Dancing for Peace

Acholi Kids performing during the World Peace Day celebrations in Lamwo district. Photo: Victor Wahome


In the heart of the Palabek settlement in Lamwo district, where tension once reigned supreme, a remarkable transformation is underway. Okenyi Martin, a respected church leader in the settlement, recalls the days when conflict permeated every corner of their community. Scarce resources and crowded living conditions fueled disputes, leaving families divided and communities fractured. “Even a child going to someone else’s compound to play would bring about conflict with another family,” Martin explained.


But amidst the turmoil, a beacon of hope emerged. In 2018, the Acholi Kids Group took its first steps, bringing together 32 spirited youths and children from both the refugee and host communities. Little did they know, their journey would become a catalyst for change.


Engaged by LWF under the COMPASS Project in 2023, the Acholi Kids embarked on a mission to promote peace through the art of dance and drama. COMPASS is a cross-border project implemented both in Uganda and South Sudan with co-funding from Bread for the World and the European Union through the UNOPS Lives in Dignity Grant Facility. One of the project’s objectives is to promote social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.


Rooted in the rich traditions of Acholi culture from South Sudan and Uganda, the group’s performances have breathed life into ancient rhythms, uniting families and tribes, in celebration.

With each step and beat, the Acholi kids transcend sorrow, their smiles radiating peace and love. Tonny Okema, a passionate member of the group said, " When you are dancing you cannot be sad, your teeth have to be out as you smile, and that alone is a sign of peace and love”. “When we start performing, people gather from different zones to come and watch us,” added Patricia.


From the rhythmic Ajere to the vibrant Larakaraka dance, their cultural dances captivate audiences and bridge divides. However, it's not just about the spectacle; it's about sparking conversation and forging connections. Through thought-provoking dramas like 'The Man in Zone 8’, the group amplifies the message of reconciliation, inspiring dialogue and understanding.


Beyond the stage, their impact reverberates through the settlement. Families and neighbors, once estranged, come together to share stories and laughter. Martin reflects on the profound change saying, “we thank LWF for such initiatives because they have helped bring families and communities together”.


In the end, the Acholi Kids are more than just entertainers; they are ambassadors of peace, weaving a tapestry of unity in Palabek refugee settlement.