National Geographic : 1971 Nov
Uganda, Africa's Uneasy Heartland for Karamojong families record no birth dates. Some infection had claimed the sight of one eye, and scar tissue glistened on his torso. He wore a toga that fell far short of preserving modesty, an aluminum plug jutted from his lower lip, and earrings decorated the tops rather than the lobes of his ears. He had three wives and ten children but was, as he sadly explained, a poor man. Once he had been affluent, but all his cattle had gone for his sons' brides. Now he had only five cows in his herd. In his prime he had seen the great world, crossing the border into Kenya, riding on a train, visiting Nakuru and Nairobi. He led us down the hill to his camp. Dogs barked furiously at our approach. A thorn fence surrounded the camp, and we ducked inside through low entrances. Penned for the night, the precious cattle shuffled in their thorn enclosures. The huts were made of mud and wattle with thatch roofs. Flies buzzed everywhere. They clung to pots, to animals, to eyes, to lips. They even clogged nostrils and ears. Two young goats quivered near the hot ashes of a fire; the heat repelled the onslaught of the flies. Mournfully, the old man told of the Tur kana forays that were decimating his people. Just the previous night, they had raided a neighboring camp, stealing 15 cattle and killing a pregnant woman. "It is they," he said, "who have made our lives so hard." But, I asked, didn't the Karamojong also raid the Turkana? "They force us to cluster together instead of following the green grasslands after a rain. Our cattle grow thin and few." Didn't the Karamojong also harass the Turkana? "Now the Turkana get guns from Ethiopia, while we are forbidden even to carry spears. It is unjust." "But," I persisted, "have you yourself never raided the Turkana?" "Of course!" he said irritably. "It is well known that they have excellent cattle." But the old way of life-the swift assault by night, slow days of sunshine and the rich smell of kine-seems doomed. More and more, the Karamojong, their land overgrazed, are becoming tillers of the soil. Volcanic Range Marks Southwest Border In contrast to Uganda's flat and arid north east, the southwest is green and mountainous. With not too much exaggeration, tourist brochures dub this area, called Kigezi, the "Switzerland of Africa." Like a truncated arrowhead, Kigezi intrudes between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda-a region of clear lakes and densely wooded hills (map, page 712). His tears the only price, a child receives free medical care at a clinic in Namulonge. A British doctor, on government contract, treats patients with the aid of an interpreter. Many children die of mal nutrition or disease before their fifth year. Health education, immunization, and treatment campaigns move slowly for lack of funds and staff. But a growing number of Africans study medicine at Makerere University in Kampala; 90 doctors graduated in 1970. EKTACHROME () N.G.S.