Acholi: No bride price exceeding Sh150,000

The groom has up to two years to fulfill the requirements before the marriage ceremony is done. [Courtesy]

The Acholi Cultural Institution in Uganda has reined in on exorbitant bride prices being asked by parents in exchange for their daughters’ hands in marriage.

The institution, Ker Kwaro Acholi, which imposed a fine of Sh60,000 (Ug Sh2 million) or four cows in March 2021 on persons who commit adultery, has passed a by-law, stipulating the standard bride price one can pay.

According to the Daily Monitor, the by-law was mooted in 2019 during the Acholi cultural festival following recommendation by then-Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo.

“Girls should be given the chance to choose who they want for a partner. If we are to observe tradition, huge invoices weren’t being asked. The current traditional marriage has been manipulated by the current economic times where people have intensified looking at marriage as an opportunity to make money. We are seeing families breaking up as a result,” said Justice Dollo in 2019.

In the revised requirements, a prospective groom in Acholi’s 54 chiefdoms is to pay a bride price not exceeding Sh150,000 (UgSh5 million).

The Monitor said the groom will also be required to ‘take a lamp, paraffin, laundry and bathing soap, a matchbox, one big saucepan, a stool for the father-in-law, a gomesi for the mother-in-law, a suit for the father-in-law, cigarettes, a goat for the uncle, a goat for the paternal aunt, a fee for the bride to open up (layap dog nyako), and one goat for preparing the marital home (ogwa ot)’.

He is also expected to ‘deliver a leopard skin, bangles and beads if the bride comes from the royal family, or a sheep and a white hen for marital rituals if she had an abnormal birth (latin jok) and has up to two years to fulfill the requirements before the marriage ceremony is done.

Speaking to the news outlet, Acholi Cultural Institution Prime Minister, Mr Ambrose Olaa, said the intervention was key in harmonizing bride price and protecting subjects from 'abnormal and uncultured practices'.

“The open cheque that has been in existence from the colonial times became a leeway for people to demand more than Sh600,000 (Ugx20 million) and that is why the traditional institution wants it rationalised by setting standards. The committee of elders dated back to the time of our forefathers and came up with a standard fee not exceeding Shs5m to allow room for negotiation: one can marry at Shs1 million or Sh150,000 (Ugx5 million). It basically depends on the negotiation skills of the groom’s family,” said Olaa.

Olaa said the move follows discussions on how to curb the adulteration and commercialisation of traditional marriages.

“We know some people have more than enough but whatever amount is above Sh150,000 (Ugx5 million) is treated as a gift not bride price because we want to maintain the purpose of marriage. Tracing back to history, the elders took consideration on what had always been the numbers of cows and goats demanded and thought it wise that four to six head of cattle and six goats were enough and we want to preserve that heritage,” said Olaa.


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