Acholi indigenous methods for healing and re-integrating survivors of violent conflict into the community: a case of Gulu and Kitgum, Northern Uganda.
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This study explored Acholi indigenous methods for healing and re-integrating survivors of violent conflict into the community in Gulu and Kitgum, Northern Uganda. The healing mechanisms of Acholi indigenous healing and reintegration methods have not previously been documented. This study sought to describe how survivors of violent conflict in northern Uganda experienced these methods. The study also sought to identify the specific problems for which these methods were prescribed, the ritual processes as experienced by the participants, and their perceived healing mechanisms. A qualitative research paradigm was used. Fifty (50) participants were selected using purposive sampling. Male and female survivors of violent conflict comprised the sample. Elders, who officiated in these rituals, were also interviewed. Data, in the form of interview narratives, was analysed using Voice-Centered Relational (VCR) method. The findings indicated that the healing rituals were performed in various specific sequences dependent on the nature of the atrocities committed. The most commonly used rituals were nyonotongweno, culukwor and matoput, in that order. The rituals were performed for a range of reasons, incorporating cleansing and protection of the survivors, their families, as well as the communities into which they were returning, from the bad spirits of the deceased that were never appeased. The rituals healed through spirituality— an appeal to a force greater than humanity — the presence and participation of the community, compensation of the aggrieved clan, and open forgiveness. The place of healing, as well as the healing of the spaces where the violence took place, attest to the holistic, as opposed to the individualistic, orientation of western versus indigenous methods. The contaminating effects of the violence extend beyond individuals and the community to the environment itself, hence the need to heal spaces where violence occurred. Most participants perceived the rituals in positive terms. Influences of religion and globalisation were noted amongst those that perceived the rituals in negative terms. The fact that women who were sexually violated during the conflict were unable to resume a conjugal relationship with their spouses, even after the rituals, points to the profound influence of gender. This calls for further investigation into the effectiveness of healing rituals in cases where sexual violence against women is involved.