Karamojong “the warriors of northern Eastern uganda”
Karamojong “the warriors of northern Eastern uganda”: The Karamojong are ethnic group of people found in the north eastern region of Uganda, the Karamojong are agro-pastoral herders depending much on rearing big herds of cattle and carrying out farming on a very small scale. The Karamojong are residents of kaabong, Kotido, Amudat, Napak, Moroto, Abim and Nakapiripirit districts in the southern park southern region of north east Uganda.
The Karamojong are generally tall beings with dark skin complexion which is attributed to the too much hours they spend in hot sun while rearing their livestock in the semi-arid climatic conditions. The Karamojong people are easily identified and have special features which differentiate them from other ethnic people, the traditional Karamojong have facial markings and body piercings on various body parts that is nose, ear, lower lips and other parts. The marking and piercing convey hidden message to the society, the Karamojong dress code consists of bright colored clothes.
Women’s attire consists of a skirt, colored beads around the neck and a metallic or elastic bands tied around their ankles. Men just throw a piece of cloth over their bodies with plastic bangles. All genders wear car tire sandals, beads, cow horn rings, cowhide material, bird feathers and wild animal hides. The tradition the Karamojong cultural wear of wrapping themselves in numerous pieces of red checked clothes was copied from the Masai people as a modernization in their way of dressing. A true Karamojong man carries a walking stick, a traditional stool, a spear and gourd storing any drinkable where ever he goes.
CULTURE OF THE KARAMOJONG
The Karamojong speak a language called Nga Karamojong and their culture is referrud to as Nagi Karamojong, Karamojong are typically traditionalists who take a lot pride in their culture and customs, because of their pride the Karamojong are known for being extremely hostile to a foreign interference with their traditional lifestyle. They view new trends such as medicine, housing styles, clothing, and technology as an inconvenience to their comfortable traditional lifestyle.
Karamojong are typically traditional nomadic pastoralists who depend on rearing herds of livestock, the live stock is very important to the Karamojong holding both social and cultural importance to their society. Livestock reared by the Karamojong includes cattle, goats, sheep and chicken, they spend of most their time of the day roaming in neighboring areas in search for water and pasture for their livestock. A traditional Karamojong’s life style greatly depends on herds of cattle as they are a sign of prestige, wealth, social status and source of food. Cattle provide raw milk, meat, yoghurt, cow ghee, smoked hides and blood. Blood is a staple food for the Karamojong and is got from the cattle by puncturing its skin and the flowing blood from it is collected.
In Karamojong society wealth, prestige and social status is more dependent on the size of the herd of the cattle one possess. Culturally Cattle/ cows are given as dowry during marriage ceremony, gifts for good character, achievement, and act of bravery for protecting the community and as a sign of friendship. In Karamojong society one starts receiving cows in their youthful stage which they rear as they gradually increase the size of their herd, in the process of rearing their livestock they face a challenge of cattle raids from neighboring societies. Cattle raiding is very common in Karamojong either them raiding other societies or other societies raiding their cattle, because they believe it is their birth rite to cattle, the Karamojong formed warrior squads and cattle rustlers. These groups are very deadly and equipped with lethal weapons such as spear, arrows, machetes and AK47 guns, they are responsible for raiding neighboring communities and safe guarding their own cattle from being raided by neighboring communities.
Religiously, the Karamojong believe in Akuj as their supreme god who they tirelessly pray to. They believe that their traditional god gave them a birth right to all herds of cattle in Karamojong
SOCIAL SETTING OF THE KARAMOJONG
Karamojong people socially live in a communal social setting, the live a life style of extended families in large homesteads filled with their unique architectural manyatas sharing a compound. The manyatas houses are built using local materials wood and mud with steep grass thatched roofs, they are encircled with thorny and wooden fences primarily for protected from invaders, wild animals and cattle rustlers. Kraals where livestock lives are situated in the middle of the Manyata compound.
Karamojong society dominantly depends on age system where responsibility is allocated depending on the age, the Manyatas are an institute of learning where skills, customs and cultural practices are taught and passed on from one generation to another, and each person in a Manyata has a social role to play. Roles in the Manyata are allocated according to age, gender and skills.
- Women and girls are homemakers tasked with doing homestead chores like cooking, organizing the house, taking care of the children, cultivating crops during rainy season, and many more
- Men and men tend to livestock by roaming in search for water and pasture in the semi-arid plains of karamoja.
When Karamojong children hit their youth stage they are given a bull by his father, the bull was killed and shared among the boys’ male friends and relatives. The boy’s hair is then cut by one of his adult male friends leaving a tuft at the back and a short string would be tied, from this stage the boy is considered to be of marriageable age. After being given permission by his elders the boy starts wearing ostrich features. The boy start looking and identifying potential marriage partners, to prove that they are no longer boys they go a lone armed into the fields to hunt and kill either a lion or elephant roaming in the plains. The boy would come back with the blood stained spear and the animal’s tail and show it to the elders in a formal meeting called a baraza, the next step in the marriage is the wrestling day and finding the sufficient bride price.
The purposes of wrestling is for the man to marry to show his prowess, strength and courage as a manifestation that he is able to protect his family and properties against intruders. When he wins his opponent he also wins the bride but sometimes boys get rejected by their brides regardless them being victorious. When the bride accepts his groom bride price is paid in form of cattles and gifts, the marriage sums up with accepting bride price, joy, feasting and celebrations for the new love birds.
The Karamojong are polygamous people who are known for marrying many wives only limited by bride wealth obligations, no marriage among relative is allowed. Customarily when a gal arrives at the home of his husband to be, she is taken through the large kraal entrance and led to her own house. Dressed in a leopard skin cloak with bells on his knees and zebra tail the groom circles the entire village pretending to be a brave animal while tossing his head and swishing his tail. At the end of the day all village people gather in the cattle kraal for celebrations.
ORIGIN OF THE KARAMOJONG
According to anthropologists, the Karamojong people are said to have migrated around 1600 A.D. from their cradle land the present day Ethiopia. As they were migrating they moved into two split groups, one group moved to present day Kenya and settled on the shores of Lake Turkana which explain to why they are called turkana. When the turkana people settled they intermarried with the early settlers giving birth to new ethnic groups that is the Masai and Kalenjin ethnic group of people.
The second group referred to as Ateker moved to westwards, along the way the group again split into groups with some moving to Uganda and some to south Sudan. These groups include Iteso, Dodoth, Jie, kumam and Karamojong living in Uganda, in south Sudan there is Jiye and Toposa. All these groups have striking resemblance which relate all of them to each other, they resemblance and similarity is noticed in their traditional wear, body marks, custom and cultural practices, their nomadic lifestyle of keeping large herds of cattle and cultural ceremonies.
Other historical tales state that the Karamojong cluster and Teso cluster migrated from Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia) as one group around 1700 AD, upon reaching the modern day Kenya-Ethiopia border they split into groups that is Turkana, Toposa, and the Dodoth. The Toposa group continued moving and settled in southern Sudan, the Dodoth settled in northern Uganda the present day karamoja and the turkana group settled in Kenya around the shores of Lake Turkana. The Jie group of people found in Uganda in Kotido district is also said to have split from this group. The group which moved into Uganda is said to continue moving south wards settling in present day southern karamoja, the group reportedly consisted of seven clans who later emerged to form the present and existing 3 clans. These clans include the matheniko living around on the east region of mount Moroto, the pian clan living in the south region and the Bokora in the west. Another group moved west ward forming three tribal groups that is Iteso, the Kumam and the Langi.
The Karamojong people originally known as the Jie derive their name Karamojong from a local phrase “ekar ngimojong” which means an old man cannot walk no further.
Karamojong people are very preservative people who jealously guarded their land, culture and livestock from any intruder, but they are hospitable people if you pose no threat to them and their livestock. While on a cultural safari in the Karamojong people you be browned away the ancient Manyata structures, you will be entertained with cultural dances and songs.
Visit the Karamojong ethnic people and experience the authentic African culture which has never been degraded by technology and modernity.