Iteso and the ‘Pull Her Down’ (PHD) Syndrome

PHD – ‘pull her down’ or ‘pull him down’ syndrome is a moral disorder which makes people see things in negative realms (Akosah-Sarpong 2004). PHD is particularly wide spread among Africans to the extent that some (Chihota 2012) consider it the most dangerous disease afflicting Africans, more lethal than HIV and AIDS. Perhaps because of tragic events, such as slavery and colonization, which greatly dehumanized us, our modern day African cultures – socialization processes – seem to have sub-consciously internalized our dehumanization as a people. With internalized dehumanization comes the moral disorder of feeling inferior to another – our slavers and colonizers. When one of us seems to rise and to excel, instead of celebrating them and celebrating us, our socialization seems to have hot-wired us to search for the negative from whence we attack. In many cases we seemingly do this sub-consciously, even without realizing that we have done so.

Amongst my own people, the Iteso of Uganda, the propensity for PHD is mind blowing. Yes, in recent history the Iteso have been subjected to atrocities, such as the Mukura massacre, and some would argue Teso has been deliberate marginalization in governmental allocation of resources. This perhaps, explains why the high propensity for PHD among the Iteso – we seem to have internalized an inferiority complex which we willed through PHD against each other. Take for example, a couple of days ago, on 13th September 2015, my brother, Olukuma, who is one of the best service providers in Uganda’s tourism sector shared a photo of my product on face book with the following caption:

Hi sister, I found this product from Alinga Farms in one of the Gorilla tourist lodges in Kisoro.

Kisoro is in South-Western Uganda while the origin of my product is Eastern Uganda that is why my brother and I were so excited at how far my product has travelled. We were also excited that my product is among the select few products that are offered to tourists – local and international – meaning that my product quality has recognition of its international standard. Excitedly, I shared the photo on Iteso related face book groups with the following commentary:

I am totally thrilled at how far we have come. Atorot is the brand name of the dried calyces of hibiscus sabdariffa fruit that are produced by Alinga Farms and associate farmers in Pallisa District. Atorot is the Ateso word for flower. Yes, when the crop (hibiscus sadariffa) flowers infield the aesthetics and scents are fabulous. It is always rewarding to see our own products compete on our Ugandan market.

Shortly after I posted my photo and comment, the first comment on more than one of the Iteso groups was in the negative realm – with the first commentator, in all cases male Iteso, pointing out that I had spelt the Ateso word for flower wrong.

Here below I reproduce the ensuing exchange on one of the face book wall of one of the groups (CO are the initials of the first commentor – a male Etesot; MM of the second commenter – a female Atesot; and ME is me):

CO: Aturot is the right Ateso word.

MM: CO I also don’t understand the name.

ME: The spelling of flower in Ateso that I use is derived from the Ateso English Dictionary (Ongodia and Ejiet 2008). It, the dictionary, is distributed in Europe and Commonwealth countries outside Africa by: Africa Books Collective and in North America by Michigan State University Press.

MM: There was a typo in that dictionary. But since the product has been trading with that name for a while it can pass.

ME: MM and CO, as a scholar I often find it arrogant and presumptuous for one to think they are the only ones with the right answer. The debate you engage in while diverting attention from the celebration that this post intended is an exercise in futility. It is similar to a debate of written English – that is why we have multiple versions of written English.

ME: I do not think that there was a typo in Ongodia and Ejiet’s Ateso dictionary for if you access it and read it you will find the explanation they give for the different written spellings. Some of the Ateso words are written different from the way in which they sound when pronounced.

ME: The positive part about my post is that I am proudly Atesot branding my products in Ateso.

CO: ME, I don’t think we have said it in bad faith but if you moved around Teso other than your dictionary, you will prove what we are telling you. Am a great lover of your posts and all what you do sis. God bless.

ME: CO, again you make patronising presumptions of the level of research that I did before I determined to go with the Ongodia and Ejiet dictionary definition. I am a scholar and active researcher with interests in Iteso culture. So, my point is that unlike you I appreciate different views without presuming that mine is the only correct one. I am rooted in the Iteso culture – if you had taken time to click on the post: Going back to our roots you would have deduced that I indeed ‘move around’ in Teso. Actually I do more than move around in Teso.

ME: CO and MM, and if you would take the time to access Ongodia and Ejiet’s dictionary you would know that they accommodated “didactical variations and reflection of the 1964 report of the Ateso Orthography Committee of Uganda Government.” Therefore, to be dismissive of their work, me thinks, is unacceptable.

CO: Let’s close that topic my sister. Ajaasi ajaasi (let us be, let us be)

MM: Otherwise, as a regular consumer of your hibiscus product (Atorot). Trust me I didn’t mean to mention the name bit in bad faith. And u can see (posts photo of half consumed product) my current supply is almost out and I will be getting a new one soon. I totally understand the name variations. Just that to me an ordinary Atesot I found it confusing. But way to go – will keep supporting u.

ME: Eyalama noi (thank you very much) MM emuria kolia (read post Going back to our roots for an explanation of emuria kolia)

MM: What I’ve failed to locate is the Alinga Farm. I was so excited when I saw the address and tried to track you down but failed to find it.

ME: Please visit our Alinga Farms page: and you will note that our farms are located in our ancestral home in Kadegele Village in Pallisa Rural Sub-County in Pallisa District; and that our shop is located in Shop 40 D in the Bugolobi Market in Kampala.

MM: ME, now that you have provided a new address I see why I couldn’t locate you before. Coz the products I first bought said Kadoki in Akadot.

ME: As you are probably aware village boundaries are ever changing in Uganda in the same way as district boundaries are changing. Kadegele is the new name of the village after Kadoki village was split, but geographically it is still the same location, just name change.

ME: MM, if it so interests you to learn more about the innovative philosophy and model of Alinga Farms, I invite you to read the text of a TED Talk that I gave early this year. Here is the link:

MM: If you do farm educational tours kindly inbox me directions and costs so that I can bring my villagers for some lessons.

MM’s last comment clearly shows that she did not bother to access the text (Going back to our roots) that I recommended that she read, for if she had done so she would have had a detailed explanation of the location and philosophy of Alinga Farms. At this point I decide to terminate the engagement.

Much later, the two arrive at the positive, which I would have loved to have been their first comments. Here are their celebratory comments, which I of course I liked:

CO: I need to taste the product too and support our own.

MM: Yes CO, I will carry some to the car wash and you can taste.

CO: Thanks MM.

We are a work in progress, but I hope that we will increasingly become conscious of our sub-conscious moral disorder that we shall overcome PHD and take the time celebrate us more.

Works Cited

Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi. “The Pull Him Down Syndrome and Development.” Modern Ghana. June 20, 2004. (accessed September 15, 2015).

Chihota, Caleb. “The Pull Him Down (P.H.D) Syndrome.” ThinkBigAfrica. October 27, 2012. (accessed September 15, 2015).

Ongodia, Simon Peter, and Austin Ejiet. Ateso English Dictionary. Kampala: Fountain, 2008.



  1. Janice (1996, p.191), posited that identity is the way a person is or wishes to be known by others. It is the way a person conceives of the self in relation to others and is therefore a social construct. According to Sandy ( al 2000 cited in Deutsch and Coleman eds.2000: p.310), by identifying with a group, an individual gains a feeling of security and recognition; aspects that create one’s “social identity’ or ones self-image derived from the social categories to which he or she belongs, as well as the emotional and evaluative consequences of this group membership (Hornsey, 2008: p.206).

    Social identity is especially important in a conflict context because it derives from a person’s knowledge, value and emotional significance of his or her membership in a particular social group. The socialization process makes people believe that their way of thinking and doing things is the best. Kimmel (2000: P.457 cited in Deutsch and Coleman.eds. 2000) submitted that people consequently take the ways of others as being unusual, wrong and or inferior. According to him, the attendant misunderstanding causes individuals to disregard other people’s cultures due to the unconscious differences in non-verbal communication, cognition, perceptions and reasoning. Janice Gross Stein (1996) writes that as identity changes, images too change and either of the two can reconstruct the other.

    The above excerpt from my unpublished work should some how enable Iteso to regard themselves as such and use his conviction to relate with other tribes.


    1. Please shorten your comment and clearly link it to the blog post on which you are commenting. Thank you for engaging.


  2. […] Or is it perhaps that whole PhD symdrome thing – you know the Pull her Down one? […]


  3. […] Or is it perhaps that whole PhD symdrome thing – you know the Pull her Down one? […]


  4. 10 Signs that a Person has a Crab Mentality:

    “Crab mentality” Study:

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In other words suffering from “Crab mentality”:


  6. okipimoses · · Reply

    Evidence based. I enjoyed reading this article.


Join the discussion, share your comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s