According to Charles Ebayu Ocen, the chairperson of Kumam Cultural Heritage, the Kumam elders started seeking recognition in 1989 under the leadership of Mzee Joseph Ekemu, the former Kaberamaido County Member of Parliament who also served as Attorney General between 1997/1998 before his arrest over the allegations of corruption.
Kumam Cultural Heriate Logo.
Preparations for the elections of Won Atekerin, the cultural leader of the Kumam community in Kaberamaido district are in high gear.
The preparations are
steered by the Kumam Cultural Heritage, the brain behind the establishment of
Won Atekerin-Papa Kumam, an entity that came to the limelight in 2017 when some of the
leaders from Kaberamaido expressed concerns over their waning identity.
The Kumam community has in most cases been categorized as part of Teso, under the Iteso Cultural Union. But some of the leaders in Kaberamaido and Kalaki districts,
predominantly occupied by the Kumam say that their language is fading away and they now want
a cultural leader to help promote their values and cultural identity.
According to Charles Ebayu Ocen, the chairperson of Kumam
Cultural Heritage, the Kumam elders started seeking recognition in 1989 under
the leadership of Mzee Joseph Ekemu, the former Kaberamaido County Member of Parliament
who also served as Attorney General between 1997 and 1998 before his arrest over the
allegations of corruption.
Kumam Elders were actively involved in the establishment of the Iteso Cultural Union- ICU and the installation
of Emorimor, the Teso Cultural leader in 2000. But Ocen says they started hatching the idea
of splitting from Teso following difficulty in communication during meetings.
“Meetings that would take two to three hours would go for a
whole day because of a communication gap. Not all Iteso understand or speak Kumam
and the same thing with the Kumam community. It became more difficult to hold
meetings with interpreters. We then asked the Uteso Cultural Union to allow us to form our own
institution”, he said.
He says that after some discussion, they formed Kumam
Elders Forum under the leadership of Mzee Charles Emunyu Oyugi with 16
Members. The Forum lobbied
for the creation of Kaberamaido District from Soroti district in 2001.
“Mzee Emunyu served for six years where we were able to
develop some literature in Kumam with the help of Land and Equity Movement in Uganda in 2011. Due to health challenges, Mzee Emunyu requested to retire from
active participation and that is how I took over leadership,” Ocen
Under the leadership of Ocen, Kumam Elders’ Forum was changed into
Kumam Cultural Heritage and Ocen says they have been mobilizing Kumam communities
within and outside the country for the election of the cultural leader, Won Atekerin- Papa Kumam who will now be elected on Saturday, June 5.
According to the constitution of the Kumam, all the 60 clans
registered as Kumam will send three representatives each to elect the cultural
leader. Other participants eligible to vote include
county leaders (Won Ebuku), Youth leaders (Atel ipongai), Women leaders (Atel
mon me Ebuku) and the disability council among others.
The Kumam constitution
gives a period of three months after the election, for the installation of Won Atekerin- Papa
However, the Kumam constitution limits Won Atekerin- Papa
Kumam leadership to persons aged 60 years and above. Besides Kaberamaido and
Kalaki districts which are predominantly occupied by the Kumam, Soroti, Serere
and Dokolo districts have pockets of Kumam that will be participating in the election
of Won Atekerin- Papa Kumam.
Hellen Enenu, the treasurer of Kumam Development Forum wants
participants in the election of Kumam cultural leader to consider women in the
leadership. She notes that the recognition of women in cultural leadership will
go a long way in resolving domestic issues in the community.
Bureau Chief, Soroti
Living the Pen