Suncolor's Blog

Archive for April 2012

Location? Perhaps a remote corner of the usually crowded market place, perhaps a lonely village road. But youth must and will always find a way. And now that they have and are there, they size each other, they let their eyes roam and wander and speak for them. Like Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in the thriller in Manila they circle each other. That’s Acholi love. At least that is the way it used to be. Before Kony and the Uganda People’s Defense Force, the UPDF, entered Acholi land and turned the world upside down.

Against the background distant drums and the song play of mating birds the youth pull and push; they pull and push. And the moment comes and it is time for a showdown.  They draw close, nose to nose, eyeball to eyeball, they wrestle each other. It may happen now and again that one or the other may miss a step and may fall or stagger. But he or she will rise again and the game will go on, till at last there is a winner. It may be that the boy will win; he usually does. It may be that the girl will win; she sometimes does and wins outright.

Acholi love is vigorous and prolonged. There is no quickie. It is not for the faint of heart. Not for the Acholi are the tender lyrics of Dona Summer’s sweet surrender or the melancholy of Kenny Roger’s We got tonight who needs tomorrow!

"Acholi Royal Dance
Acholi Royal Dance

But with the Acholi the idea of a love tryst is  that like that of a sporting event. The soul of the game is the maximization of touch; the purpose the prolongation of pleasure. Now you get it now you don’t; teasing is a big part of the game plan. Strength and valor is at the core of Acholi love and art of romance. Look at their dance. It is all there.

In love and romance there is talk, there is poetry. There is nothing like a silent tryst, an Indian girl once said. So here now in between the pushing and wrestling, the hiding and the seeking, there is talk and poetry.

An per amiti do laco ni. Awachi ne adegi do laco ni. Cit cen! wot cen! dok cen! (I don’t need you this man. I don’t want you this man. I told you I hate you. Go away, get back!)

In the place of sweet surrender are tough words. And it is now that the tough gets going. And from now it is sweet all the way. But after Kony, after the atrocities, after the UPDF, after the concentration camps, there is not that much flavor left in Acholi love or in Acholi land. But they say that time heals a broken heart. (I can’t stop loving you)

John Otim
copyright 2012


In the early days of the coup that brought
General Haroun Al Mahmud to power
the press of the world
camped on state house lawns
day and night day after day
dozens of them

Their gear hung from every tree
their goings on created a festive air
it was a carnival such as the city
and the country
had not seen

The new Strongman reveled
in the media blitz
he paused for photo ops and granted interviews
he gave press conferences
in his eyes these confirmed without a doubt
his own greatness and invincibility

One night he ordered a barbecue
and invited the press of the world
to eat, drink, dance
and be merry

The wily journalists
encouraged and fanned
the General’s every idiosyncrasy
and busily made footage
a media hungry world waited

In Lagos Nigeria
a mother returning home
after a punishing day at the market
hearing BBC and CNN voices
doubles up

“What ting Al Haroun
dun do again?
he dun kill another Archbishop?”
folks like her were insatiable
and they were legion
there was blood and there was fun

At the court of
General Haroun Al Mahmud
at the grand old colonial mansion
the British built to display power
there was never a dull moment

A marriage bid today
for the hands of the daughter
of one of Europe’s ruling family

Tomorrow battle plans in all earnest
against neighboring states to teach them
in the General’s own words
lessons they will never forget

Now and then a mocking cable
dispatched to Washington
to the most powerful man on Earth
timed to cause the President
the greatest discomfiture

One morning fresh morning
a gift of a young virgin
kidnapped the other day on her way to school
now handed to his friend and companion
the young Scottish doctor
who saved his life from the syphilis bug

Now in the cool of the African evening
the barbecue sizzles
oriental and African aroma
mingle and add color to the night
oh such a night

Wine and conversation flows
the press of the world is in hot pursuit
they reach for their little packs
trinkets, perfumes, handguns, electronics
gifts for the General from the labs
and workshops of Europe

Now the General was a true natural
protocol abandoned
he does what only he can
sprawls on the grass
his monstrous legs akimbo
bantering and hollering

Soon wine and whisky take their dues
the moment arrives and the past returns
and the General is back again
where he once belonged
there now he hears a voice

“You and I must make a pack
we must bring salvation back
where there is love I will be there
“I’ll reach out my hand to you
I’ll have faith in all you do
Just call my name and I will be there

It was the King of Pop
but in Michael’s amplified voice
the General hears the voice of his own mother
it brought him back to the warmth
and comfort of the old colonial barracks
at the river’s mouth

Away from power and pomp and intrigues
away from the slaughter of innocent men and women
that his men carried on a daily basis on his behalf
away from the haunting cries
of the dying and the dead
back to the simple life he once knew
and loved

Years ago his own dear mother
writhed in agony on the dirt floor
of their simple hut
and bestowed upon him
on that silent night
the ultimate gift

Now here he was where it all began
here where as a young man
he and his buddies marched happily to the drill
of the Scotsman’s horse voice
none but Commander Neil Graham

And now the Union Jack flutters again
triumphant again in the cool African breeze
as he and the others march proudly
in tune with the crazed hollering of the Scotsman
Eyes right!
Presenter armes!

Rifles click!
the men come to a dead stop
and for a moment nothing moves
the band strikes God Save the Queen

With a jerk the General returns to the World
back to the Country whose President
he had just shot
and found himself surrounded
by the Press of the World
fighting for a shot of his silly moon face

someone save my life tonight

John Otim