Karamoja sub-region, commonly known as Karamoja, is a region in Uganda.
The subregion, is located in northeastern Uganda and comprises the following seven districts:
- Abim District
- Amudat District
- Kaabong District
- Kotido District
- Moroto District
- Nakapiripirit District
- Napak District
Kaabong District lies to the extreme northeast and borders both Southern Sudan and Kenya. It is home to Kidepo Valley National Park. The most-eastern district in Karamoja is Amudat District. Nakapiripirit District, borders Mount Elgon National Park.
The region of Karamoja extends over 27,900 square kilometers. The region is mostly a semi-arid plain with harsh climate and low annual rainfall. It is largely savannah, covered with seasonal grasses, thorned plants, and occasional small trees. The average elevation of the plain of Karamoja lies at around 1400 meters (4500 feet) above sea level. The large mountains, Mt. Kadam, Mt. Napak, and Mt. Moroto — lying at the periphery of Karamoja — have peaks reaching around 3000 meters (10,000 feet) and higher.
In 2011, the Karamoja sub-region was the site of an important fossil discovery. Paleontologists discovered the remains of Ugandapithecus major, a 20 million year old ancestor of present day primates. "It is a highly important fossil and it will certainly put Uganda on the map in terms of the scientific world," said Martin Pickford, one of the researchers involved in the discovery.
The southern districts of Moroto, Nakapiripirit and Napak, are inhabited largely by the Nilotic Karimojong ethnic group, which consists of three clans: Matheniko, Bokora and Pian. The Tepeth are found in Moroto District and in the Napak Mountains, and there are said to be a few of the original inhabitants, the Oropom in the region. The Pokot live in Amudat District, neighboring Kenya and some also reside across the border in Kenya. Kotido District is largely inhabited by the Jie and Kaabong District by the Dodoth (or Dodoso), together with the few Ik (aka Teuso). Abim District is inhabited by the Ethur, comprising the Jabwor in the north and (a related tribe) in the south. The name Karimojong while strictly belonging to the southern clans of Matheniko, Bokora and Pian, is applied to the Jie and Dodoth due to similarities in language and culture.
Significant numbers of the peoples of Karamoja belong to and attend both the Catholic and Anglican Churches. Baptist and PAG churches are also coming up in the area. There has been a small population of Muslim Karamojong people for several decades, particularly around Moroto. Many, especially those who did not attend school, retain their traditional religious beliefs, and for some Christianity or Islam is something of a veneer over this. Incomers are represented in all the above groups.
According to 2002 national population and housing Census, the population of Karamoja has grown at an annual average rate of 7.2% from 370,423 in 1991 to 966,245 in 2002. The highest annual population growth rate of 9.7%, was in Kotido District.
As pastoralism and conflict are strongly interrelated, the integrated management of natural resources, like pasture, livestock and water becomes crucial. In terms of economic activity, the region depends on cattle keeping, mining, and trading in agricultural produce with neighboring districts. In mid-2006, as first reported by Inner City Press and then by The New Vision, the United Nations Development Programme halted its disarmament programs in Karamoja in response to human rights abuses in the parallel forcible disarmament programs carried out by the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF). There have been reports of atrocities and many civil victims of the disarmament, as army forces and nomadic warriors clashed. The disarmament campaign usually involves the UPDF surrounding manyatas (villages) and evacuating people from the interior, prior to orchestrating searches for hidden weapons. In September 2007, Human Rights Watch released a 97-page report  detailing alleged torture and even killings of children. However, this report also acknowledged that the UPDF's high command was attempting to address discipline problems, partly by providing human rights training, which had, by the time of the publication date, lead to cordon and search operations becoming "markedly less violent."
There were a number of significant clashes between the UPDF and nomadic warriors in 2010. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said in June 2010 that at least 19 people had been killed in two incidents on January 4–7 and January 22, when the army used a helicopter gunship and ground forces against warrior communities, before a third incident, on April 24, which resulted in at least 10 deaths. She claimed that the death toll from all three incidents was, most likely, even higher than the confirmed numbers she quoted. She called for the opening of an impartial inquiry into the attacks.
By early 2011, the UPDF said it was starting to scale down its military operations in Karamoja. It claimed to have largely cleared the region of illegal weapons. However, in 2011, fresh allegations of torture carried out by the army in Karamoja were recorded by journalists working on a Pulitzer Center-funded project.
Human welfare, living conditions and quality of life of the people in Karamoja have declined considerably due to various factors such as environmental issues, insecurity, marginalization, illiteracy, poor health and poor infrastructure. Moroto and Nakapiripirit have the lowest HDI of 0.183 and Kotido has 0.194 as compared to an average of 0.4491 for Uganda.
The Districts of Karamoja have the highest human Poverty Indices (HPI) with Nakapiripirit and Moroto Districts having 63.5% and Kotido has 53.8%, compared to the national average of 37.5%, Central region of 31.5%, Northern region 46.1%, Western region 39.0% and Eastern region 37.1%. (See table two).
There are at least 5 regional hospitals in Karamoja, providing affordable health services to the area. The locations include Matany, Moroto, Amudat, Kotido and Kaabong.
Poverty is increasing and according to the Karimojong, the main factors responsible for poverty include persistent poor harvest as a result of dry spells and droughts, cattle rustling and insecurity, animal death, lack of water, poor farming practices, ill health and disability, high bride price for marriage, lack of skills and unemployment, limited sources of income, poor governance and landlessness (UPPAP 2002).
The 1980 famine in Karamoja was, in terms of mortality rates, one of the worst in history. 21% of the population died, including 60% of the infants.
Much of Karamoja remained heavily dependent on the largesse of the United Nations World Food Programme, as the region entered the second decade of the twenty first century.
In 2011, in the wake of the severe 2011 Eastern Africa drought, food shortages were again reported in the region as well as other areas in northern and eastern Uganda. Karamoja and the Bulambuli district, in particular, are among the worst hit areas, with an estimated 1.2 million Ugandans affected. The Ugandan government has also indicated that as of September 2011, acute deficits in foodstuffs are expected in 35 of the country's districts.
Language and Ethnicity
The Karimojong are part of the Karimojong Cluster of Nilotic tribes (also known as the Teso Cluster). The languages of the Jie and Dodoth are not quite the same as, but mutually intelligible with Karimojong. The ethnicity of the Ethur is not entirely certain, but they are regarded as essentially Nilotic (if mixed) and their language is regarded as a Luo dialect. The Ik and Tepeth have their own languages, but these are under great pressure from the Karimojong language (Ŋakarimojong) around them.
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- "Ancient primate fossil unearthed". BBC News. 2 August 2011.
- Stokes, J (2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East, Volume 1. Infobase Publishing. p. 362.
- Human Rights Watch, 2007
- Pulitzer Center, April 2011
- Longhurst, R. "Famines, food, and nutrition: issues and opportunities for policy and research". UNU Press. Retrieved 25 October 2010.
- Uganda: Famine Bites As Families Resort to One Meal a Day
Karamoja Microfinance Committee (KMFC): Karamoja Microfinance Strategy, AMFIU Working Paper No. 4, Kampala, 2006.
Katalemwa M. / Mbabazi, J.: Microfinance Outreach: AMFIU backstops Karamoja DPC, partners to develop Microfinance strategy for the region, in: Supplement to The New Vision, The Daily Monitor, 6. December 2005.
2011: ‘Disarmament: The end or fulfilment of cattle-raiding’ Nomadic Peoples 14/2:123-46
2007c: ‘Globalizing Trends or Identities through Time? The Longue Durée in Karamojong Ethnography’ Journal of East African Studies 1/3:466-83
2007a: ‘Of War-Leaders and Fire-Makers: A rejoinder’ History in Africa 34:411-20
2006c: ‘Belief in Guns and Warlords: Freeing Karamojong identity from Africanist theory’ African Identities 4/2:269-86
2006b: ‘Orality in the Service of Karamojong Autonomy: Polity and performance’ Journal of African Cultural Studies 18/1:137-52 Special Issue ‘Language, Power, and Society: Orality and literacy in the Horn of Africa’
2006a: ‘Multireligious Responses to Globalization in East Africa: Karamojong and Agĩkũyũ Compared’ Transformation 23/2:71-85
2005: The Vitality of Karamojong Religion: Dying tradition or living faith? Aldershot: Ashgate http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&calcTitle=1&title_id=4401&edition_id=4620 This 366-page monograph includes a full bibliography. Launched at the ‘Militarization, Violence, and livelihoods’ Workshop, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford 3.5.06
2003b: ‘The State as Raider among the Karamojong: ‘Where there are no guns, they use the threat of guns’ Africa 73/3:427-55
2003a: Entry on ‘the Karamojong, Uganda’ in Hughes, Lotte The No-Nonsense Guide to Indigenous Peoples London: Verso pp. 67f.
2002: ‘School for Progress: The re-routing of BCMS missionaries into education for the end of empire in Karamoja, Uganda’ International Review of Mission 91/361: 256-77
2001d: ‘Globalization: Implications of violence, the global economy, and the role of the state for Africa and Christian mission’ Transformation 18/4:204-19
2001b: ‘Forgiveness or Disengagement in a Traditional African Cycle of Revenge’ Exchange 30/1:18-32; an earlier and unproofed version is published in Africa Theological Journal 24/1:53-72
2000: ‘Other Religions and The Meaning of God in an African Traditional Religion: The encounter in Karamoja, Uganda’ Asia Journal of Theology 14/2: 399-430 October. Also published as ‘Other Religions and the Meaning of God’ Dharma Deepika 4/2:35-50 July to December
1999b: ‘The Meaning of God in an African Traditional Religion and the Meaninglesness of Well-Meaning Mission: The experience of Christian enculturation in Karamoja, Uganda’ Transformation 16/4:120-127
Schmidt, O. (2006): Do Microfinance Development Strategies care about the consumer? – Assessing Microfinance trends and drivers upon the case of Uganda, in: ded-info-CD financial sector development, Bonn (ded, department P12).
- Karamoja and the Karamojong on UGPulse.com
- For Life Onlus is a non profit making Italian registered charity working in Karamoja Uganda
- Karamoja Data Centre
- Moroto District website
- Nakapiripirit District website
- An awareness-raising campaign on Karamoja in Europe