Friday, 12 December 2008

Political Setup

The political set up of the Lugbara was segmentary. The Most Important Figure was the chief called Ozoo-Opi (King of the Rain). He sometimes had both political and rainmaking powers. But in some cases, the Ozoo-Opi did not possess rainmaking powers. In such an event, another individual was entrusted these powers. Such was called Ozoo-ei. The Ozoo-Opi was the chief custodian of the clan's property. In any case, harvesting could (not) be done without the blessing of the Opi. It was his duty to offer new harvests to the gods and he had to taste the produce before before the producers could taste them. In the event of a clan ceremonial feast, he officially opened it by starting to eat before anybody else. He was given the most delicious meat which always included a piece of liver. The Opi rarely offered sacrifices to the ancestors though their powere to lead was believed to be derived from the ancestors. They however had the duty of offering sacrifices to the god of the clan. Custom demanded that an Opi should be able to recount the adi during funeral rites, serious illness and major social gatherings like marriage ceremonies. The prospective Opi learnt the adi by conversation. The actual practice of recounting the adi was solemn. The Opi would stand up and narrate the history of the clan to stress their oneness. Then he would proceed to recount the background of the occassion for which the adi was being recounted . He would symbolically move forward and backwards while shooting an arrow upwards at each sop.
If he happened to forget a point, or get mixed up during the process, it was normal and acceptable for another elder to correct him. Usually the adi would be followed by the settlement of the issue at hand.

In 2006, the administrative set up in Arua, the Lugbara's largest settlement, had 7 counties namely Ayivu, Maracha, Terego, Koboko, Vurra, Madi Okollo and Arua Municipality making it Uganda's Second Largest District after Mbarara. Arua had 36 Subcounties (including Ludara, Midia, Obule, Nyadri, Olabe, Yivu, Oluvu, Kijomoro, Adumi, Avoi, Pajulu, Oluko, Vurra, Ajia, Arivu, Logiri, Rigbo, Ogoko, Okollo, Offaka, Omugo, Udupi, Ali-Vu, Bileafe, etc) and 2026 villages.

Succession of an Opi

It was a peaceful affair. The date of succession was a very honorable occasion and irt was attended by all notables of the clan. This occasion was punctuated with a lot of beer and food. Amidst all this, the most senior Opi within the lineage presented the new Opi with an anderiku (a chiefly stool which was sometimes simply referred to as Opi Agua). After the new Opi had sat on the stool, he was presented with the rest of the chiefly regalia namely a spear, a bow, arrows and a bracelet. Then a congregation of lineage chiefs would formally brief the new Opi on the qualities and rules of conduct which would be expected of him as a leader and alert him to the heavy responsibility he would have to shoulder.

Judicial System

Any affairs which affected the clan were handled by the lineage and clan heads. Normally minor offences would be settled by the lineage heads but serious ones required the clean heads eg killing a relative, adultery, unpaid loans and more serious forms of wizardry, witchcraft and sorcery. The lineage court comprised all the family heads and it was presided over by the lineage head. The clan court was a higher court comprising all the lineage heads who often co-opted other notables and some wealthy men if they deemed it appropriate. Court proceeding usually took place under a big tree in the compound and trials were conducted in privacy. As a matter of fact, women and children were not allowed to linger around the area unless they were called upon as witnesses. In an intra-clan affair, a murder was fined a bull. The murder of a woman was fined a cow. In cases involving adultery, it was fashionable to give a bull to the affected husband. Incest was also abhorred and in case it took place, the male relative of the girl was fined a sheep which was slaughtered and eaten by the family to cleanse the sin. Inter-clan cases were more serious than intra clan cases. An inter-clan adultery case for instance was serious enough to require capital punishment. If caught red handed, the man would be killed or if lucky his sexual organs would be maimed. In fornication, the boy would be held as ransom until he agreed to marry the girl or paid an appropriate fine. Failure to comply would also lead to maiming of his organs. Unsettled loans would also lead to war between clans.