. But due to the Lordâ€™s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency, most of the sites are not easily accessible without military escorts.
Before the rebellion, Gulu and the two other Acholi districts used to produce a lot of food.
Most local leaders say Acholi soils are so fertile and when one grows crops, they get high yields.
Another thing one would not miss to see on the streets of Gulu town are the vehicles competing for space with stray cows.
Things to know about the Acholi
The people of Gulu boast of being the most hospitable in the country. The Acholi always warmly welcome their visitors.
They also give visitors special food. They either slaughter for the visitor a hen, goat or even cow and the special parts, like the gizzard and the kidney of a goat or a cow, are eaten only by the visitors.
The Acholi in Gulu serve very delicious dishes. Their staple foods are vegetables like malakwang, boo, peas and beans mixed with simsim or groundnut paste served with millet or sorghum bread.
In addition to millet, sorghum and beans, the Acholi grow rice and potatoes in large quantities. The Acholi grow the crops not only to supplement the relief food, but also for commercial purposes.
They sell the produce to dealers from Kampala, Gulu, Kitgum and Pader. Some dealers have even gone into the camps to buy these produce.
After work, most people go to drink malwa while others go to search for kwete or enguli. Enguli is mostly brewed in the camps where some of the people start drinking as early as 7:00am.
The people of Gulu also have unique traditional dances like the larakaraka, bwola and dingi-dingi.
The Acholi were also involved in the 1911-1912 Lamogi rebellion where they used crude weapons to fight British rule.
The Acholi also say they named Kololo hills in Kampala. Mzee Tiberio Okeny Atwoma, who was the first elected chairman in Acholi Council in 1959-64, says the word â€˜Kololoâ€™ means â€˜lonelyâ€™ in Acholi.
Atwoma says Kololo hill got its name after the British colonialists arrested one of the Acholi chiefs called Rwot Awich and took him to Kololo hills where they left him to be eaten by the wild animals.
The first Acholi to build a commercial house in Gulu town in the 1940s was Ajulina Uma Laloyo. Laloyo, who was a prominent businessman, died in early 1970s. His building was the only hotel in Gulu town known as Gulu Dit. The building is being rented out by Laloyoâ€™s grand children. There were also many commercial buildings set up by Indians.
Atwoma says the Acholi culture has been eroded by the confinement of people in camps. â€œSince parents share one hut with their grown up children, this means that there is no privacy. These days young children even learn about sex so early,â€ he said. Adding that the children of today in Acholi lack respect for elders.
Atwoma says the Acholi are no longer as hospitable as they used to be in the past.
Atwoma also says the place used to have many eucalyptus trees, most of which have been cut down. He said the eucalyptus trees were planted the early 1940s.
However, some cultural practices have continued to exist. They include culture of funerals. People still risk their lives and organise communal funerals.
During the funeral rites ceremony the elders and women dance to traditional funeral songs for at least two days before the burial. Mourners dance even through out the night, beating drums and calabashes. Elderly women also hold the pictures of the deceased. The men dance with long sticks commonly known as tiir in Acholi.
Communal grazing also still exists, although it is done on a smaller scale because the numbers of cows have drastically reduced. Some of the cattle was looted by the LRA rebels and others raided by the Karimojong.
In Gulu town, there are some popular eating and entertainment joints where residents to go, especially on weekends.
The most popular eating joints in include, Acholi-Inn hotel, Pearl Afrique, Kakanyero restaurants, Diana Gardens, Lacor Refreshment and Riviera.
These places are mostly visited mostly by dignitaries because their services are expensive.
Most visitors and residents prefer small eating joints like Gulu Home Care and Binen Restaurant, which serve local Acholi dishes.
The most famous entertaining centres in Gulu town include Alobo Nightclub, Havana Nightclub and Opit Travellersâ€™ Inn, also known as Buganda Pub. It is called so because the majority of the songs played there are in Luganda and most of the waitresses are Baganda.
The pub owner, called Opit, keeps on changing the girls and replacing them with others from Kampala. He thinks this will attract more customers to the pub.
In most of these entertaining places, there are discos on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Gulu was named after a valley