Country Listing

Uganda Table of Contents


Langi and Acholi

The Langi and Acholi occupy north-central Uganda. The Langi represent roughly 6 percent of the population. Despite their linguistic affiliation with other Lwo speakers, the Langi reject the "Lwo" label. The Acholi represent 4 percent of the population but suffered severe depopulation and dislocation in the violence of the 1970s and 1980s.

By about the thirteenth century A.D., Lwo-speaking peoples migrated from territory now in Sudan into Uganda and Kenya. They were probably pastoralists, organized in segmentary patrilineages rather than highly centralized societies, but with some positions of ritual or political authority. They encountered horticultural Bantu-speakers, organized under the authority of territorial chiefs. The newcomers probably claimed to be able to control rain, fertility, and supernatural forces through ritual and sacrifice, and they may have established positions of privilege for themselves based on their spiritual expertise. Some historians believe the Langi represent the descendants of fifteenth-century dissenters from Karamojong society to the east.

Both societies are organized into localized patrilineages and further grouped into clans, which are dispersed throughout the territory. Clan members claim descent from a common ancestor, but they are seldom able to recount the nature of their relationship to the clan founder. Acholi lineages are ranked according to their proximity to a royal lineage, and the head of this lineage is recognized as a king, although his power is substantially less than that of monarchs in the south.

Acholi and Langi societies rely on millet cultivation and animal husbandry for subsistence. In some areas, people also cultivate corn, eleusine, peanuts, sesame seed, sweet potatoes, and cassava. Both Langi and Acholi generally assign agricultural tasks either to men or women; in many cases men are responsible for cattle while women work in the fields. (In some villages, only adult men may milk cows.) An Acholi or Langi man may marry more than one wife, but he may not marry within his lineage or that of his mother. A woman normally leaves her own family to live in her husband's homestead, which may include his brothers and their families. Each wife has a separate house and hearth for cooking.

Data as of December 1990