Life History of Grazmach and Kuwaro Akuwor Ochalla
By Nyigelo O. Opada (Seattle, U.S.A); February 25, 2013



January and February of 2013 became horrible months for villages of Eddeny, Pumoli and the whole Chewayee descendants who consecutively lost their two great traditional leaders. It was not too long ago when my brother, Chief Gaala Nyigwo, died on January 19, 2013. While still mourning the death of my brother, I was shocked when my brother-in-law told my wife the bad news about death of my uncle, Chief Akuwor Ochalla, in a phone call to the town of Itang, Gambella, Ethiopia.

The chief, Kwarro Akuwor was physically paralyzed for about a year and stayed at home. He could not take usual walks in the town and get better medical treatments from the very poor medical facilities in the Gambella region where people are losing their lives like tree leaves every single day. He passed away on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 10:00 am local time at the residence of his late son, Prince Ojulu Akuwor, a senior officer of the regional government who was poisoned and died in Gambella hospital in 2001. The funeral service for the deceased chief was held in the Pumoli village royal court on Wednesday February 6, 2013 in the presence of more than a thousand people from many villages in the region. His body and coffin were placed in the grave by people from Itang, the “descendants of Chewayee.” This was followed by performance of traditional songs, anthems, beats of drums and dance.

Kwarro Akuwor was born to his father Chief Ochalla Koth Awenga Kuwachkwar and his mother, Princess Apiew Othow Okoth in the village of Pumoli and raised in village of Nyikwo. His mother Apiew Othow was born in Ilea, village of the “descendants of Akaygn Nyigeetheing” in the district of Itang.

According to narration of my mother and the younger sister of the chief, Princess Achalla Ogutta, kwarro Akuwor Ochalla was too young (between ages 16 to 18) when he succeeded his step brother, Chief Ogutta Ochalla who was assassinated nearby Chengkwar in the town of Gambella in 1936 by Italian Fascist military during the invasion of Ethiopia in 1935-1941.

Kwarro Akuwor Ochalla was a visionary, a strong and brilliant man with enormous capacity for administration in the region and the central government. Even though he lacked an academic background, he was the most powerful, politically influential traditional leader among Anyuaks and the entire Gambella State. He was one of the four famous Anyuak chiefs in the localities of Openo/Baro River who were appointed and recognized by the king of kings, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. Among the other appointees were Kegnazmach Kuwaro Ariew Obulu of village of Pyinkew, Grazmach Kuwaro Omot Owayee of village of Itang, and my father Balambaras Kuwaro Opada Nyigwo of village of Eddeny.

Moreover, Grazmach Kuwaro Akuwor Ochalla was a highly alert, calm, respectful, committed, dedicated person who worked carefully and loyally for his country and the government for the betterment of the nation during Emperor Haile Selassie’s era. He had advanced counseling skills and powerful influence in the speeches he made to the public. His eye contact would never blink or disappear from the people or individual whom he spoke to.

The legacy of Grazmach Kwarro Akuwor Ochalla in promoting modern education in Gambella region was remarkable. He was one of the advocates of education for Gambella. Being aware of the privileges of his appointment and his empowerment by the Emperor Haile Selassie, he and some resilient young Anyuaks who were ambitious for their education future goals, such as Mr. David Oduru Ojulu, late Dr. David Owar Ojwato, Mr. Phillip Opiew Ochudho, late Mr. Paul Ojulu Ojwok, and late Mr. Peter Deng went to Addis Ababa in 1967. He spent three months there to meet the Emperor and discussed the desperate needs of education in Gambella. He accomplished the mission and came back to Gambella with good news. A year later, the Ethiopian government built Ras Gobenna Elementary School from grade one to grade eight. This initiative stirred further expansion of formal education into other districts such as Abobo, Akobo, Gog, Jikow, Itang and the village of Egilo at Bonga for the first time in Gambella’s history.

According to Mr. David Oduru, the best friend of Kwarro Akuwor Ochalla, the only two schools opened in the region were American missionary elementary schools in the localities of Gilo River at Piygnhudo and Pukumu along the Openo/Baro River banks. Mr. David further stated that before Ras Gobenna Elementary School, the Ethiopian government built only Ge’eez language school for Orthodox believers and followers.

Nevertheless, the death of Emperor Haile Selassie and the advent of the socialist government in Ethiopia cut short the desire and demand of Grazmach Akuwor Ochalla for clean water, clinics, and sanitation services for people of the region. Truly, he personally never drank fresh water from the Openo River unless it was boiled and cooled. Even though he lived in a rural area, he loved a decent life. He neither drank alcohol nor smoked tobacco. He was always dressed impressively and had selective marriages to the most beautiful women. Customarily, to make a choice and marriage to his new pretty wife, he sought Anyuak traditional dances from the villagers wherever he visited. He remained grateful to the imperial regime and the people.

Furthermore, Grazmach Akuwor was a proud Ethiopian who had many friends around the country, including high ranking officers in the central government. He respected his fellow Ethiopian citizens. Among his best friends were the pioneering founder and promoter of Ethiopian tourism, Mr. Habte Selassie Tafesse, and the former Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Aklilu Habte Wolde. Given such strong relationships with high officials, it is not surprising that after the death of the Emperor, Grazmach Akuwor was unhappy to the very last day of his life. I believe that my father Balambaras Opada Nyigwo who died in January 1972, two years before the death of the Emperor, would have felt the same way as my uncle did.

Traditionally, Chief Akuwor was a polygamist who died while still married to four wives, Princess Aleng Nyading from village of Chaam in district of Jikow; and Nyibach Nyageera and Achalla Nyaga both from village of Pyinkew and Akuwatta Ogero (Pokedi). His other seven wives have passed away in the past two decades. Among the deceased wives were Achan Nyiweth, Nyigwo Nya-Ajack, and Dheyeng Nyubute?lul, (Pyinkew), Chibi Nyjula, (Piygnhudo), Mary Okeich (Abol), Abulla and Achalla from village of Puhol.

His successor, Prince Ochalla Akuwor Ochalla Koth Awenga Kwachkwar, is the current chief of the village of Pumoli. A tribute by a eulogist, Mr. David Oduru and best associate of Kwarro Akuwor, indicated that the regent and future princess of the village of Pumoli is Nyigwo Akuwor Ochalla Koth Awenga Kuwachkwar. An official ceremony of swearing in of the successor, Prince Ochalla Akuwor Ochalla, will be held next month in the village of Pumoli.

While many of the Kwarro’s children have died earlier, he is survived by Ochalla, the successor; Nyigwok, Weith, Akello, Abongo, Akoth, Apiew, Chibi, Atuwa, Senaye, Gilo, Obongo, Abiot, Apiew-ngumudo and sixty-five grandchildren. The active friend and affectionate Kwarro Akuwor left the world peacefully with his extraordinary great work for his people. He will be sorely missed by his family, relatives, friends, his country and every one. It’s a big loss to the region. May Alpha and Omega God bless his soul and rest in peace! Good Bye!

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