Kumam people


Kumam / Ikumama / Ikokolemu / Akokolemu

The Kumam (also known as Ikumama, Ikokolemu and Akokolemu referred to by the Iteso) are a Ugandan ethnic group of about 340,000 living mainly in the western areas of Teso sub-region and the south-east of Lango sub-region. The Kumam are an ethnic group of people found in Kaberamaido district, district in Eastern Uganda. Formerly they shared Soroti district with the Iteso and some parts of formerly Lira district with the Langi. In the Lango region, they are now found in Dokolo district which was detached from Lira District. They are found at the shores of Lake Kyoga (Namasale). In Soroti district, they are found in Serere, Asuret, Soroti town as well as the outskirts of Soroti district neighboring Kaberamaido.

They speak a Luo language similar to the language spoken by the Lango, with some Ateso vocabulary.

Kumam traditions say are part of the Iteso people. They probably lost their Eastern Nilotic Ateker language and took up the Western Nilotic Luo spoken by their Lango and Acholi neighbours – due to prolonged contact and intermarriages.



The Kumam descend from the early fishing, agricultural, and herding communities of Ethiopia. They migrated southwards towards Uganda because of land pressure around the 17th century. Today, they live on the shores of Lake Kyoga in the districts of Serere, Soroti and Kaberamaido.

History of the Kumam people

The Kumam were originally a Plains Nilote people, related to the Teso and Karamojong.  They were affected by the migration of the Lwoo Nilotic people group from the Sudan beginning in the 1400s.  As these Lwoo-speaking River-Lake Nilotes pressed in, the Kumam were one of the groups who gradually accepted the Lwoo speech.

Historians claim that they migrated from the north-eastern part of Ethiopia about the 16th century AD. They assert that their language derived from the Ateso dialect (Dum) and they later on adapted the Luo dialect (Lwo), when they came in contact with the Luo peoples from the area around Mt. Otukei and Wila in today’s Karamoja territory.


Political set-up

The Kumam had political structure under clan leaders known as wegi Atekerin. Other people of importance in the society were wegi ikodeta Cel (leaders of dancing groups), and leaders of Asonya(ancient) homes, wegi Cel. The wegi Cel were in most cases Dogolan or Odonge ikekoros (heads of part of a clan descending form one man). These clan leaders were responsible for the maintenance of law and order as well as general administration. They arbitrated in matters of politics and social affairs.


Social set-up

Music, dance and story telling played a big part in kumam lifestyle. At any time music would be made, at various functions, such as ceremonial, religious and political functions. In the evening, the old people would narrate stories to the younger generation as part of the oral traditions.



Previously, the parents would arrange marriages for their children. Girls would be betrothed to boys at an early age. In effect, the young girl would become wife to a respective boy but she would wait to be officially handed over when she came of age. In some cases, the young girls so betrothed would be taken to the boy's home to grow up there. When she came of age, a ceremony would be organized to formalize the relationship. With time however the system changed. Today, the boy goes looking for a girl and without the consent of the parents and sneak with her to his home at night. After a week or so, the girl's relatives would begin to look for her. Obviously they had some prior knowledge of her whereabouts. On discovery, a fine would be exacted from the boy. Arrangements would be made to settle the bride wealth and the marriage would be formalized