As you leave the south of Uganda and enter into the Karamoja region, the scenery changes from lush and green to dry, dusty red and brown. The landscape is covered by the trees of my dream from long ago. Miles and miles of land stretch out with very little human life to be seen. The mountains of Karamoja appear in the distance in a circular fashion, remnants of a volcano that erupted thousands of years ago.
Little by little, people begin to appear on the dirt road. Now here and there the munyatas begin to appear along the road. Munyatas are the dwelling places of the Karamojong people. They are round huts with straw roofs surrounded by a fortified wood stick fence. Inside each munyata, there is also a kraal for the herds of cattle, sheep, and goats belonging to a family.
Entering the town centers of each village is reminiscent of the old wild west. There are storefronts on either side of the road. People are seen selling their wares from tiny stores. There are markets in the street selling the limited vegetables available in this region.
As we continue to drive, we come across the local bore hole, a type of well. The shepherd boys are watering their herds of cows, sheep, and goats. They even bathe in the open, unashamed of their own nudity. I can’t help but imagine Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob coming up to the bore hole with their own flocks. Karamoja is a land living in the 19th century with little bits of 21st century being brought in by the outside world. The Ugandans in the south would like nothing more than for the Karamojong to conform to their standards. They don’t understand their pastoral lifestyle. They can’t imagine why they don’t want to change.
To be continued…