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Back to Ikland

Mount Morungole is an island in the sky, hovering far above the plains and valleys of northern Uganda’s Kidepo Valley National Park. Mark Eveleigh treks into the highland home of the mysterious Ik tribe and discovers the truth about the community that was once portrayed as the world’s nastiest people
Children play outside the protective kraal at their village, Nalemoru — aptly meaning ‘village on a high point’ — on the slopes of Morungole Mountain, northern Uganda

I really have no idea how old I am”, Mzee Mateus Yeya Acok tells me through a snaggletooth smile, “but I think I might even be 2000 years old.” Mateus is sitting, with his stork-thin legs tucked under him, outside his village high on the slopes of Morungole. His tribe, the Ik (numbering about 10,000 people), are known as one of the remotest and most culturally intact tribes in East Africa. Their recent history has been a dramatic and heart-rending cycle of famine and slaughter at the hands of more powerful tribes. It’s not surprising that old Mateus feels like he might have lived through two millennia.

Philip Akorongimoe has been a guide with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) for 17 years and, although a Dodoth tribesman, he’s become a friend of the Ik — iciebam in the Ik language — through the course of countless visits to the highland villages that have become their last stronghold. Philip and I confer momentarily and calculate that Mateus must be around 85-90 years old since he was already a respected village leader when a selfproclaimed iciebam by the name of Colin Turnbull visited the region.

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