|Regions with significant populations|
The Kakwa people are a small minority but a part of the larger Karo people, an intermarried group that also includes the Bari, Pojulu, Mundari, Kuku and Nyangwara. Their language, Kutuk na Kakwa, is an Eastern Nilotic language.
The major cities of the Kakwa people are the Yei and Morobo districts (South Sudan), Koboko district (Uganda), Imgbokolo and Aba, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Kakwa people sometimes refer to themselves as "Kakwa Saliya Musala", translated directly as "kakwa three hills" a phrase they commonly use to denote their 'oneness' in spite of being politically dispersed among three countries.
According to the Kakwa oral tradition, they migrated out of East Africa (Nubian region) from the city of Kawa in between the third and fourth cataracts of the Nile. First into South Sudan, and from there southwards into Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Kakwa converted to Islam, accepting the Maliki school of Sunni theology in medieval era. They were annexed into Equitoria region claimed by the Egyptian Islamic ruler Khedive Ismail (Isma'il Pasha) by his descendant Tewfik Pasha in 1889. As the British colonial empire expanded into East Africa and Egypt, the region with Kakwa people became a part of the Uganda Protectorate.
The Kakwa people rose to international prominence when one of their descendant General Idi Amin assumed the power in Uganda through a coup. He filled important military and civil positions in his administration with his ethnic group,[self-published source] and Nubians. He arrested and killed officials from other ethnic groups such as the Acholi and Lango people, whom he doubted. Idi Amin also supplied arms and financed the Sudanese Kakwa people in the first civil war of Sudan. The Kakwa officials in Idi Amin regime were later accused of many humanitarian crimes. After Amin was deposed in 1979, many Kakwa people were killed in revenge killings, causing others to leave the area and fled to Sudan. However, they have now returned to their native areas in the West Nile region of northern Uganda.
For most of the South Sudanese Civil War, the fighting was focused in the Greater Upper Nile region. After the clashes in Juba in 2016, the fighting largely shifted to the previously safe haven of Equatoria, where the bulk of SPLM-IO forces went for shelter. Accounts point to both sides targeting civilians on ethnic lines between the Dinka and the dozens of ethnic groups among the Equatorians who are historically in conflict with the Dinka, such as the Karo, who include the Bari. Witnesses report Dinka soldiers threatening villagers that they will kill all Kakwa people for their alleged support to Machar and killing Pojulu people while sparing those who they find can speak Dinka. A UN investigation said rape was being used a tool of ethnic cleansing and Adama Dieng, the U.N.'s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, warned of genocide after visiting areas of fighting in Yei.
The traditional Kakwa livelihood has been based on cultivating corn, millet, cassava, fishing and cattle. The traditional villages of Kakwa are linked by their lineage, with male forming councils of elders. Polygyny is accepted, and the Islamic traditions are a part of the Kakwa people lives.