Karamoja – Culture, Cattle and the Gun

Situated in the semi-arid region of Northeast of Uganda, Karamoja is a land of complex and intriguing attributes.  Bordering Kenya in the east and Sudan in the North, it is a land where a man’s wealth is measured by the number of cattle, the rule of the gun is overruled by the traditional elders and traditional adornment and way of life is still prevalent.

The Karamoja region is one of the most challenging environments, affected by climate change as characterised by prolonged drought periods and devastating flush floods destroying cultivation and grazing areas; the growth of urban towns, seen as elements of a ‘modern’ lifestyle, are intermixing with more traditional cultural patterns, bringing about changes in the traditional ways of life, that are inevitable and destabilizing.  Karamojong warriors used to be armed with only spears, but with an influx and trafficking of guns in the region it has increased the number of casualties and impact of the raids.

With the majority of the Karamojong living as traditional pastoralists, this harsh climate makes it very challenging for alternate living means. Cattle raids to replenish stocks, seek revenge or meet the demands of marriage are too common resulting in escalated violence, displacement, arms trafficking, food insecurity and a breakdown in the traditional way of life in an already difficult living environment.

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