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The Kumam of Uganda

Population:      125,000 (projected 1996 from 1991 census); 167,167 (, 1999); 173,000 (Joshua Project, 2006)
Religion:        Christianity; Traditional
Registry of Peoples code(s):  Kumam:  105386
Registry of Languages code(s) (Ethnologue):  Kumam:  kdi


The Kumam are a people of about 150,000 living south of Lake Kwania, in western Teso district of Uganda.  They are neighbors of the Teso and the Lang'o (Lang'i).

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.

The period of insurgency in the north from 1986-1992 resulted in displacement, loss of property, and the death of many people.  Traditional bases for wealth vanished as raiders stole herds of cattle.  Tribal belief systems are perceived to have failed, and people search for a foundation for their lives.

The Kumam are part of the Nilotic peoples.  They were part of those called Plains Nilotes, but now speak a language of the Lwoo group which expanded rapidly in recent history from the area of the Nile area of southern Sudan.  Kumam traditions say they were part of the Teso people.  The Teso speak a Plains Nilote language related to Karamojong and were part of the same early migration as the Kumam.

The Kumam speak a language of the same name, in the Lwoo (Luo) group of Nilotic languages.  Some linguistics classify it with the Dinka group (Sudan) and some with the Southern Luo group, which includes Luo of Kenya, Lang'o of Uganda and Alur of Zaire and Uganda.  Kumam is very similar to Paluo (Dhopaluo) and Lang'o, more distant from Acholi: It is written in a Latin alphabet.

The Kumam, like the Lang'o people (Lang'i), were originally a Plains Nilote people who gradually accepted the Lwoo speech of the newcomers.  The Alur, formerly speaking a Sudanic language, also adopted Lwoo speech, as well as accepting Lwoo clans as royal.  There are radio programs in the language and literacy programs are underway.  There is no Bible in Kumam.

Religious adherents among the Kumam are difficult to determine.  Available statistics are based on geography, not ethnography.  Kumam population is too small a percentage of district population for the statistics to have much meaning.

Religious demographic details have been unavailable for the preparation of this profile.  This etyhnic group is geographically and ethnolinguistically between the Langi and the Teso (Iteso).  Churches have spread along natural geographic and ethnic links into this people from the Teso Baptist churches.

A report in 1996 indicated that the National Missionary Board (NMB) of the Baptist Union of Uganda had one missionary in Kaberamakio, the population center of the Kumam.  Kumam people in the areas of this work have been responsive to the Christian mesage.

Population: 19,262,600 (1995)
Doubling time: 26 years
Major Languages: Ganda, Soga, Nyoro/Tooro, Lwo, Tees, Swahili, English
Official Language: English
Capital City: Kampala (1,000,000+ in urban and suburban area)
Other Towns: Jingo (60,000+), Male (54,000+) Masaka (49,000+)
Urban Dwellers: 11.3%
Birth Rate: 52.1 per 1,000 Crude Death Rate: 17.3 per 1,000
Life Expectancy: male 45.7 years, female 50.5 years
Labor Force: 38.5%
Refugees: people groups from Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, Sudan
Religions (1991): Catholicism 7,420,750, Anglicanism 6,538,156, Seventh Day Adventist 179,478, Eastern Orthodox , 4,567, Other Christian 101,445, Moslem 1,750,474, Traditional Religion 88,736 Literacy: 54%

For more on the Kumam
Kumam — myUganda
Kumam — Ethnologue
Kumam —
Kumam — Joshua Project

Orville Boyd Jenkins
September 1996
Updated August 2001
Last updated 12 June 2008

Copyright © 1996, 2006 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Other rights reserved.
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