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By Margaret Mudong
Rupa sub county, Moroto,

Etamam is sending a report to another person or community over an issue requesting for permission and help. Normally the report is sent before the animals are taken to the particular place. For example, if the Matheniko of Moroto district want to temporality migrate to Napak, they first have to send the report to Napak kraal elders, stating the particular place and reasons driving them that is search for water and pasture. On the other end, Napak elders then inform community members and government leaders about the Matheniko seeking for permission to access their area and the purpose for which they are coming.

Once the report is received, a meeting is convened and attended by the elders, kraal leaders of the host community and key representatives of the migrating pastoralists and key government leaders. The factors for migration are discussed and an agreement orally drawn to guide the stay of the migrating pastoralists. Of recent, the government leaders have been brought on board due to the changing trends; to be aware of a particular group of people from a particular district of Karamoja migrating to a particular place. This is done for security purposes.

For us in Karamoja, in the past before colonial time, migration of animals in search of water and pasture was a normal practice and acceptable all over the region without seeking for any permission, people knew that during dry season, animals move to a certain direction of the region and during wet season, they move to another direction. The maps were locally developed and widely used by all under the leadership of the kraal leaders and elders. It was only outside Karamoja like in Teso region where I saw people going to seek for permission to graze cattle. The herdsmen would collectively agree on where to take cattle for grazing, if it is Lolelia or Loyoro, and they plan to move together. For example, when the Bokora would start their movement, they would pass by to the Jie from Kotido district and move to the Dodoth of Kaabong district then together they’d go to an agreed grazing area. Theywould graze and when the rains return, they return to their various homes. This is when the boundaries were not treated.

ETAMAM was necessitated during the colonial time, with the coming of the whites, the boundaries were created. With colonial boundaries, we needed to ‘seek’ permission even within Karamoja. Women don’t participate directly in Etamam process because it has to do with cattle which is perceived to be mainly owned and managed by men that is why only men have been at the forefront of Etamam, women indirectly participate. In the start of Etamam during the negotiation meetings, the bulls are killed for the host communities and women prepare meat for participants. The only women who participate actively in the negotiation meetings are educated women who have leadership capacity.

After Etamam has been accepted and migration starts, the active role of women is evident with too much work especially when there are no donkeys in the Kraal, it’s the women who take up the work of donkeys. They carry most of the luggage including children, food, calves and kids born on the way, upon reaching the destination; they construct temporal shelters, prepare beddings, take weak animals for watering; the responsibility of feeding herdsmen rests upon them, this includes collecting wild fruits, vegetables, preparing milk and cooking. These things sustain life and enhance a good stay of migrating pastoralists.

At community level, women actively participate in preparing the herdsmen into peaceful community agents. We actively participate in community mobilization and sensitization through peace talks, dramas, songs that convey peace messages that touch people. These efforts contribute into shaping the conduct and attitudes of herdsmen, and when they are in migration it contributes to the peaceful stay with the host communities.

When women are offered the opportunity to participate in Etamam, they jointly do it with men. Women are regarded as peace keepers. Women do share resources across borders, this include thatching grass and firewood. There has never been Etamam on these resources yet sometimes fights arise among women over them. Currently women from Kautakou, Napak District are gathering fire wood from Nangolol in Rupa, Moroto district without seeking for permission. Sharing of resources would be well planned and permission sought to minimize conflicts. “One time we went and found Matheniko and Bokora women collecting firewood from one location, a conflict emerged at some point”.

Since women are the most affected by conflicts arising from access to natural resources, they join men in the entire process to reduce conflicts. Times have equally changed, women do fully participate because they are now empowered due to the numerous trainings from NGO’s and government. Today, when it’s time to elect leaders, you find our village women contesting and elected to leadership positions. That means the community has noticed that women contribute to community as leaders and women have realized their potential.


Interview & transcription by: Atem Esther and Betty Lomuria

Edited by; Lomuria and Lolek