A cultural trip to Kidepo valley National Park is a must add to your list of activities that you might need to engage in while on your safari. Uganda has different cultures and the IK and Karamojong people that live adjacent to the National Park are part of the Unique culture that you should experience while in Uganda. A cultural trip to Kidepo is one of those few things that will always stick with you for a long time and when you get to the villages, you will get to understand the real meaning of a primitive and backward society that is still grappling with development and the ever-changing world but with a unique culture that will want you staying there for a long time.
The Ik tribe
Getting to the IK tribe is not easy since they live in a mountainous area however there is a marked route that has made it a little bit easy. This guided walk might not be easy but it is an adventure that every tourist should take because you get to learn about their cultural beliefs, how beehives are used for bride price, how the villages are managed, and a little bit of the unique Ik language.
When you get to the villages, the locals will welcome you with traditional songs and dances. Due to their proximity with the National Park, they have been greatly exposed to tourism which has put them on the world market and although they still follow their traditions, the income that comes from tourism has greatly helped them improve their well-being.
The Ik people are part of two tribes that live around Kidepo Valley National Park and they live in the Morungole Mountains, one of the top tourist attractions in the Park. The IK are known as Tueso by the Karamojong and this is a demeaning way that the Karamojong see the Ik as Tueso. The IK people migrated from Ethiopia and their first settlement was in Kenya before they migrated to the Karamojong region and became the first settlers in the region. Ik means ‘the first to migrate here it is believed that they were running away from the Turkana and Jie who kept on inflicting wars on them since the Ik were not as rich as their neighbours. They are generally hunters, gathered fruits, leaves and tubers, had a few heads of cattle, sheep and goats.
The Ik from way back have been a small community and have been bullied by the larger communities and that is why they migrated into the Morungole Mountains and have been living there ever since. It is a minority group that has almost 99% of the total population not educated, have no skills, do not know anything about technology, have not travelled anywhere else outside their homesteads and know nothing about technology.
There are currently about 1000 to 1500 Ik people and although they were previously cattle keepers, this has been put on hold to avoid the raids coming from the Karamojong warriors. Each homestead is known as Asak which is shared by the parents with their children until at 4 years when the children are picked up by their grandparents.
The Asak are constructed in relatively flat areas of the Murongole Mountain (valleys). They are fenced off to prevent intruders like people from other tribes from attacking and wild animals. Each household has a food granary, kraal for the sheep and goats, a place where utensils are kept and a pit latrine.
Giving birth is considered to be a sign of blessing to the family and every child is brought up by the entire community and not just the family. As earlier noted, the children leave their parent’s home at 4 years to go live with their grandparents who are supposed to teach them on how to survive in the community and other skills. By the time the children make 13 or 14 years, the girls are readied for marriage whereas the boys leave and construct their own Asak.
The Ik people believe in polygamous marriages and for as long as they can afford to pay for their bride price. Chickens, Goats and sheep are used for bride price and beehives as well since many of the Ik homesteads extract honey from the hives. When a husband dies or there is divorce, the wife can be inherited by anyone who is capable but their traditional values do not allow for incest and the punishment for adultery is death.
The IK people got their first member of parliament in 2016 making history in the whole country since most of the children barely go to school and those that do have to either go to neighboring villages or walk long distances just to get to a school.
The Karamojong just like the Ik are believed to have migrated from Ethiopia through Kenya before settling in the North-eastern part of Uganda. They are mainly nomadic pastoralists who keep cattle as their main activity. As they migrated from Ethiopia, they divided into three groups that is the Jie continued to Uganda ad these are the present day Karamojong, the Turkana stayed in Kenya and the Toposa went to south Sudan.
The Karamojong were originally known as Jie when they first settled in Uganda but were later given a name that was got from the Itesot dialect ‘Ekar Imojong’ which means old men can’t walk further and the name has stuck to date. The Itesot were part of the Karamojong who left the group to form their tribe as youngsters and after intermarrying, the Kumam and Langi tribes were formed. All these tribes have similar words and some of their way of life match.
For one to be considered as a man in the Karamojong culture, they must have a lot of cows since the animals are the ones that are used when they are negotiating for bride price. They also have to fight the woman that they intend to marry and if they win, they take the woman, and negotiate for the bride price and if they lose the fight, they are then considered to be weak.
A Karamojong man can marry as many wives as he wants for as long as they can take care of them and each woman gets a Manyatta constructed for them where they live with their children. Wealth among the Karamojong is passed on from Father to son and sometimes through raids on the neighboring villages. Karamojong are known to have their favourite dish which is boiled blood and milk at every occasion that they find and they only draw blood from the animals without killing them. This is done by use of a sharp spear which is used to make a small puncture around the throat of the animals and after drawing the blood, the animal is tended to so that it does not die.
They live in homesteads filled with Manyattas (houses where they live) and these are fenced off using wood to avoid being attacked by wild animals. Every fenced-off homestead has about 50 families and the women and children are the ones that are tasked with caring for the homestead, cooking, and other household chores as the men go out to care for the cattle. The cattle have their kraals in the large compounds of the homesteads and in most cases, the Karamojong warriors make a fire and sleep outside to be able to protect the herds.