Beautiful Jiye girl from South Sudan. World_Discoverer
They are the neighbours of the culturally and linguistically very closely related Nyangatom and Toposa (who live to their south), and of the Murle in the north who are not as closely related. Since at least one century now, the core of the Jiye habitat is situated in the vicinity of the Kassangor Hills, on the border between the Kapoeta and Jonglei Districts (East Equatoria Province, South Sudan).
Jiye Man with tribal body beautification marks
Data on the Jiye population are scant and even more contradictory. The WHO advances a total population of 52.000 but that is definitely an overestimation. Jiye population does not exceed 12.000 people. They are as such a small group surrounded by demographically stronger populations (Toposa 180.000; Nyangatom 25.000; Murle 80.000). Almost nothing is known about the history of the Jiye, except that somewhere in the eighteenth or so, they separated from the Ugandan Jie. No study has ever been made of the Sudanese Jiye. In fact, up to very recently, the administration in Sudan did not really consider the Jiye as a separate people but rather considered them as a section of the Toposa.
Jiye woman from South Sudan
Environment, Economy and Natural Resources
The Jiye land lies in the plains at the foot of Boma Plateau. The climate is arid with heavy rain downpour between April and October.
Boy with a cattle herd. Photo Kyra Verswijver.
The Jiye herd in a traditional mode of cattle, sheep and goats. They engage in subsistence cultivation of sorghum and tobacco. They also practice transhumance, in search of water and pastures for their herds.
Young Jiye girl grinding Sorghum
Mythology and History
The Jiye are related to the Toposa and other Ateker groups (Turkana, Karamojong). This means that they share a common origin and could have broken away as a result of clan feuds. In fact before the war, the Jiye used to be counted as part of Equatoria. The conflict with Toposa due to extensive cattle rustling and competition over water and pastures has pushed the Jiye more to Upper Nile and have now become the 4th ethnic community in Pibor County along side the Murle, Suri and the Anyuak.
Move at the time of a seasonal migration. Photo Kyra Verswijver.
The Jiye speak the same language as the Toposa with slight variation due to conflicts and separate development.
Jiye tribe girl from South Sudan
Society, social events, attitudes, customs and traditions
The social organisation and practice of the Jiye are identical to the Toposa. The society is organised into exogamous agnatic lineages. The most important social events that bring the Jiye together in celebrations include marriage, hunting, cattle raids, and warfare. The Jiye share certain totems and body marks. The male adults attend meetings, gatherings and functions in which important decisions concerning the clan or whole community are made. Respect for the elders among the Jiye is mandatory for the younger generations.
Socio-Political Organisation, Traditional Authority
The Jiye like the Toposa have no clear political organisation and functions. The chiefs, sub-chiefs, elders, fortune-tellers, medicine men, witch-doctors wield administrative and spiritual powers.
Sorghum processing in front of the residential hut (with the granaries in the background). Photo Martine de Roeck.
Spirituality, Beliefs and Customs
The Jiye do not have an elaborate religious belief. They, however, believe in the existence of a supreme being and the spirits of the departed ancestors. They pray and make sacrifices for these spirits as they communicate with them through a medium (fortune teller or medicine person) usually during times of serious disaster, for example, droughts, epidemics affecting their animals, etc.
Jiye woman with facial tribal bumps
Culture: Arts, Music, Literature, Handicraft
The Jiye culture is orally transmitted through songs, dance, music, poems and folklore. Being pastoralist, they have perfected their art of war and cattle raiding.
Jiye tribe woman
They are able to spy and gather with precision information about the enemy, water, pastures, etc. The young men take great care and beauty of their hair. Women traditionally wear leather clothes and adorn their faces with extensive sets of beads with blue as a dominant colour and earrings, while on the belly they can have some scarifications.
They can have piercings above the upper and below the lower lip. Men have more important scarifications.
Neighbours and Foreign Relations and Co-operation
The Jiye neighbour their kins, the Toposa to the south, Murle and Kachipo to the north, and east. Cattle rustling and competition over the scarce resources of water and pasture has determined the relations between the Jiye and the Murle.
But the pressure on the Jiye during the last decades has also caused a rift between the Jiye territorial sections, where two sections left the traditional habitat and have sought refuge in a place called Boma, an area dominated by the Sudanese Murle. Temporary ‘out-migrations’ is a quite common adaptive response to periods of extreme harshness, and accounts of the Jiye show that they used to temporarily move towards Boma whenever struck by harsh droughts, invariably returning to their core area as soon as the situation stabilized. Things are different now because the migrant Jiye have lived in the Boma area for ten years already. It is clear that, although being exploited by the Murle, the Boma Jiye prefer an alliance with the culturally and linguistically more distant Murle than with their closer kin, the Toposa. The other two Jiye territorial sections that have remained in the area south of the Kassangor Hills, are on the verge of being incorporated into the Toposa, ‘Jiye by clan, but Toposa by tribe’. The weak position of the Jiye is aggravated by the local policy where both the Toposa and Murle have control over the local administration and hence also on all kinds of assistance that may be given in the area. In sum, it is clear that Jiye culture is rapidly changing and that their identity is compromised at the long term ― a process that is fostered by national politicians.
The conflict between the Jiye and the Toposa has pushed the Jiye northwards into Upper Nile region. They have now become fully incorporated into the Pibor County. Jiye children have now been enrolled in the schools in Boma and many of them have converted to Christianity.
The Jiye greatly suffered under the effects of the second civil war in Sudan (1983-2005), mainly because their area was located on the crossroad between the areas occupied by the Southern and Northern armies. In addition, the increased frequency of periods of drought among the Turkana in Northwestern Kenya, also affects the Jiye. The increased attacks of the Turkana on their northern neighbours, the Toposa, result in a domino effect in which the Turkana push the Toposa who push the Jiye who are forced to push into Murle-land. At the same time, the rapid population increase of the Toposa leads to an ever greater number of Toposa moving eastward to settle around the Moruankipi Hills.
The recent establishment of three mission stations in that area serves as an additional attraction pole. As such, the Toposa are now preventing the Jiye access to the Kurun River area, one of their most important grazing areas. The effects of the civil war and of the constant attacks by the powerful Toposa have weakened the Jiye. A 2002 study shows that in the period 1983-2002, the subsistence pattern of the Jiye changed profoundly, now depending more on hunting (+ 20%) and less on livestock (- 15%) then before the second Sudanese civil war.
Jiye woman from South Sudan
The Jiye have remained excluded for a long time from the social ad political life of the country. There is no information about a Jiye Diaspora.
Jiye tribe woman from South Sudan