We are leaving our home. We are going to lands unknown. The elders say we have to, that it is required of us by God to do so. The Amuron, I am apprenticed to, says this land we are going to will be ours for generations to come. A land that was blessed by the hand of God itself. A land that our descendants will enjoy.
I have taken a few minutes to myself to write this otherwise the preparations are taking me out. I am tired. But I am excited. Tomorrow, after the blessing from the Emori Mori, the uniter of people, we shall start our journey South. Tomorrow we move to the promised land.
We’ve seen the river we have heard tales about. I remember when Ojaale, the old man that is said to have explored lands far and wide, told us tales of this river. He spoke of how the river seemed to pulse with life and power. How it sang songs to its own might. How its rushing waters were strong enough to sweep away even the strongest man. We had heard stories about the river turning red long before we were born. I had always thought it to be hyperbole but seeing the river, I now believe Ojaale.
I am convinced that this river is a spirit. When we got there, I thought we had reached the land that Edeke had promised us. I imagined falling a sleep to the sound of the river every night. But after resting our feet for a few days, the Emori Mori has informed us that we still have a long journey ahead. I heard from my Amuron that the journey still takes us further South. That if we thought this was paradise then we should wait to see what awaits us when we reach this land that Edeke promised us. Of course she scolded me for not doing my chores on time. But what can I do. This river seems to be calling me. I have always felt an inexplicable affinity to water.
Tomorrow…. Tomorrow we move ahead. Tomorrow we continue our journey to home.
In the quiet of the night, I note this. We are tired. Spirits are low. We find ourselves in this vast desert, devoid of life. There is nothing green for miles. The water has to be rationed and the Imojong, the old people, are getting weary. I had hoped that our journey would last maybe one moon, but we have seen the second moon since we left our home in the North. The Imuron are adamant that there is paradise waiting for us further South. My hope is waning. But I still trust that the Imuron know where the Edeke, God, is leading us.
Day One Hundred
It’s been many new moons since we left our home in search of a new home. Everyday we are faced with new challenges. After the land that was void of people and green, we found a lush land that replenished us with hope. We lost few people in the lifeless land to hunger and thirst. Some we lost to exhaustion but this new land gave us hope.
We had settled there for a while before we were attacked by fearsome looking soldiers who were so tall that they seemed to touch the sky and with skin as dark as midnight. We were not prepared. Flying blind like a monkey in the night. Before our warriors could gather their spears to fight, these midnight soldiers had already killed a few hundred people. I blame the Imuron. They are supposed to see an event like this before it happens but they have become complacent.
Our warriors managed to ward these soldiers off but we knew that place wasn’t ours to own. So we are off again. Moving further and further away from what used to be our home. There is talk of descension. The young ones are annoyed by the way the olds ones are treating and leading them. Eriaku, the fearsome, has been whispering about overthrowing the Emori Mori. I don’t know that I disagree. The one who is supposed to unite the people is not doing his job, so why not someone who can.
Day One Hundred and Ten
I had a vision last night. A vision that left me shaking harder than a leaf in blowing rain. My Amuron says I am going to become a great Amuron one day if my visions are this powerful. She is excited. I am afraid. My vision saw me leaving her in a vast wasteland. She is the only parent I know. My father was a warrior who did not come back from a skirmish with the neighbouring people and my mother was a healer in training before she succumbed to the fever women get after a hard birth. My Amuron is all I’ve ever known. The old woman is my mother, my father and my grandmother all rolled in one. She never had children of her own. She says she is too dedicated to her calling as an Amuron to have another mistress, yet she took care of me and made me her apprentice. I am a skilled healer thanks to her guidance but I never wanted to become an Amuron that had visions. I wanted amuron la ta goro, one of the roots. But fate had it different. And now my vision is saying that I lose my only parent. I curse this gift. I curse it.
She doesn’t want to hear me say that, she says this gift is a blessing from the spirit world. But I didn’t ask for it. I just wanted a home which she gave me and now I am going to lose my home.
Day One hundred and ninety
The Emori Mori succumbed to the tiredness a few days ago. The new Emori Mori is already failing at his job in uniting the clans. He suggested we move ahead but one clan, has elected to stay at the place where we had set camp. They think that was the land that they were promised by the Edeke. The Chief Emuron is adamant that the land is ahead but he knows one can’t force a clan united.
The Emori Mori tried to force their hand by getting a few warriors from the other clans to fight them but they were quickly subdued. The clan has elected to settle in a land near a lake they have called Turkan. My Amuron says they will thrive there. She divined it. She had to say goodbye to one of her bosom friends, an Amuron of the clan that has elected to stay in Turkan. Her wail was painful to watch. She seems to be losing her spirit. She seems to be becoming a shell of the vibrant woman that I once knew. More and more I’m worried that my vision is about to come to pass.
Day Two Hundred and Ninety
I said goodbye to my childhood friend today. She is of the clan Maa and they and two more clans have elected to stay behind even as we move forward. The Emori Mori really is failing at his job. He looks more haggard each day. The stress of the job is getting to him. We still don’t know where we are going but still we are moving ahead… The Chief Emuron is still adamant that the land we were promised by Edeke is ahead.
I had a vision recently. So powerful it felt real. I, too, know that the land is ahead and that has imbued me with renewed strength and hope but saying goodbye to my bosom friend was painful. I tried to get her to come with us but she says she can’t leave her beloved. I guess, in this regard in grateful to be an Amuron in training because I do not have to worry about beloveds until my training is complete at which age I’d be lucky to be a third or fourth wife to a prominent man, which I do not want to be. I will follow in the footsteps of my Amuron and be celibate. Dedicate my life and service to Edeke.
It took me a while to see this but it appears we are heading in the direction the sun goes to sleep. We are not so far away from our home. We are almost there. I can feel it.
Day Seven Hundred.
It happened today. My vision came to pass. And I’m still shaking at what just happened. We have rested for the night and I still have no idea how to think about what just happened. For a while now, the old ones, the Imojong, have been complaining about their creaking bones and of tiredness. Many have succumbed to the disease of the tired. The young ones still want to go forward. They want to explore and see and subdue the land. They want to conquer far off places.
We had been camping on this land for many moons but the young ones were restless. I was restless. I knew the land wasn’t what we were promised. There is more waiting for us ahead. The Chief Emuron had succumbed to a fever a while back so the Imuron were in disarray. With no Central leadership, the Imuron divided into those that were saying we should stay in this land that we had settled in to rest our feet and those that believed that the land promised is ahead. What was peculiar was that those that felt that the land was ahead were the younger Imuron. And those that said we should stay and make this land our home were the older ones.
With growing restlessness, Eriaku, the fearsome, stood up and spoke for the youth in a council meeting. He was not supposed to but still he spoke. The Imojong grumbled about disrespect of the youth but they listened when he spoke. He gave a passioned speech about seeing the land a head. He spoke about the possibilities that lay ahead. He said the Edeke didn’t take us out from our homes to bring us to a land that needed a lot work to bear fruit and plants that would feed the cattle and the people.
It became clear after that council meeting that the Imojong would not budge. We had to go ahead ourselves and leave them behind. Eriaku ran through the settlement, banging the drum and shouting, “Ikar Imojong! Iteiso bè ikar imojong” (the old ones are tired, we see that the old ones are tired)
The Emori Mori tried to call for peace and reconciliation but his spirit was not in it. He had grown weary after the failure of uniting his people. And now more descension was coming.
The youth leaders approached me to become the Chief Amuron and my Amuron says it is my destiny. I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing but she says it was always my destiny to lead the people to the land that was promised. That she had divined it. She was resigned to staying with the Imojong. She knew her journey had come to an end. She reminded me of my vision many moons ago. She blessed me in my journey and begged me not to forget her.
I’m still not sure how I feel about leaving my Amuron behind. She insisted it was destiny. But why does destiny have to be so painful. I know what lies ahead. I have seen it. There is a lake and rivers and a land that will have the best mangoes. But behind us is the history we have known. Our own people.
I had to steel myself to leave today. Straighten my back like the stiff rods of the herders and walk ahead, not looking back. The Imojong, not happy with our leaving, cursed us, saying our decision would haunt us. A curse I see following us for generations. But there is nothing we can do, we have to go. The land ahead calls to us.
I saw Tata Eriaku, Eriaku’s grandmother, spit on the ground and say, “atesia ngún.” (Those are dead bodies). Eriaku, who has a morbid sense of humour said we would adopt the name and become Iteso.
My heart is ripped in two. I am moving ahead with hope, towards the land we’ve been promised but I leave the only person who has ever mattered to me behind.
My name is Amuron Akello and I am leading my people forward….
This is a fictionalized account of the migration of the Nilo Hamites and Nilotics from Ethiopia to present day Kenya and Uganda. Obviously the journey didn’t last two years, it was centuries of movement, settlement and internal and external conflicts. The Iteso and the Karamojong have been at odds since the old ones (the Imojong) rested in present day North Eastern Uganda and the young ones moved further South to settle around and near Lake Kyoga. The people depicted in this story may or may not have existed. But there you go. And yes, the people that held my name, Amuron, were healers, seers, diviners and important people in the history of the Iteso.