ZOMBO: Situated about 2km from Zombo district headquarters as you head towards Arua district along the Nebbi-Paidha-Arua road is entailing intricate historical and cultural importance to the Alur, the predominant people of the area.
Until a visitor is told, it is easy to just drive by the hill without even taking a glance at it after all, all that coves it is the common grass and some shrubbery while other parts are bear rocks.
But after a courtesy call at Zombo district headquarters on Thursday, West Nile Web team made a stopover in Karalony village, Anyola parish, Atyak Sub County in Zombo district where Nyarwoth Aganja hill sits.
On spotting rare faces probably for the first time, here comes Mr Caesar Dhugiu, 58, a resident of the same village who offered to take us to the pick of the hill.
Clad in a white shirt and a black trouser, Mr Dhugiu negotiated the slopes of Nyarwoth Aganja hill as he kept on telling how important the area is in the history of Alur Kingdom.
“I was told that the whole of this hill was forested and it was not easy for people to access it anyhow unless you were a serious hunter at that time. The area was purely a hunting ground for Rwoth Amular Achamfua, one of our greatest Kings,” Mr Dhugiu narrates as we continued taking pictures and admiring the beautiful scenery of Zombo district from the top.
However, at the time of our visit, it was clear that the hill had lost that historical significance to the years gone by with hunting for game meat having ceased with as its surrounding areas and neighbouring escapements were all cleared for farming.
Some fertile parts of the hill are now gardens blossoming with beans, cassava and sorghum while the bare rocky sides are being used to dry fermented cassava for food.
While some smooth shallow holes said to have been drilled by treasure hunters searching for lime stone are also visible on the rock.
Mr Dhugiu explains that people were forced to cut down the trees on and around Nyarwoth Aganja hill for cultivation, an act which forced most wild animals out of the area thus killing its historical importance.
“People no longer hunt here because the animals King Amular used to look for are no more. They either died or relocated to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo,” Mr Dhugiu says.
He adds that over the years, there has been no sign of reviving the hunting heritage of the hill from the Kingdom.
According to Mr Jalusiga Kerupenja, the kingdom chief adviser, Nyarwoth Aganja hill was named in remembrance of Mrs Aganja Nyilak, a great grandmother of Rwoth Opodho whom he believes was the father of Gipir (Nyipir) considered by the Alur as their great ancestor
He says Mrs Nyilak settled on the hill for years, a reason it was later named after her to symbolise that in Alur culture, women are very important people.
Mr Kerupenja says it is because of that background that Rwoth Amular loved the area so much that besides hunting with his subjects, he used to also rest on the hill and at times enjoy meals with his people there.
Alur chiefs hunting history and taboo
Mr Kerupenja says starting with late Amular, the Alur Rwoths hunted down animals like buffalos, antelopes, hyenas, leopards and lions among others.
They would gather their subjects to come and enjoy themselves at the Atyak palace and after discussing issues concerning the Kingdom, the Rwoth would once in a season go on a hunting spree in company of the subjects.
But out of all the animals hunted, the Rwoth couldn’t eat the leopard, Lion and Hyena. He says it was a taboo and a belief that God prohibited the Alur rwoth from eating the animals.
Any Rwoth who ate any of the said animals would become mentally ill and die. The Alur also revere the leopard as a polite beast that should be respected and protected.
Mr Kerupenja says as a result, whenever an Alur person kills a leopard, he must bring the skin to be kept at the Rwoth’s palace for safe custody.
The leopard skin is used for wrapping the body of a deceased Rwoth during burial instead of clothes.