Kakwa Culture

The Kakwa live in in the far north west of Uganda occupying the Koboko County in the district of Arua. The Katwa are plain Nilotic by ethnicity and thus they have the Cushitic descent. Regarding the origin, the Kakwa haave two theories. One of the traditions claims that the Kakwa’s ancestor in Uganda was Yeki who is thought to have migrated from Karobe Hill in the South of Sudan and settled on Mount Liru in Koboko west Nile. Yeki is known to have produced 7 sons and one of these sons was fond of biting his brothers and as a result he was nick named Kakwa ji which means biter. The descendants of his son adopted a plural form and became the Kakwa.

The other tradition notes that the Kakwa were initially from Kui and are known to have been fierce fighters who at times caused heavy losses on their enemies. As a result of this, the Kui then nick named themselves Kakwa since their fierce attacks were like a bite of a tooth. This is majorly accepted by the Kakwa in Koboko.

Basically, the Kakwa clans spread in the Koboko area which is part of Maracha and Aringa trace their origin to Loloyi though hardly can anyone tell what and where exactly Laloyi is. The Kakwa are connected to the Bari of Southern Sudan by language and as a result they are connected with the Mundari, Kuku, Pojuru, Karamojong and the Nyangwar. The another tradition in Koboko notes that the Kakwa ancestors came in from the direction of Ethiopia and though the tradition does not show which point that the Kakwa split from the Bari, the general conjecture is that they split in the east of the River Nile. And since they are plain Nilotic just like the Iteso and the Karimojong, the Kakwa might have split from the Bari at Kapoeta.


Regarding the political and social set up, the Kakwa had segmentary political institutions which had no centralized mode of governance. Every clan was politically independent and enjoyed maximum loyalty. The clan chief was the highest political officer and below him, there were clan elders called Temejik. These were mostly Sub clan heads and had close association with the chief like relatives. The Chief among the Kakwa was both a political figure and a maker of rain. The chief would simultaneously assume tittles as the chief of the rain and the chief of the land.

kakwa people 2

However, there were Kakwa clans that were not gifted by rain makers for example the Ludara Kakwa. These people assert that their ancestor was not from the rain making family. In such clans, the duties of the chief of the land and the chief of the rain were split and as a result the chief of the rain was entrusted in to the hands of another potential person who was not a chief. However, it would be rare to encounter a chief that did not make rain.

The Society of the Kakwa Matrilineal and the chief’s position was hereditary. However among the clans that had no rain making chiefs, the position of the chief was not hereditary. The clans that had no rain makers would borrow them from other clans but the borrowed rain maker wielded no political influence. He would just be paid by his service.

Regarding the societal arrangement, the Kakwa had no distinct class system but had lower and upper people. The people in lower category included; cattle herders, house servants and young children. These were looked after by the upper people and if the upper person looked after them very well, they would stay even after marriage. If the upper person failed to take good care of them, they would leave his home and look for another master.


Regarding the chieftaincy ship, the chief to be had to pass through a range of rituals; usually, the chief had a secret bead which would be passed to him from the ancestors and the chief would at times drop the bead in the food and call his sons to come and eat. The son who would discover the bead and give it to his father would be the successor. From that day on wards, the son would carry his father’s stool and chiefly stick wherever he went. The son would also be required to be keen in observing what his father used to do in preparation for his forth coming responsibilities. The elders of the clan had the powers to refuse the nominee from becoming the chief if it was known that he was an irresponsible person. Though this way was very common, other ways through which the chief would be got existed.

In situations where the chief had no son, the closet relatives would succeed him and if he died and left the potential successor when still young, a regent would be appointed to rule on his behalf until the child attains the leadership age. In the process of chief installation, the members of the clan would gather at the house of the chief named Kadina mata. The food and beer would be brought and customarily the elders would sit alone and invoke the blessings of the ancestors to enable the new Chief led his followers in prosperity and peace. Dancing and Rejoicing would then follow. The Chief was responsible for the protection of hunting grounds of the clan, advise the members to prevent heir cattle from grazing on the crops of other clans, shifting people to other areas in case of danger, negotiate for peace in case of aggression and defeat from the external forces. The chief would advised by the council of elders and if he had the rain making powers, he would not require the elders advise as he would considered to be far above other ordinary men no matter how old they would be. The Chief possessed no standing army but every chieftainship had a military leader named Jokwe. The Jokwe and the Chief would first consult elders and a ritual ceremony would be conducted to seek the ancestral intervention for ascertaining the military strength of an enemy. The ritual involved drawing a circle on the ground and the chicken would be tied at the center of it. The circle’s circumference was labeled in an alternate way with signs of either defeat or victory. The chicken in the center of the circle would then be slaughtered and if it died near the defeat, the chief would advise the whole clan to avoid going to war and would go ahead to negotiate for peace with the head of the rival clan. If the chicken died near the victory side, the clan would opt for war no matter how weak it was as it was believed that ancestral spirits would support them and claim victory. In some clans of the Kakwa, women would go to the battle field with their men. It was believed that killing a woman during the battle was against the ancestral interests. Thus, enemy fighters would avoid killing the women thus giving the other side an advantage. The women would cheer up their husbands during the fighting and could help to hide the causalities and the dead until the battle was over.


Regarding the Judicial system, the Kakwa settled disputes by use of clan elders and the most serious cases would be referred to the chief. The Kakwa allowed the women and children to attend. However, they were required to sit down and keep quiet unless they were consulted as witnesses. Some of the serious cases included adultery and the murder. If the man was found committing adultery, he would be put to death right away and no person would protest it. The thieves would also be killed. The murder of a person from a different clan brought an inter clan war and the murdered person would not be buried until the revenge has been made. However, if the person murdered a fellow clan’s man, he would not be killed. Howe would be required to pay compensation of a cow or 2. If the woman was thought to have poisoned the husband and then she denied it, she would be taken down the stream to prove her innocence. The clansmen of the woman and the husband’s relatives would also move down to the stream. The accused would be fed on jja or Kuru which are wild plant seeds and also required to consume plenty of water. If the woman was innocent, she was expected to vomit all the water but if she truly poisoned her husband, nothing would come out and her stomach would begin to swell. At this point, the relatives of the husband would kill her while her clans men looked on. If she vomited the water, her relatives would come out in her defense and compensation would be sought. Failure to do that would result into war between the two clans. The bull or a cow would be paid by relatives of the husband to help the woman regain her reputation ad would bring the order back again. If the couple was caught having extra marital sex, the man would be held captive until ransom is paid normally a cow or four goats. The man would at time be forced to marry the girl. However, such cases could not lead to war between the clans.

Regarding the economy, the Kakwa practiced subsistence agriculture and kept goats, cattle, and sheep. They also cultivated crops including sorghum and burusu bean Species. The men carried out most of the work including grazing, cultivation and building houses. Women usually carried out weeding and would also clean the harvests and store them in the granaries. The kakwa Women engaged in basket weaving, pottery and salt mining. The Kakwa extracted salt from a plant named morubo and bukuli. These plant types would be burnt and then ashes would be in a container with holes at the bottom. Then water would be poured on the ashes and the slat liquid would filter through the holes and would collect in another container at the bottom. The Nyangalia clan of the Kakwa people has specialty in making spears, iron smelting, hoes, knives and a range of iron implements. The Kakwa weighed their wealth on how many granaries of food one ad the livestock numbers in the Kraal.