Alur people

Alur are a Nilotic ethnic group who live in northwestern Uganda and northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They are part of the larger Luo group.

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Alur
Total population
1,700,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Languages
Alur, French, English
Religion
Christianity
Related ethnic groups
other Luo peoples, other Nilotic peoples
Alur necklace
Alur lyre

In Uganda, they live mainly in the Nebbi, Zombo, Pakwach and Arua districts, while in the DRC, they reside mostly north of Lake Albert.[2][3]

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Most members of the group speak Alur, a language closely related to DojunamAcholi and Adhola. Some Alur speak Lendu or Kebu.[4] Alur language dialects vary considerably. The highland Alur (Okoro) speak a slightly different dialect from the lowland Alur (Jonam), and it might be difficult to for a native highland Alur person to properly understand his lowland kinsman.[5]

The Alur Kingdom is probably the only one that was unaffected by the Ugandan ban on traditional monarchies in 1966.[6] All Alur Kings are referred to as “Rwoth”, just like all Luo Chiefs and Kings. The current Alur King is Rwoth Phillip Rauni Olarker, whose coronation was in 2010.[7]

When the Europeans arrived, the Alur people were organized in ten chiefdoms, namely: Angal, Juganda, Jukoth, Mukambu, War Palara, Panduru, Ukuru, Paidha, Padeo and Panyikano. Based on the royal spear head bearing tradition, the Ubimu of Alur tribe H.M Philip Olarker Rauni III is the supreme ruler of the entire Alur tribe, with his capital at Kaal Atyak Winam, Zombo district, Uganda.[8]

In Angal, the current king is Rwoth Djalore Serge II. He took over from his late father Kamanda who died in 1998. All these sub tribes of the Alur descended directly from King Nyipir lineage.[9]

The largest Alur tribe was the Ukuru clan, who counted 10,000 adult men in 1914, although Alur counted boys as young as 14 years as men.

The Ukuru tribe was founded in 1630 when Ngira, a member of the Aryak family migrated with a number of young men including his younger brother Ijira. They took over the territory from the indigenous Bantu inhabitants. The region was quickly alurized.[8]

The descendants of the original Bantu men now form the Abira family. Bantu maternal ancestry is very common in Ukuru. The Ukuru tribes grew in competition with other tribes. Some other clans were completely taken over providing the Ukuru clan with more food resources, women and men to defend their territory.[8]

Other clans were dominated from afar. In 1789 the Ukuru clan defeated the Panduru clan to become the most powerful Alur clan. For years the Ukuru clan was the most powerful, populous and largest Alur clan.[8][10]

Meanwhile, in the Ukuru clan, the Atyak family was losing his importance. For generations the Atyak family provided the Rwoth, Chief. Alur society is strictly hierarchical. Men have a higher social standing; then women and the men themselves also have a strict hierarchy.[8]

Social rank depended on a lot of things – assertiveness, number of friends and family (allies), performance on male prestige tasks (war, patrols, hunting and fishing). Rank is in theory not inheritable. But a man who had a high-ranking father had, as a rule, more brothers, cousins, and family and was better able to attract allies. But overall every man could reach a high status with the right mix of qualities.[8]

Every Alur men from 16 years old could vote which man was to become the chief. Only a man who is already high-ranking could become a chief.[8]

The Alur have a tendency to choose young men as chiefs but if he is a good chief he remains chief for life. Alur clans are in fact a number of patrilineages living together. Most clans have around five patrilineages but the Ukuru clan has 11 patrilineages.[8]

These patrilineages can include large numbers of men, all descendants of the same man. The Parombo family (patrilineage) in the Ukuru clan, for example, included 2000 men in 1949. These patrilineages are not strictly fictional. The Alur are very serious about it and maintain a family tree. Of course, a certain level of flexibility has occurred but overall we can trust the picture the Alur paint of their patrilineages. By 1820 the other patrilineages worked together to prevent an Atyak man from becoming Rwoth. This decline in Atyak power resulted in the rapid growth of other patrilineages like the Parombo, Palei and The Aryek. In particular the Aryek family became politically important.[8]

High rank confers many advantages in Alur society. Expecting respect and admiration, high-ranking men had first choice in food, especially prestige food like meat and beer. High-ranking men typically had a large number of cattle and since the Alur paid the bride price in cattle high-ranking men had the most wives and thus children. The chief typically had the most children of any man in the clan. High-ranking men had three or more wives, average men two and low-ranking men typically one. As always there was flexibility since low-ranking men could be very successful in tending cattle and thus in acquiring wives but then their rank typically rose.[8]

Men always stayed in the clan they were born in but women married men from other clans and moved there. Very few women married men from their own clan since the Alur had very strict rules about incest avoidance. Every man in your patrilineage was un-marriageable no matter how long ago the common ancestor was. Since Alur fathers typically arranged marriages for their daughters outside their own clan only a specific request from a man from her own clan could keep an Alur woman in her own clan.[8]

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