The magificent scenary welcomes you as you approach Abim district from Kotido

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.


13 responses to “Abim

  1. Dear Ethur,
    I managed to get in touch with one of the great academician in UK who did acomemdable write up about the Ethur community. His research assistants by then included the late Hon. Omwong John Rex and Mr. Otoo Robert from Kiru. There ae pertinent and prominent elders he outlined in his book from Morulem. I will get the details of the document and avail them to the Ethur community.

  2. Thanks for this piece of information, Lammy.
    Would you like to add that contribution to the blog, or do you want to write about intermarriage? We would certainly give you space to on the blog to do it.

  3. Mary Angel Acayo

    It’s great Mr. Owilli. Thanks for making Abwor known. Iam interested in the Girl child education of Ethur children. Iam currently researching on Educational Rights of the girl child vs courtship rape in Karamoja. help with data please.

  4. I think it is an great idea to share lots of information which has not been published about the Ethur community, where they came from and how they settled in Labwor. Thanks

  5. Abwor okwer ci okwer . Amotho Ethur kibec.. Remember to produce more, we are still very few.

  6. Dinah AJILONG

    It is so wonderful to read about the people of Abim district. I am looking for a place to do my research from and I will surely think about considering Abim district so that I can learn more and enjoy mixing with people in ABIM. Thank you Mr. Robert Awillo Abia for your captivating narration.

  7. wow,more is still needed,thank God we are somewhere ,soon God will remember us.it will be my joy when karamoja will be the world’ biggest suppplier

  8. Ethur also practise intermarriages though on a small scale .

  9. Thanks Patrick for visiting the blog. more needs to be researched on challenges affecting socio-economic development of Abim and how Abim potentials can be exploited for the benefit of ethur-this blog serves the purpose to air it out feel free to give a topic of your choice…..cheers

  10. Patrick,
    Thank you for your kind words, and please let others know about the blog.
    If you are on the blog right now, you can get live help by going to the box with the words ‘KPDDN Live help’
    I am going to be able to guide you through once you get on the chat with me.

  11. OJOK Patrick

    By the way, how can one contribute o this site?

  12. Patrick,
    Thank you for visiting the blog.
    We hope we shall learn from each other, about Abim and other issues on Karamoja in general.

    Please take advantage of our discussion topics and give your thoughts on issues you my want to point out.

  13. OJOK Patrick

    This was my first time to set eye on this website! It was more joy to read the article by Abia on Ethur people. Thumbs up Robert. We need to write a lot about Karamoja, esp. Ethur people who are otherwise little known, and misunderstood.

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