The Karimojong people of Uganda are indeed the Masai of Uganda.
The Karimojong live and dress like the Masai of kenya and Tanzania
The Karamojong or Karimojong are an ethnic group of agro-pastoral herders living mainly in the north-east of Uganda. Their language is also known as Karamojong or akarimojong, and is part of the Nilo-Saharan language group.
The Karamojong live in the southern part of the region in the north-east of Uganda, occupying an area equivalent to one tenth of the country.
The Karamojong are part of a group that migrated from present-day Ethiopia around 1600 A.D. and split into two branches, with one branch moving to present day Kenya to form the Kalenjin group and Maasai cluster.
The other branch, called Ateker, migrated westwards. Ateker further split into several groups, including Turkana in present-day Kenya, Iteso, Dodoth, Jie, Karamojong, and Kumam in present-day Uganda, also Jie and Toposa in southern Sudan all of them together now known as the "Teso Cluster" or "Karamojong Cluster".
It is said that the Karamojong were originally known as the Jie. The name Karamojong derived from phrase "ekar ngimojong", meaning "the old men can walk no farther".
According to tradition, the peoples now known as the Karamojong Cluster or Teso Cluster are said to have migrated from Abyssinia between the 1600 and 1700 AD as a single group. When they reached the area around the modern Kenyan-Ethiopian border, they are said to have fragmented into several groups including those that became Turkana, Toposa, and the Dodoth.
The group that became known as the Toposa continued to present day southern Sudan; the Dodoth, settled in Apule in the northern part of present-day Karamoja. The Turkana settled in Kenya where they are now and today's Jie of Uganda are thought to have split from them, moving up the escarpment into today's Kotido District.
The main body continued southwards, reportedly consisting of seven groups or clans who settled in today's southern Karamoja, eventually merging to become the three clans now existing: the Matheniko in the east around Moroto mountain, the Pian in the south and the Bokora in the west.
However, a significant sized group went west and formed the Iteso, the Kumam, and the Langi. It was this group who were said to have used the phrase "the old men can walk no farther".
Related to Turkana: in the Karamojong language, the people and the language have the convenient prefixes ŋi- and ŋa- respectively.
Lack of a prefix indicates the land where they live. All the above-mentioned branches from Ateker speak languages that are mutually intelligible. The Lango in Uganda are also ethnically and genetically close to the ŋiKarimojong, evidenced by similar names among other things, though they adopted a dialect of the Luo language.
The main livelihood activity of the Karamojong is herding livestock, which has social and cultural importance. Crop cultivation is a secondary activity, undertaken only in areas where it is practicable.
Due to the arid climate of the region, the Karamojong have always practiced a sort of pastoral transhumance, where for 3–4 months in a year, they move their livestock to the neighboring districts in search of water and pasture for their animals.
The availability of food and water is always a concern and affects the Karamojong's interaction with other ethnic groups.
The dominant feature of Karamojong society is their age system, which is strictly based on generation. As successive generations have an increasing overlap in age, this leads logically to a breakdown of the system, which appears to have occurred after rules were relaxed in the nineteenth century among their close neighbours, the Jie.
However, the Karamojong system is flexible enough to contain a build-up of tension between generations over a cycle of 50 years or so. When this can no longer be resolved peacefully, the breakdown in order leads to a switch in power from the ruling generation to their successors and a new status quo.
As both a rite of passage into manhood, as well as a requirement for engagement, a young Karamojong man is required to wrestle the woman he desires to marry. If he is successful in winning the wrestling match against the woman, he is now considered to be a man and is permitted to marry the woman.
This ensures that the man will be strong enough to care for and protect his wife. After a successful match, the dowry negotiations are allowed to commence. In an instance where the young man is unable to defeat the woman in the wrestling match, he will not be considered by his people to be a man and will often leave to marry a woman from a different people-group where a test of strength is not required.
If a non-Karamojong man desires to marry a Karamojong woman, he is also required to go through this ceremony.
The Karamojong have been involved in various conflicts centered on the practice of cattle raids.
The Karamojong are in constant conflict with their neighbors in Uganda, Sudan and Kenya due to frequent cattle raids. This could be partly due to a traditional belief that the Karamojong own all the cattle by a divine right, but also because cattle are also an important element in the negotiations for a bride and young men use the raids as a rite of passage and way of increasing their herds to gain status.
In recent years the nature and the outcome of the raids have become increasingly violent with the acquisition of AK47s by the Karamojong.
The Ugandan government have attempted to broker deals for weapons amnesties, but the number of cattle the Karamojong have wanted per gun has proved too steep for any meaningful agreement to be made.
Besides, the Karimojong have plenty of access to guns from the volatile country of South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. The cost of an AK47 gun is said to be the equivalent of 30 - 50 US Dollars
Uganda’s land of warrior nomads stretches across an isolated corner of Africa named after the people who have there lived for centuries, the Karimojong of Karamoja. With more than 27,000 square kilometres, this arid expanse of savannah and bush forms the northeast edge of Uganda where it borders Kenya and the Sudan, with Ethiopia not far off.
Countries and boundaries, however, have meant little in Karamoja until recent times. Its natural borders alone tell something about the region’s remoteness. To its east stands the Rift Valley escarpment towering over the Kenyan plains and scrubland.
To the north lie the pristine basin of Kidepo National Park and also a mountainous vastness that leads into the Sudan. Similarly, to the south, there are the rugged peaks of Mount Elgon National Park, which were formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. In the west, abundant swamps lead to Acholi lands.
Set on a large plateau, much of Karamoja is more than 1,000 metres above sea level, and four main mountains overlook the region’s savannah, highlands and river valleys: Mount Morungole in the north, Mount Moroto in the east, Mount Kadam in the south and Mount Napak in the west.
According to the most recent Ugandan census figures, some 956,000 people live in Karamoja, with more than a third of them being Karimojong. The actual numbers, however, are estimated to be higher. With Moroto town as its regional capital, Karamoja has districts,Moroto, Kotido, Nakapiripirit, Abim, Napak and Kaabong.
District towns have a degree of population density, but pastoral life as well as the scarcity of rain, keeps people on the move and well dispersed.
Karamoja’s climate is harsh. In many areas, rains do not often exceed 800 millimetres per year, sometimes hovering around a mere 500 millimetres. At least 1,000 millimetres is needed to sustain people in a land without infrastructure. The precipitation that does fall usually comes sporadically between June and October with the desert winds and the hot dry season taking over the land from November to March.
In recent years, drought has become more frequent and severe. Beyond natural and national borders, inter-regional conflicts have kept Karamoja cut off from the rest of the world and its own country.
The longest running civil wars in Africa have surrounded and spilled into the region between Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda. The Karimojong themselves, however, also have contributed to the region’s isolation.
Like other pastoral people, the Karimojong have immeasurable pride in their traditional way of life, and many have remained resistant to change no matter the force trying to change them.
After all, in a desert-like land, the Karimojong have survived for centuries, and sometimes survival is all that matters.
Touring Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo National Park is nestled among the rugged hills and valleys of Northern Uganda. It’s a place so hidden away it’s beauty has mostly gone unnoticed… until now.
Game Drives in Kidepo Valley
Wildlife is most active in the Narus Valley during early mornings and late afternoon – 6am and 4pm are optimum times to set off on game drives. You are advised to use a ranger at all times; they will help you spot some of the park’s lions that may be sitting on the valley’s various rocks. Other wildlife includes elephants, leopard, bush duiker, jackal, bushbuck, bush pig, Kavirondo bush baby, buffalo and much more.
Kidepo Valley Scenic Drive
Though wildlife is scarce in the arid Kidepo Valley, the hour-long drive to Kanangorok Hot Springs passes some magnificent landscapes. North of Apoka, beyond the river crossing, the road passes between rock outcrops and hills before descending into the Kidepo Valley, crossing the Kidepo Sand River and traversing open plains that extend past Kanangorok Hot Springs towards mountains across the Sudanese border. This is the part of the park where ostriches are most commonly seen.
Kanangorok Hot Springs
The Kanangorok Hot Springs lie 11km beyond the Kidepo River on the Sudan border. This is a glorious place to sit and view the mountains beyond the frontier.
Hiking/Nature Walks in Kidepo Valley
The Lomej Mountains can be reached on foot in four hours, the hike starts at 7am. Shorter guided walks of around two hours can be taken through the Narus Valley extending over a 5km radius from Apoka Tourism Centre.
Visitors can also wander along the splendid Kidepo River Valley between banks of attractive borassus palm forest. Namamkweny Valley can be reached in one hour from Apoka. Visitors can also meet members of the IK tribe during prearranged hikes to the Morungole Mountains outside the park.
Reaching Kidepo Valley
Several airlines fly to Uganda, including Aerolink Uganda, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airways, Kenya Airways, KLM, Precision Air, Qatar Airways, Rwandair, South African Airways and Turkish Airlines. International flights generally arrive into the modern Entebbe International Airport (EBB) located one hour from the capital of Kampala.
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There are safe, easy but lengthy bus routes into Kampala from Kenya (Nairobi), Tanzania (Bukoba, Dar es Salaam), Rwanda (Kigali) and Burundi (Bujumbura). The borders with South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are more risky – be sure to research the current travel situation as well as visa requirements before attempting travel to or from these countries.