The Beautiful Karamojong
The name Karamojong derived from the phrase “ekar ngimojong” meaning “the old men can walk no further”. The Karamojong are found in the north-east part of Uganda and are of Nilotic background. They speak Karamojong which originates from their Nilo-Saharan roots that falls in the family of languages for pastoralists in South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. They migrated from Ethiopia to Uganda and settled near Mount Moroto.
They are found in the districts of Kaabong, Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Kotido. There are different tribes in Karamoja region that is to say Tepeth, Jie, Dodoth, Pokot, Labwor, Sebei, Nyakwai, Kumam and IK.
In most cases, the Karamojong are easily identified with markings on their fore head and around the face. They are fond of wrapping their bodies with a piece of cloth and often walk naked due to the harsh hot weather.
Micah Lolem, the Member of Parliament for Nakapiripirit describes a typical Karamojong woman’s attire entailing of a skirt, colored beads around the neck and elastic or metallic bands tied around the ankles.
The men on the other hand just throw on a piece of cloth over their bodies and accompany it with plastic bangles. This explains the common saying in Uganda “We shall not wait for Karamoja to develop” because they still walk almost naked despite the many years of civilization that spread to many parts of Africa.
Karamojong are agro-pastoralists which speaks for their way of life. These nomads live in “Manyatta” also known as “Ere” meaning homestead enclosed by sharp thorns having two entry points for people and cattle. They use mud to build their huts.
During the wet season, the Karamojong reside in the largely permanent “Manyattas” and as soon as the weather conditions are suitable for agriculture and livestock herding, the men go to herd while the women and children stay behind to prepare for Agriculture. Others especially the youth participate in income generating activities like working in people’s houses, grazing and Elejilej to support the income of their families. Elijilej has been associated with children begging in urban centers.
Their nomadic way of life forces them to live in Kraals which act as temporary camps. Activities carried out in Kraals include; Storytelling, Milking, Blood collecting and roasting, cattle wrestling, animal grazing and so many others.
Unlike most of the population in Uganda who have adopted Christianity or Islam, the Karamojong still believe in their traditional god known as Akuj.
Marriage among the Karamojong involves paying of bride price by the suitor. Bride price is paid according to the woman’s clan size that is to say; “the bigger the clan the more the bride price and vice versa”. It is paid in terms of cattle, goats, chicken and money. For the case of the “IK” people also known as the “mountain people” who live in Mount Morungole, bee hives are given to the girl’s family as a form of bride price. The Karamojong are polygamous in nature to an extent that virginity before marriage is overlooked. In order for a Karamojong man to show that he is ready for marriage, he must wrestle the girl he wishes to marry. Winning this shows one is capable of taking care of his family whereas losing defines one as cowardly.
The marriage ceremony on the other hand is characterized by ladies wearing beautiful ornaments and the exciting Ekaro dance that is usually performed on wedding ceremonies.
There are so many encounters with the Karamojong but each experience speaks for itself. Although the Karamojong way of life may not be up to date, it is rich in culture, tradition and is definitely worth sightseeing.
The Beautiful Karamojong