By Robert Owilli Abia.
With a population of over 70,000 people, Abim is one of the Districts of Karamoja Sub-region comprising five (5) sub-counties and one Town Council. People of Abim popularly call themselves as jo Abwor (literally meaning people of Abwor) of Labwor county. Most often than not, others prefer to call them Ethur. In contrast to other Nilo-Hamites speaking people of Karamoja, the Ethnicity of Ethur has been greeted with several uncertainties, moreover, not so many have explored into the historiography of the Ethur people, living the outsider’s perspective to prevail. Essentially, they are a sect of Nilotics, this is visible in their luo dialect, a feature that makes them distinct from other Karimojong communities.
The main Economic activity is mainly agriculture, dorminant crops are Sorghum, millet, maize, pigeon peas, groundnuts, sunflower, sweet potatoes, cow peas, cassava, Upland rice and Beans though cattle is also kept on small scale like Goats,Cows,sheep.The people of Alerek and Morulem Sub-Counties
subsidise their economy through Goal mining. The climate is generally favorable for farming activities, unlike other districts of Karamoja. Suffice it to say, Abim could be one of the food baskets of Karamoja if the climate is exploited, and commercial agriculture embraced
Culture and language.
The Ethur, are mainly grouped according to clan system (jok-Apuru, kajimo, Epanyamenya, Kochero, Katik, epaebwor etc). It’s believed that, kapuru and kajimo are the largest clans in the Ethur community. The language spoken is leb thur. One of the stringent taboos (which also cuts across other Karimojong communities) forbids one from marrying within the same clan or even from the lineage of your parents. This is perceived to be incest and is condemned strongly.
The celebrated cultural dance is majorly mwel bul (dance of the drum). The drums are beaten in a manner that is easily identifiable with the Ethur community, even at a distance. When norms and values are broken, the offender is subjected to ameto, a traditional justice and disciplinary mechanism consisting of a range of predetermined, and sometimes random penalty and punishment. The norms and values are generally known, and instilled into children while they are growing up. No one is naive about the exsisting norms, value, taboos and everything within the definition of culture. The ameto board consists of distinguished elders who set standard norms and values shaping societal behavior, they also determine what form of punishment any offender should be subjected to. The Ethur community are generally peaceful and have a strong attachment to their cultural ties.
The beauty of Abim District.
Ethur people live in a well-watered hilly area, the beauty traits of its geography is visible in the magnificent Labwor hills, the beautiful sceneries, tall grass, artificial and natural forest and the woodland is alluring to the sight. Tourists that visit Abim District are caught off guard by the beautiful sceneries, which sometimes they refer to as the ‘Switzerland of Karamoja.’ The common tourist sites in Abim are Rwoth and Akur hills, green vegetation and a vast culture..
Other infrastructure and services
Abim has 1 pre-primary, 45 primary schools, 2 technical Institutes and 5 Secondary schools. Because of the need to increase literacy levels, adults are enrolled in Functional Adult Literacy Classes to learn how to read and write, this is facilitated by Church of Uganda, ABEK and other service providers. Abim hospital, the only major hospital in the district, also serves other districts especially Kaabong and Kotido, as and when need arises. Other health centers and private clinics are also operational.
As of 30th, December, 2009, Abim is the only District in Karamoja, to get connected with Hydro Electricity Power. This will potentially increase the number and nature of economic and business opportunities, which has for long encountered lack of electricity. The telecommunication services available in Abim are facilitated by MTN and Zain Uganda. Internet connection is generally provided by the same telecommunication companies, and rated as ‘good’. From the main capital city (Kampala), it takes about XXX hours to get to Abim district by road, and about 45 minutes by flight
Though the District and the community at large have relative peace, pockets of insecurity due to armed Karimojong still exist, essentially slowing and affecting the socio- economic activities. Though Government of Uganda through Local government provides decentralized service, gaps still exist which needs intervention from partners in Development and especially in the sectors of Education, Health, Water, and Agriculture. Research and documentation center could also be set to inform policy to better the lives of Ethur community. A lot is still desired to see development amd peace in Abim. There are high rates of defilement, forced marriage, rape and a general low school enrollment and completion.
Mr. Robert Owilli Abia, is a member and key contributor of major themes of KPDDN. He is currently the Town Clerk of Abim District in Karamoja, Uganda, where he handles all the administrative and supervisory work within the Town Council. Robert acquired his bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences from Makerere University, Uganda in 2004, a Post Graduate certificate in Administrative Law from the Law Development Centre , Kampala 2005, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration and Management from Uganda Management Institute in 2008. Robert is currently Finalizing his Masters of Arts, in Public Policy and management from the International Institute of Social Studies at the Erasmus Mundus University-Rotterdam, Netherlands.