By Jimmy Odoki Acellam
On Sunday, April 18, 2021, a small group of people gathered together at the home of Bishop Ochola’s daughter Mrs. Alice Mangwi and her husband Dr. Mangwi to celebrate Bishop Ochola II Ameda Mollo Macleod Baker’s 89th birthday.
Bishop Ochola II was the first bishop of Kitgum diocese (Church of Uganda).
Not many Ugandans are lucky to live as long as Bishop Ochola has with the country’s average life expectany standing at 63.7 years. At 89, however, Bishop Ochola remains physically fit and very vibrant.
The number of people in attendance at the birthday party was not large because of restrictions in gatherings as result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Most of the people who attended the party wore masks and observed the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
An excited Bishop Ochola expressed gratefulness to the attendees. He prayed that if God grants him life to 100 years of age, he should still be as fit and vigorous as he is now.
Rev. Odongpiny, Rev. Felix Oneka led prayers to give thanks to God for Bishop Ochola’s good health and long life.
Bishop Ochola II hails from Madi Opei, Lamwo district. He is a teacher by profession. He attended Bishop Tucker Theological College (now Uganda Christian University), was ordained deacon in 1969 and priest (Reverend) in 1972.
He also studied at the University of Saskatchewan and obtained a Bachelor of Theology degree.
Prior to becoming the first bishop of the new Kitgum diocese from 1995 -2002, Rev. Ochola worked under the Ecclesiastical church province of Uganda including (Burundi, Rwanda, Boga-Zaire) and then Diocese of Northern Uganda later. He is well known for his message of reconciliation and forgiveness.
There was no peace in Northern Uganda when he was enthroned as the new Bishop of Kitgum diocese. His wife, Mrs. Winifred Ochola was killed in a landmine blast in 1997 in Kitgum.
Bishop Ochola became an advocate for peace in addition to his spiritual role. Together with other religious leaders in the Acholi sub-region, they formed the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) which became a powerful organization in the negotiation for peace between the Government of Uganda and the LRA rebels. Without the dedication of Bishop Ochola and his fellow religious leaders, perhaps Northern Uganda would not yet have the current peace and stability.
Bishop Ochola is very passionate about education. He loves to see that the young generation are educated. This is likely because of his background as a teacher.
The Executive Director, Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment, Dr. Arthur Bainomugisha shared a testimony at the birthday party, how he benefited from Bishop Ochola’s advice and encouragement regarding studies.
Dr Bainomugisha said that Bishop Ochola advised him to go back to school and study Peace and Conflict Management. At the time , Arthur was employed by the Namirembe by Diocese of Uganda. He listened to Bishop Ochola’s advice and he went back to school. He successfully studied to the level of PhD and is now enjoying the rewards. Dr. Bainomugisha thanked Bishop Ochola for the valuable advice and foresight. He wished the Bishop good health and many more years of a happy life.
Ododo in the local Acholi language is the art of telling stories to pass on messages or words of wisdom to young people. It is akin to oral literature or the famed Buganda folklore, Njabala. Bishop Ochola loves to teach the youth using this method whenever he has an opportunity. He emphasizes that wisdom is something all tribes world over are blessed with.
On the occasion of his 89th birthday where there were many young people at his birthday celebration, he shared the Chinese story of wisdom titled; You never know and the moral of the story is that; right from time immemorial , nobody in the world from generation to generation, knows about the future.
As human beings who were created by God, we certainly know who holds the future! The Almighty God, creator of the universe. An appeal was made by Rev. Felix Oneka, Kitgum diocese for people of good will to support the documentation of ododo in video and audiovisual format as narrated by Bishop Ochola for posterity too.
The culture of storytelling to teach young people is getting eroded but there should be ways to preserve our valuable cultures. Last year Makerere University, Literature department and the Journalism and Communication department launched documentation of similar stories from different parts of Uganda into digital formats and animations.
Jimmy Odoki Acellam is a freelance writer/ Mental Health Advocate