About the Laropi Project
Sunrise over River Nile at Laropi Ferry Crossing Point. Credit: Chole Richard, Jan 2020.
Since my childhood, I have been intrigued by the story behind the name “Laropi” given to a small ferry-crossing point and landing site for fishermen in Northern Uganda on the highway of Gulu/Adjumani to Moyo town. “Laropi” is a modification of the Acoli phrase, “Laro pii”, meaning, “Let’s cross the river”. The river in question is the famous River Nile.
It however was not a river crossing like on an ordinary day of a trip to a market. It was a flight from pursuing enemy warriors. Acoli men of war had invaded land of the Madi people, but in an ensuing battle, the former were beaten and had to retreat in haste, thus, “Let’s hurry to cross the river!” – “Laro pii!!”. The cry stuck to this day at their point of crossing, and over the years, the Madi people modified it to “Laropi.”
That is the story I heard in my childhood, and it is all I know now, except that I finally want to dig deeper and establish details. I believe there is lots more to it, but even if there is none, now is a time to confirm. I have armed myself with questions which hopefully will compel River Nile, the silent witness of events that unfolded, to reveal her secrets held for all the years gone by: When did the event(s) take place? Was it a onetime occurrence or part of series of feuds between the Madi and the Acoli? Where did the battle take place? Or which areas did the confrontations cover? What were the possible causes of the conflict(s)? How did the Madi and Acoli fight? What weapons were used? What battle fatigues did they wear, if any? Were there options to sue for peace? How was it carried out? Are there known legendary heroes and antagonists in these conflicts? What made them standout? How did the conflicts affect the people? How did it shape the Madi and Acoli community of today?
Historical events like this of Laropi are stuffs that legends, songs, poems, sayings, and all other forms of orature are made of. This is the moment to make them known to the world. My faith is that many people have survived the times to be able to tell the tale, but time is running out! The landscape of Uganda is transforming very fast by the day, with economic and infrastructure developments planned or being implemented. There are already plans to build a bridge across the River Nile right at Laropi! Like in many cradles of African history especially in the tropical region, it is hard to come by artifacts. So far, I have no evidence that somebody took trouble to document the events of Laropi. The person with the story in his or her mind remains my best bet. The men and women who still hold wealth of past events are either dead or in their advanced ages. Young people of today are no guarantee of treasure of knowledge of the past!
My quest therefore has urgency to it. So, anyone who has information about the Madi and Acoli history or anybody with expertise on collecting historical data and really wishes to give me some tips is more than welcome!
I see the significance of this undertaking in three areas:
- It will contribute to enriching the history of the Madi and Acholi and by extension of Uganda and Africa.
- It will provide much needed information to localize and authenticate the literary experience of Uganda.
- It will act as a catalyst for further exploration of many other untouched or largely unknown history of Madi, Acoli and Uganda at large.
I am by no means an expert in collecting historical records, but I am learning along the way with support of any possible resources and persons. It is going to be a painstaking job projected to last two years from now. I believe it can be accomplished.
So, wish me luck!
I would like to thank the following whole heartedly for their guide and morale boost in developing this plan:
- Mr. Okidi George, Education Specialist, Opportunity International, Uganda.
- Ms. Kaigo Betty, Teacher of Literature and English language and Assistant Director of Studies, Giussani Luigi Senior Secondary School, Kireka, Kampala.
- Ms. Lamwaka Beatrice, writer and director, Arts Therapy Foundation
- Dr. Isaac Kiiza Tibasiima, Lecturer, Department of Literature and Languages, Makerere University, Kampala