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Gipir and Labongo: a journey into the Acholi and Alur story

Wang-Lei, the sport where the story of two brothers Gipir and Labongo hits its peak should be known to many a Ugandan. It sits shortly after the drive past the Pakwach Bridge, a giant channel that serves as the gateway into West Nile region, the first thing one sees to their left side is a concentration of dilapidated buildings. These are workers quarters of the now defunct Uganda Railways Corporation.

Right behind them is Wang lee, a bushy spot at the quiet banks of the Albert Nile. It is here that the Luo brothers Gipir and Labongo split around 15th century—after blood-thirsty hatred shuttered their once harmonious relationship.

 The story

It’s a time old legend that dates far back to 15th Century. Each Luo family had an ancestral spear it held a very strong attachment to. It was a symbol of leadership and Authority. As culture demanded, it used to be passed from/by the head of one generation to that of another. The practice signified the continuation of that particular lineage. In most cases, this recipient was the first born son of the family in question. On the other hand, the second born would be given royal beads, a symbol of grace.

When it dawned on the father of Giipir and Labong that his time for crossing the great divide was not so far. He called his two sons to his death bed for a last blessing. The biggest highlight of the event was the handover of the family spear to Labong as he was the elder son. Gipir on the other hand was given beads as he was the junior.

On a fateful chilly morning, an elephant invaded a backyard garden belonging to Labong, who at the time had gone on a hunting spree. The garden had pigeon peas, a favourite delicacy to the giant mammals. On seeing the elephant, Labong’s wife made an alarm crying for help. Gipir who happened to be at home dashed into the house of Labong, randomly picked the nearest spear and speared the elephant enthusiastically. The sharp tipped spear sank so deep into elephant’s body.

The poor thing fled out of sight into a distant forest in agony. It turned out that he had been struck using the legendary spear. According to Dr. Edwin Wathum Jalusiga, former Prime Minister Alur Kingdom and a lecturer at Kyambogo University, this didn’t go well with Labong who was greeted with the news upon return from the hunt. “His blood boiled with fury.”

He says that without the slightest consideration to fact that the move was done with good intentions, Gipir ordered his brother to follow the elephant and recover the regalia. He was to never return in the event that his pursuit ended in vain. Gipir’s pleas to replace the spear with another one fell on deaf ears.

Left with no choice, he eventually submitted to the request and left for the forest amidst despair that he wouldn’t make it back alive. See, the forest was a habitat for various beastly predators. Venomous snakes, forest leopards, buffaloes and lots more.

Story continues tomorrow…..

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