The Kumam (also known as Ikumama, Ikokolemu and Akokolemu referred to by the Iteso) are a Ugandan ethnic group of about 292,000 living mainly in Kaberamaido district as well as the western areas of Teso sub-region, and the south-east of Lango sub-region.
Kumam traditions say are part of the Iteso people. They probably lost their Eastern Nilotic Ateker language and took up the Western Nilotic Luo spoken by their Lango and Acholi neighbours – due to prolonged contact and intermarriages.
The Kumam descend from the early fishing, agricultural, and herding communities of Ethiopia. They migrated southwards towards Uganda because of land pressure around the 17th century. Today, they live on the shores of Lake Kyoga.
Culture and Customs
The Kumam had political structure under clan leaders known as wegi Atekerin. Other people of importance in the society were wegi ikodeta Cel (leaders of dancing groups), and leaders of Asonya(ancient) homes, wegi Cel. The wegi Cel were in most cases Dogolan or Odonge ikekoros (heads of part of a clan descending form one man). These clan leaders were responsible for the maintenance of law and order as well as general administration. They arbitrated in matters of politics and social affairs.
Music, dance and story telling played a big part in kumam lifestyle. At any time music would be made, at various functions, such as ceremonial, religious and political functions. In the evening, the old people would narrate stories to the younger generation as part of the oral traditions.
Previously, the parents would arrange marriages for their children. Girls would be betrothed to boys at an early age. In effect, the young girl would become wife to a respective boy but she would wait to be officially handed over when she came of age. In some cases, the young girls so betrothed would be taken to the boy’s home to grow up there. When she came of age, a ceremony would be organized to formalize the relationship. With time however the system changed. Today, the boy goes looking for a girl and without the consent of the parents and sneak with her to his home at night. After a week or so, the girl’s relatives would begin to look for her. Obviously they had some prior knowledge of her whereabouts. On discovery, a fine would be exacted from the boy. Arrangements would be made to settle the bride wealth and the marriage would be formalized.