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The IK people in Kidepo valley national park

The IK people in Kidepo valley national park

Kidepo valley national park is one of the leading cultural safari destinations in Uganda with different tribes surrounding the park. Among these tribes include the two famous ones which are the IK and the Karamajong. People in northern Uganda are the best for cultural tours the fact they have preserved their way of dressing, living, and the local languages.

Initially, the IK people used to occupy the areas of the present day Kidepo valley national park but they were evicted by the government to gazette the area into a national park. After chasing the IK from the people they decided to move to the nearby areas for new settlement. As of today, this ethnic group of people live on the slopes of Mount Morungole and they are sometimes referred to as the mountain people.

Where did the IK people come from?

Long ago different ethnic groups moved from one place to another looking for better places of settlement and among these included the IK group of people. It’s said that the IK came from Ethiopia and moved to Kenya where they temporarily settled around the areas of Turkana. Due to cattle raiding in the area, they decided to continue with their cattle and settle around inside the present day Kidepo valley national park.

The Karamajong were pastoralists so cattle raids happen between these two tribes and the IK ended up losing the cattle they had to the Karamajong. This left the IK with nothing so they had to carry out other activities for survival. The IK then turned into subsistence farmers who could keep goats, bees, and grow some crops.

The government of Uganda in 1962 decided to gazette the area of IK and Karamajng into a national park to protect the wildlife animals, vegetation, and other attraction forcing these locals to look for new places. The IK went and settle around the areas of Mount Morungole where they live in communities of about 100 people.

The IK tribe is one of the smallest tribes in Uganda and they have done so much in preserving their culture. They do not speak any other language aorta from theirs and are selfish to teach their language to other people from outside their communities. The population of the IK people is believed to be between 10,000 to 15,000 people and there are high chances of the population increasing because of the polygamous marriages in their community.

The fact that the original home of the IK people (present day Kidepo valley national park) was made part of the national park. The people had to migrate to nearby areas of the park and get a new permanent settlement. Tourists who wish to visit and interact with the IK do visit Mount Morungole where the IK live on the slopes.

A visit to the IK people

Most of the tourists who visit the IK people are on a safari in Kidepio valley national park. They combine the game drive or bird watching with a cultural tour which can lead them to the IK community. On the day of the visit, a safari driver takes you to the foothills of Mount Morungole where you meet local guides to take you to the top of the mountain where you visit the IK community.  As soon as you have arrived, you are welcomed as a visitor by traditional dancers and a local guide who knows English is hired to help you translate when the locals are speaking.

Talking with elderly people will enable you to know about the history of this small ethnic group of people. Where they came from, what they do, and their future plans. You will learn that the IK were initially traditional hunters and gathers but have now changed to subsistence farming. They lost their cattle to Karamajong and they stopped hunting because it’s no longer allowed in the park. They are now subsistence farmers with maize being their staple crop, they keep bees for honey and rare goats.

The IK people have maize as their staple food and for travelers who stay in their community for a night or have lunch there, it’s what they can eat. The IK women prepare the maize and serving is done when ready. Men are served first, then the children and the rest is for other members. When the food is not enough, the women do not eat so they wait for the next meal the following day.

Rival tribes like the Karamajong continue to be a problem to the IK and there are solving this problem by fencing their homes. The community members don’t go to school so they do have little knowledge about things happening in the country. They love their local language and can not teach any other tribes around their communities.

A day with the IK people up on the slopes of Mount Morungole is an amazing adventure that will make you love the African culture. These are friendly and interesting people who continue to preserve their culture. The population of IK people will increase with time and this is because the men marry as many wives as they can. The wives are exchanged for goats, beehives, and sometimes food.

Visiting the IK people can be combined with a number of activities that happen in Kidepo valley national park. The national park has game drive activities, bird watching, nature walks, and hiking activities that tourists can really enjoy. Kidepo valley national park is found in the northeastern part of Uganda in Kaabong district 10 to 12 hours drive from Kampala city.

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