About the Lango

The Lango live in the Lango sub-region of northern Uganda (Fig. 1), north of Lake Kyoga between the longitudes1°30′ N and 2°44′ N and the latitudes 32°15′ E and 33°15′ E. Their territory, which is approximately the same size as the State of Connecticut in the USA, covers 14,820 square kilometers, including the 1,300 square kilometers of open water and swamp at an elevation of 900 to 1,200 meters and comprises the current districts of Amolatar, Apac, Dokolo, Kole, Kwania, Lira Otuke, Oyam.

The Lango number about 1.5 million people, according to the 2002 Uganda population census. They speak Lango, which is a dialect of the Luo or Lwo language and is mutually intelligible with Acholi and Kumam, and related to the other Luo languages of Uganda and Kenya.

Clan Organization

The Lango owed their collective identity not to any internal consistency, but to a historical experience which set them apart from their neighbors. In brief, the Lango distinguished between two levels of descent group: The clan (atekere), for example, Jo Arak (the Arak people); the lineage (doggola), for example, Jo Elwia (the Elwia people). The Lango did not categorize the descent group or clan into two levels necessarily as it was too small, compact and of recent origin. Accordingly, they would view the clan and lineage as one and the same. In everyday life the doggola was more important than the atekere.

The evidence of Lango clan names is difficult to assess. There are today many clans in Lango. However, the majority of them are derived from a core of six clans: Oki (Okii), Bako, Atek, Arak, Ober, and Okarowok. Clan names such as Okarowok of Oki (Okarowok me Oki) are said to indicate that a new clan is formed by a migrant group (Jo Okarowok) and a host group (Jo Oki) combining. A clan leader is referred to as Awitong (spear-leader) or Awimony (battle-leader).

Lango clans are numerous, and it may be found that the current list is not entirely complete, especially in the minor subdivisions. The clans are exogamous, marriage not being permitted into either the paternal or maternal clans, and a woman enters the clan of her husband and conforms with its rules, the old prohibitions of her family’s clan being allowed to lapse. Children follow the father’s clan. New clans, or subdivisions of old clans, may be formed by a founder coalescing two clans together. No one, Lango or alien, may by any ceremony be admitted to membership of a clan to which he does not by right belong.

Click here for the list of 149 Lango clans that are currently registered by the Office of the Lango Cultural Foundation.