The Karamojong or Karimojongare an ethnic group commonly known as the agro-pastoral herders occupying mainly in the north-eastern region of Uganda speaking Karamojong or Karimojongas their language, they are also part of the Nilo-Saharan language group.According to anthropologists, the Karamojong are part of a group that migrated from present-day Ethiopia around 1600 A.D. and split into two sub-groups, withone moving to present day Kenya to form the Kalenjin group and Maasai clusterand the other called Ateker, migrated westwards then split into several groups,including Turkana in present-day Kenya, Iteso, Dodoth, Jie, Karamojong, and Kumamin Uganda, Jiye and Toposa moved into the present day southern Sudan all ofthem put together are now known as the “Teso Cluster” or”Karamojong Cluster”. The Karimojong are the cultural encounter inKidepo Valley National Park which is in one of their district of Kaabong.
History has it that the Karamojong were originally known as the Jie and their name was derived from “ekar ngimojong”, phrase translating to “the old men can walk no farther”. Karamojong Cluster are closely related to the Teso Cluster and both are said to have migrated from Abyssinia between the 1600 and 1700 AD as a single group but when they reached the area around the modern Kenyan-Ethiopian border, they separated into several groups like Turkana, Toposa, and the Dodoth. The Toposa continued to present day southern Sudan, the Dodoth settled in Apule in the northern part of present-day Karamoja sub-region. 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, believed to have been consisting of seven groups or clans who settled in today’s southern Karamoja, eventually merging to become the three clans now existing which include the Matheniko in the east around Moroto Mountain, the Pian in the south and the Bokora in the west and a significant sized group traveled west and formed the Iteso currently found in the districts of Katakwi, Amuria, Kumi, Kapelebyong, Serere, Tororo, Ngora and the Kumam in occupy the largest part of Soroti and Kaberamaido district with a few Iteso at the borders of Amuria with Kaberamaido, and the Langi are currently found in Apac, Lira, Dokolo, Otuke, Amolatar, Alebtong and Kole districts among others. The ‘Iteso’ phrase is an Ateso word which translates to ‘we have seen’ meaning they saw the fertile lands of the present day Teso sub-region from the highlands in the present day Karamoja sub-region and this Iteso group were said to have used the phrase “the old men can walk no farther” as they proceeded.
The main activity of the Karamojong is herding livestock, which has social and cultural importance. Crop cultivation is a secondary activity is some areas bordering Teso sb-region 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. Food and water insecurity is what they mainly face hence raiding the neighboring villages of Teso.
They live in Manyattas-grass thatched houses with walls made out of sticks and mud then their floors is smeared with cow dung. These manyattas are well fenced by logs and are built next to the kraal, the mayattas are incomplete without dancing and singing.
The food consumed by the Karamojong includes milk and blood producedfrom the herd. The staple crop is sorghum, which is planted withcucumbers and marrows, beans and gourds, and sometimes maize andmillet, are also grown for home consumption.
Way of dressing
The wear sheet-like cloths and a typical Karamajong woman’s attire entails just a skirt, colored beads around the neck and elastic or metallic bands tied around their ankles. The men on the other hand just throw a piece of cloth over their bodies and accompany it with plastic bangles. The tradition of wrapping themselves in many pieces of red checked cloths is only a modernization stunt copied from the Masai.
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