Karimajong Tribal Experience – Kidepo Valley National Park

The Karimajong are a unique tribe in Uganda with rich culture they have kept for years. They are better known compared to the other tribes in the neighborhood i.e. Tepeth, Dodoth and the Ik. I have had a desire to meet them and learning about their culture. Up to this point all I knew about them was from newspapers and TV about the fact they are nomadic cattle keepers living in a semi arid area. Karamoja was mostly closed up being an insecure area but now is very accessible and safe.

On this trip, we spent the morning on a game drive in the Narus valley of Kidepo valley national park after which we left for a Karimajong homestead not too far from the park boundary. We unfortunately visited a home that did not have cattle which was new for me because I thought all Karimajong kept cattle and depended on them for livelihood. They informed us that because of Tsetse flies they lost a lot of their animals and eventually gave up on the livestock. Nevertheless they invited us into their manyatta and shared life stories, songs and culture with us.

One of the traditional marriage practices was a shock to me but thankfully it is no longer practiced. In years past, when a young man liked a girl, he talked to her and if she did not like him back, he would be offended and inform his friend about her response. They would then plan and kidnap the girl while on her way to the market or the well, rape her forcefully take her to his home. She would then be forced to remain and marry the young man because in the society no other young man would want to marry her.

Thankfully this is not longer practiced, we enjoyed the dances and skits they performed about the marriage ceremonies in the Karimajong. The jumping is certainly not for the faint hearted, at least do not try it right after a heavy meal. We ended by attending their craft market where various people bring their items for sale, unfortunately the small Karimajong stools were all taken before I could come to the market.  Karamoja is a rich region that you want to visit, the landscape is amazing and the cultural experience learning and watching is worth your time.

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