Lapolo’s friendship transcended politics

Jimmy Odoki Acellam  

The late Gulu Resident District Commissioner Major Santo Okot Lapolo has been described as a hands on and pragmatic leader whose death is not only a big loss for Acholi but Uganda.

Lapolo passed away on Saturday morning at Mulago Hospital after a referral from Gulu Regional Hospital where he was initially retreated after contracting Covid-19.

Rev. Fr. Okun-Lagoro Matthew who was a classmate with the late Lapolo at Namukora Primary School in the 1960’s said the late Lapolo worked closely with the Gulu Arch Diocese in boosting livelihoods.

Rev. Fr. Lagoro said it was at was Lapolo’s suggestion in 2017 for the Acholibur Parish Project [APP] initiated by Gulu Archbishop John Baptist Odama to grow cassava commercially. The project has 6,000 cassava farmers.

The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Hon. Betty Aol Ocan said Lapolo was close to her family through her late husband, Lapwony Mike Ocan. Both the late Ocan and Lapolo taught physics and were later to meet in Kitgum where Lapolo was first District Internal Security Officer (DISO) before becoming a Resident Commissioner while Ocan was Headmaster at Kitgum High School.

‘‘We cherish his contributions and accomplishments. He left a great legacy,’’ said Betty Aol Ocan.

Charles Rwomushana who worked in Pader as Resident District Commissioner and interacted with the late Lapolo credited him with reconciling the then National Resistance Army (NRA) with the people of Acholi and for contributing towards peace building in northern Uganda

In an interview with journalist Julius Ocungi for a chapter in the book, The Life and Legacy of Lapwony Micheal Ocan Anthology in 2019, Maj. Lapolo talks memorably about his background in teaching and relationship with the late Ocan.

After Kitgum, Lapolo was transferred to Gulu district as Resident District Commissioner replacing the popular and humorous Walter Ochora who had passed on. In Gulu the late Lapolo is credited with level-headed leadership that saw him work with Opposition learning leaders.

It is not common to find people in active government service who speak candidly about individuals deemed to be in ‘opposition’. In the book interview about Lapwony Ocan, Major Lapolo says:

“The experience of being forced to join the Holy Spirit Movement of Alice Lakwena had opened his (Ocan’s) eyes to how bad violence was. When he abandoned the [Lakwena] struggle, Ocan held no grudge or bitterness’’.

Lapolo’s background was in teaching before being recruited in the then National Resistance Army (NRA) in 1986. In 1987 he worked as a Mass Mobiliser for the NRA before being made an Assistant Counterintelligence Officer. From 1991-1993 he served at the Research Desk in ISO in Kampala.  From ISO he became a District Internal Security Officer in 1994. From there on he served as Resident District Commissioner in Kitgum, Pader, Agago and finally Gulu. He was one of the longest serving Resident District Commissioners.

The Late Lapolo’s friendship transcended ideological divides. Major Santo Okot Lapolo’s death is a big blow. He will be missed not only by family and friends but the entire Northern Uganda and the country.

The late Lapolo was buried on Monday January 11,2021 at his ancestral home in Orom in Kitgum. He was 65.

The Writer is Coordinator Heart Sounds, Gulu