Are you a cultural enthusiast? Do you know where the Karamojong people live? Do you wish to combine your wildlife safari experiences with cultural encounters in Northeastern Uganda? On this planet, everyone has a story to tell and so are the Karamojong, the renowned warrior pastoralists who live in Northeastern Uganda just at the border of Southern Sudan and Kenya. This area is uncommonly visited by travelers and for a few who make it up to this region; they will be filled with ultimate cultural experiences. Just as you set yourself into Africa’s wilderness in Kidepo Valley National Park, never miss out dramatic cultural experiences with Karamojong villages (Manyattas). Encountering this proud, fierce and traditional group of semi nomadic pastoralists will enrich you with Uganda’s famous cultural heritage.
This region together with Kidepo Valley National Park is uncommonly visited and not many people are aware about the Karamojong or even the national park itself unlike the Maasai in Kenya who have appeared in many magazines, stories and documents. There is little that is known about these beautiful people in the world something worthy exploring while in your safari to Kidepo Valley National Park or even as you plan your safari to Mount Elgon National Park.
Facts about the Karamojong:
The Karamojong have stayed in the Northeastern Uganda for hundreds of years. At a time of colonialism, the British colonial governments failed to control the Karamojong something that left their region off limits. Unlike other tribes, the Karamojong have continued to follow their ancient traditions and believe in their god “Akuj.” The Karamojong are among a few tribes that believed and still believe that all the cattle in the region of existence was offered to them by their god Akuj, and this explains the cattle rustling in neighboring communities. This kind of belief is perhaps the root cause of endless tribal conflicts and cattle rustling in the area given the fact that even other adjacent communities also have the similar belief about themselves that the cattle belong to them only. At a time of Idi Amin, conflicts had escalated in this area as a result of increased supply of weaponry mainly guns. The government has tried to curb down the situation by disarming these warriors with the aim of restoring peace to the area and civil stability.
These pastoralists also consider cattle royalty and it is from this that man can be measured in the community. They live for their cattle. What is importantly of all is to search for greener pasture and water for their cattle which is something hard given the fact the Karamojong area is a semi-desert.
Who takes care of the cattle?
Duties and responsibilities are well spelt out in Karamojong communities. As the men go to look for pasture and water for the cattle, the women on the other side simply remain in the Manyatta to take care of the homestead and the children and both women and children go to the gardens to supplement on their diet. Basically, the Karamojong practice the communal way of doing things. Roles are largely shared together and this is for the betterment of the community as a whole not only the nuclear family or an individual. Men are free to marry as many wives as they can provided they have dowry to pay for them. This is currently one of those ancient societies where dowry still counts much.
These pastoralists are basically Nilotic. Their dialect has Nilo Saharan Kalenjin roots which comprises of various languages for pastoralists in South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. They migrated to Northeastern Uganda around 1600 from Ethiopia and then settled around Mount Moroto. The name Karamojong denotes “the old tired men who stayed behind.” They are further grouped by clans and territorial sub-groups that is to say, the Bokora, the Pian and Matheniko. Unfortunately, these clans usually raid one another but as a result of government intervention and confiscation of their guns, there are minimal cases of cattle raiding today. The communities always follow the set guidance of the elders and things are done based on domestic lines.
The Karamoja region:
In case you have ever watched any western movies, the Karamoja area is barely not different from that. It depicts the true wilderness of Africa making it one of the untouched destinations in the continent. However, there are some roads to allow travelers access the area during their safaris. Alternatively, there are chartered flights for tourists to link up to Kidepo Valley National Park.
Why should you visit Karamojong Manyatta?
A trip to visit these incredible Manyattas is one of the most remarkable travel experiences that you must not miss out in life. The Manyattas are the rarest of all in entire Uganda. For travelers who make it up to these Manyattas, they get educational and enlightening cultural experiences. The cultural heritage in these villages has been preserved for hundreds of years and still untouched by modernization. Come and refresh your mind with these ancient villages. Everything in these villages is unique on their own, right from the set up, homesteads, people up to languages which offers visitors with authentic African experiences.
A few children are addressed and they come to greet visitors in a warm and humble welcoming way as visitors enter their villages where there are old men reclining on their headrest stools wrapped in tunics, sharing folk tales of old to the young and old, about their traditions and lifestyles as well as observing the movements in the village. Just in case you are invited inside a Manyatta, then this will mean that you have to be on your knees as well as hands down to enter. It is a privilege for these pastoralists to invite you into their homes.
The inside parts of their homes are cemented using cow dung and mud and they have no beds and much furniture and they are very proud of all these. Most interestingly, these pastoralists live absolutely in peace with nature, they rarely dress up; they are decorated in tribal markings and beads. Don’t blame them once you get into their community perhaps, the weather can tell you much while in your safari.
Never forget to enjoy the dramatic and exciting traditional dances when you get into the Karamojong Manyatta. If you miss the cultural dance or music then your safari to the Manyatta is absolutely incomplete. You can also join them and jump as higher as you can!
Most importantly, don’t forget your hat and sun glasses to protect your head and eyes from the scorching sun heat. Ensure that you come on your jeans instead of shorts because it culturally accepted in the Manyattas and the jeans can also help to protect your legs from thorns.
In conclusion, Karamojong Manyatta experience is worthy for tourists to explore and get lessons about the Karamojong people in reality. You can combine a cultural safari together with the Kidepo Valley National Park as you travel to enjoy spectacular wildlife species.