Visiting the Karamojong People in Karamoja-Northeastern Uganda

Posted by on January 24, 2017

Visiting the Karamojong People –  Warriors – Nomads – Pastoralists in a Manyatta

Enjoy a Visit to a Karamojong Manyatta (Village) while on Safari in Kidepo Valley Park


This Karomojong Warrior’s Picture was on a Uganda Postage Stamp

Meet the Nomad Warriors, the  Karamojong (Karimojong) are a proud people living in their traditional ways as semi-nomadic herders in the remote Karamoja region of Uganda which borders South Sudan and Kenya.

The Karamojong are proud of their traditional lifestyle which even in Uganda is often misunderstood.

The Karamojong are seen by other Ugandans as behind the times, uneducated, and there is a strong prejudice against them since the Karamojong have resisted formal education and modernization, clinging to their traditional beliefs, rejecting outside religions such as Christianity (Christianity has made some inroads) relying on Akuj, the God of their religion.

The Karamojong Warriors live and die for their cattle They believed that their God, Akuj had given them all the cattle in their known world around them which led them to believe that the cattle of neighboring tribes was theirs also.  The problem was, that the neighboring tribes held the same beliefs, resulting in ongoing cattle raids in each others territories.  As the supply of weapons increased, especially at the end of Idi Amin’s time, the violence increased and many lives were lost by various ethnic groups including the people of the Karamoja region of Uganda. (These cattle raids have now been reduced through disarmament, and peace agreements with other ethnic groups.)

To the Karamojong People,  cattle is royalty and the number of cattle one owns measure the value and recognition of a man.

Everything is done to take care of the cows such as finding new pastures and new watering spots in this very arid region of Uganda. The men and boys will move the cattle to greener pastures, higher up in the hills where water can be found in live in makeshift camps called Kraals while the women stay in the Manyattas which is the permanent village and homestead where the women and girls some crops, grind sorghum, make traditional beer, and tend to the smaller children.

Karamojong Village life is almost democratic in nature, there is  a patriarchal age-set system led by the warriors, who are known as the Gazelles, and the elders, also known as the Mountains.

Life is communal on with the men taking several wives, as long as they have cattle pay the dowry price.  Families, especially extended one live together or near each other sharing common tasks by helping each other.

The Karamojong migrated from Ethiopia around 1600 settling around Mount Moroto, while others of that same Nilotic Group settled in Kenya, South Sudan and even other parts of Uganda.

Today there are about 370,000 Karamojong people in Uganda.  As a Nilotic group, which means “of the Nile,” they speak Akaramojong  and the word Karamojong, or Ngkaramojong translates to “the old tired men who stayed behind.”  The latter is of their migration from Ethiopia and they settled in Uganda when they ran out of steam.

Visiting The Karamojong in their Village – Manyatta in the Karamoja Region:

If you are on Safari with us to Kidepo Valley Park, a visit  to a Karamojong Manyatta (Village) can be included in your itinerary from Kidepo Valley Park or if journeying up from Mount Elgon – Sipi Falls area one can visit the largest Manyatta in East Africa near the small town of Kotido.

A Manyatta visit will be culturally enlightening and refreshing since it this is not a Tourist staged event but you will see how the Karamojong live, the houses where you have to bend down to enter through a small entrance, observe community life, and one of the highlights is of course the traditional dancing which is accompanied by high jumping, all performed in honor of your visit. Visiting the Karamojong people will be one of the highlights of your time in Uganda.

Tips and Advice for a Manyatta Visit:

  • Bring a Day-Pack with some bottled water to keep you hydrated especially during the hotter dry-season.
  • Shorts are not recommended, wear jeans, long-sleeved shirt, this is the “Land of Thorn’s” and such clothing will protect you.  A Wide-Brimmed Hat is also recommended.
  • Put on insect repellent and sun-block.
  • Ask if it is ok to take Pictures.

You will find that “Visiting the Karamojong People in a Manyatta” will be one of the highlights of your Safari to one of Africa’s best Wildlife Parks – Kidepo Valley Park. you can also include a daylong visit to the nearby Ik People who live high in the Morungole Mountains.

The Karamajong People are most unique, resisting the pressures of the outside world to conform, to turn away from their traditional cultural ways, as other people groups have done throughout Africa.

Enjoy visiting the Karamojong People ...


 


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