New Vision (Kampala)

14 November 2008

Uganda: Tribes Face Extinction

Kampala — THIRTY percent of Uganda's tribes could be extinct by 2015. Six tribes have declined at a rate of more than 95% in five years. These are the Ik (also called Teuso), Dodoth, Ethur, Jie, Nyangia and Napore.

According to The state of Uganda population report 2008, 19 tribes out of the 61, registered a decline in population since the last population census in 2002.

The report launched by the Population Secretariat on Wednesday in Kampala shows that the national population increased last year by more than a million to 29.6 million, but this is mainly among the eight largest tribes which constitute about 70% of the total population.

These include the Baganda with 17.3% followed by the Banyankole with 9.8%, the Basoga 8.6% and the Bakiga 7.0%. Others are: the Iteso at 6.4%, Langi 6.1%, Acholi 4.7% and Bagisu 4.6%.

The report projects that by 2015, Uganda's population will hit 38 million. However, if the trend is not reversed, the six tribes will have ceased to exist.

Interestingly, the smallest tribe, the Vonoma, could still be in existence. With only 199 people down from 128 people in 2002, the Vonoma could be around 108 people by then.

The Dodoth fell from 328,582 in 2002 by 98.8% to only 2,545 today, the Jie by 99.3% from 146,661 to 1,092, and the Napore by 98.9% from 30,591 to 330. The Ethur reduced by 95.7% from 54,312 to 2,342, the Nyangia by 97.8% from 15,282 to 332 and the Ik by 47.9% from 16,294 to 8,497.

The majority of the Napore are found in the districts of Kotido 98.9% (30,261), Lira 0.39% (121), Moroto 0.22% (68), Kitgum (35), Mukono (13), Masindi (13) and Wakiso (11). Other districts have less than 10 Napore, while others like Mbarara, Gulu and Rakai have their numbers at less than 10 individuals.

Most of the Nyangia are found in the districts of Kotido (97.83%), Kapchorwa (0.32%), Kampala (0.18%), Kibaale (0.16), Nakapiripiti (0.14), Mubende and Kitgum (0.13). Others such as Kasese, Masindi Rakai and many more have less than 20 persons in each district.

The largest number of the Jie are found in the district of Kotido (99.26%). A few Jie are in the districts of Pader (0.12%), Kampala (0.10%), Bugiri (0.05%), Wakiso (0.04%), Masindi (0.04%), Kitgum (0.04%) and Moroto or Mukono (0.03%). Other districts have less than 0.03% of the Jie.

The other three tribes are mainly confined within Karamoja sub-region. The Ik live exclusively in the northern part of Kaabong district, while the Dodoth live in Kotido and the Ethur in Abim.

Crescent Tirinawe, from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, attributed the decline in their population to increased death.

Tirinawe, who did the research on the tribes, said the people rarely seek treatment from health centres when they fall sick.

"The hazard these groups face is that they experience high maternal and infant mortality rates," Tirinawe said. "When they fall sick, they use traditional herbs and this has to be addressed if they are to survive."

He proposes training of these groups and empowering them in programmes based on their cultural settings. This would increase their awareness and integration into the main development process, he said.

Kabann Kabananukye, whose PhD dissertation is on ethnic minorities in Uganda, says due to their vulnerability to a number of factors, these tribes tend to be inward looking.

Because other tribes despise them, they fail to intermarry, after failing to get their own partners, hence they produce fewer children, he says.

They generally experience poor conditions ranging from poor eating habits to poor sanitation and hygiene, Kabananukye noted.

Being isolated, they generally have no access to information on health and other services.

Hannington Burunde, head of the information and communication at POPSEC, expressed concern about this decline.

Like other Ugandans, they too should be provided with amenities to improve the quality of their livee, Burunde said. This, he added, would enable them to contribute to national development.

Fresh registration and survey of these groups, he said, will help inform decision makers about their plight and subsequent planning for them.

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