ANUAK (ANYUAK) PEOPLE: ROYALS AND HARDWORKING NILOTIC PEOPLE OF EAST AFRICA THAT WERE PERSECUTED BY ETHIOPIAN GOVERNMENT
Anuak also known as the Anyuak, Agnwak and Anywaa, are riparian or riverine, agro-pastoralist, and Nilotic ethnic group of the Luo cluster inhabiting parts of East Africa. They are primarily found in villages situated along the banks and rivers of southeastern South Sudan as well as southwestern Ethiopia, especially the Gambela Region.
Anyuak people from Gambella area, Ethiopia. julio garcia
The people call themselves Anywaa; others particularly their neighbours simply know them as Anyuak. The name ‘Anyuak’ or ‘Anuak’ or ‘Anywaa (Anywaae)’ literally means ‘I shared’ or ‘to share’. The Anuak are a distinct people who have always had close ties to their environment. As an indigenous population, they have been marginalised by the government for many years. They sustain themselves mainly through farming, hunting and fishing, while some Anuak are also pastoralists. Some Anuaks are gold miners and iron technologists.
Anuak girl, Gambella,Ethiopia
They share a similar language origin with their neighboring Nilotic peoples such as, Acholi in Uganda, Joluo in Kenya, Tanzania, and Congo; as well as Jor Chul, Paari, Shilluk and Pajulu in South Sudan. Most of Anywaae are Christians, although some traditionally believed in almighty spirit known as ‘Jwok’. The total population of Anywaa worldwide is estimated to be 350,000.
Anyuak people, Gambella, Ethiopia. julio garcia
In the early 2003 and 2004 the Anuaks were targeted for repression, mass rape and killings by The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Defense Front and highland Ethiopian civilians, for daring to resist the government attempt to grab their bonafide traditional lands. Historically, the lighter-skinned Ethiopian tribes have shunned the darker-skinned African tribes, and sometimes raided the tribes to acquire slaves. The Anuak are one such dark-skinned African people indigenous to regions of the lower Nile, others including the Nuer, Dinka, and Shilluk. All these tribes are racially distinct from the olive-skinned Ethiopian tribes such as the Tigray, the Oromo, and the Amhara.
Anyuak man smoking pipe.julio garcia
The Anuak’s ancestral homeland of Gambella is not only geographically remote from the capital of Addis Ababa – it is also agriculturally fertile, relatively sparsely populated, and blessed with gold and oil reserves. This has made their land much coveted by the central government for economic development and population resettlement. “Gambella is potentially a very rich area,” said Gebre-Ab. “It could be the breadbasket of Ethiopia.
Displaced Anuak people in Ethiopia. julio garcia
Throughout the 20th century, the Anuak Kingdom has been studied by many Western anthropologists who have lived among the Anuak for long periods, including the famous British social anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard. The Anuak have been admired in particular by anthropologists for their system of dispute resolution, in which all major arguments throughout the Kingdom are resolved by open discussion between all the disputants in front of the King and his cabinet which holds session every day in Otallo, Sudan.
Demography and Geography
The riparian/ riverbank Anyuak people have their villages built along the banks of five rivers: Openo, Alworo, Gilo, Akobo and Oboth in East Africa. The legacies of colonialism left Anywaa people divided into two countries, Ethiopia and Republic of South Sudan. Most of Anywaae are living in the Southwestern of Ethiopia, Gambella Region, where as minority of them live in Southern Sudan mainly in Akobo and Pochalla counties adjacent to the border of Gambella Region.
The Anywaa-land originally was the stretch of territory extending along the Sobat River with its tributaries of Baro (draining western Ethiopia) and Akobo-Pibor.
This land extends into Gambella region and further to Ilemi Triangle in the south. Much of this land was lost to the Nuer migration in the 19th - 20th centuries; and what used to be Anywaa settlements e.g. Abwong, Adong, Akobo, etc. are now clearly Nuer or Dinka after the dispersal or assimilation of the Anywaa inhabitants. The Anywaa, who now number a little below the 100,000 live in Pochalla and Akobo Counties.
Anyuak kids fishing in a river
The Anyuak speak dho-Anywaa, almost a 100% intelligible to the dhi-Pari, and very close to dhok-Chollo (Shilluk language) and dho-Luo of Bahr el Ghazal. Dho-Anywaa or Anuak is a Nilotic language of the Nilo-Saharan language family. It is spoken primarily in the Western part of Ethiopia by the Anuak.
Anuak dancer, Ethiopia
Other names for this language include: Anyuak, Anywa, Yambo, Jambo, Yembo, Bar, Burjin, Miroy, Moojanga, Nuro. Anuak, Päri, and Jur-Luwo comprise a dialect cluster. The most thorough description of the Anuak language is Reh Anywa Language: Description and Internal Reconstructions, which also includes glossed texts. Anywa does not have phonemic fricatives.
Environment, Economy and Natural Resources
Lying in the plains below the Ethiopian highlands, Anywaa land has the characteristics of marsh land, rich savannah forest and grassland with annual rainfall of about 800mm. This has tremendous influence on the economy and lifestyle of the Anywaa.
Anuak Boys at tuo, Gambella.Ethiopia. julio garcia
They are predominantly subsistence agriculturalists growing sorghum, maize, simsim, beans and tobacco. They raise cattle, goats and fowl, which are used for trade and sacrifices to the spirits. The cattle-raiding practice of their neighbours, the Murle, has discouraged them from keeping large herds of cattle.
Anywaa-land has a huge potential in wildlife especially large game such as elephants, buffaloes, etc. The annual migration of the white-ear cobs pass through Anywaa-land, which becomes a yearly source of proteins but has a huge potential for tourist attraction. There is also a potential for exploiting the shea nuts, acacia Senegalese (gum arabica) and lalob which are abound in the forests.
The Anywaa youth pan and extract gold nuggets and dust from the streams that drain the western Ethiopian highlands near Dima and Maji. The gold extracted is used for trade with Ethiopian highlanders or exchanged for dimuy – beads, used for settling marriages.
Anuak woman of South Sudan
Mythology and History
The Anyuak account of their origin differs from that of the Shilluk. It is said that women, as they went to fetch water discovered a mysterious person with a kaak (fishing spear). The man would disappear into the river to avoid contact with the people.
Anuak women of Potchala:Three young women, one carrying a gourd vessel, another with a carrying ring on her head, wearing bead-fringed skirts. This village was the clan centre of the important Jowatcuaa clan (named after it's lineage founder, Ocala) although it had no headman but prominent clan elders. South Sudan. Circa 1935. Photographer: Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
One day they managed to capture and bring him to the village. His name was Ocwudho. He, however, would not talk, eat nor drink. Afraid that the stranger may die of hunger, Akango told his small daughter to look after him. She took water and food to him, which he drank and ate and developed a relationship with the girl.
It turned out later that the girl had conceived. When, he discovered that the girl was pregnant, he disappeared into the river leaving beads (ocwak, nyalo, garmuto and ganga) as gifts for the father of the girl.
The girl gave birth to Gilo, who is renowned as the great grandfather of the Anywaa nation. When the Anywaa Nyie (king) passed away a few years ago, he is said to have gone back into the river like Ocwudho.
General Trends of Anywaa Migration
The early history and traditional political system of Anywaa-Anyuak headman/ kwarro will go back to about 2200 BC (Kevin, 1995) and Chief Cheway who had been a founding father, grandfather, and creator of the Anywaa ethnic, empire, and kingdom.
Photographer:Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
He is an Anyuak man whom we all believed in as Chief and divine God. He had moved from the Sahara Desert downward to settle around Lake Chad for number of years when he and his followers were struck by drought and then moved to live near confluence of White and Blue Nile Rivers; currently known as Khartoum Bare in Sudan. According to Kevin Shillington this was the same period of 2200 B.C "when Sahara was drying out increasingly… rapidly and the large numbers of Sahara pastoralists and hunter push into the Nile valley, disrupting the settled farmers whom they found there."
Cheway was a member of Nilo-Sahara African peoples’ group and had migrated together with his “Lou” people group along the Nile River downward to southwest. For instance, there is a proverb in Anyuak language that the name ‘Lou people’ was obsessed from migration. It means, let us (Innocent and good people) walk along the river bank to southward following this monster, longest, and giant river; the Nile.
Most importantly, Kwarro Cheway was a well-known architect, explorer, political leader, peacemaker, and pioneer who took the lead in certain areas around Nile River and its' tributaries.
Anyuak settlement compound, Ethiopia
As a pioneer, he had gone into the great unknown areas to explore strange new lands and settled there. In those new areas of space “We have already seen that the harvesting of sorghum, wild, domestic, was taking place in Khartoum region as early as 6000 BC" ( Kevin, 1995, P. 30) and there could be no more evidence other than this to confirm that Cheway and his people were among those settled communities to invent sorghum. This iconic figure created a new system of government known as Kwarr or Kwarro traditional political system.
Anuak woman, Dima, Ethiopia
His political system was personally headed by him and other leaders to administer and protect the entire Anyuak kingdom, empire, and ethnic group as they migrated along River Nile before his descendants scattered along its tributaries: Openo, Alworo, Gilo, Akobo, and Oboth rivers. On these tributaries we had many villages that were governed by his descendants. For further research about him, I would encourage scholars and recommend to them that they better carry out research in Jocheway clan villages such as Itang Burra, Pumoli, Edeni, Egilo, Erwanyo, Phino, Anyali, Perbongo, Pochalla Olura, Ojalo, Omilla and Pochalla Dhewatnyilak.
Furthermore, Cheway's cabinets who helped him to administer the first generation of Anyuak in the newly created political system had become our twelve clans. But in early headman chiefdom, evidences are indicating that there were only eleven senior officials (cabinet members). The secret of Chief Cheway success in protecting his kingdom from extinction was his quality leadership and performance in implementing the political and organizational structure he created. This early political system or governance and organizational structure are still functioning as a model in many chiefdom and kingdom villages today. For example in one of
Jocheway villages of Itang Burra the governance and organizational structure of Kwarro /Granymatch Omot Oway Oja Gilo on diagram1 in this article was identical with that of Cheway in which ’Burra’ served as the governing body of Itang village. In the same diagram, as well as diagram 2 and 3, the headman/Kwarro was not only the head of governing body, but also chief peacemaker, commander in chief, head and political leader of the village.
The inception of Anywaa kingdom had become the introduction of new clan, political unit, and stable political culture which marked the beginning of the first ruling class in Anywaa political history. Prior to that, Chief Cheway had only one and the first clan known as Cheway. Kwarro Cheway was the only leader of that free one clan and nation. He had played a remarkable and decisive role in defending, protecting, and leading the Anyuak ethnic to peaceful way of life. He was also the only Kwarro, chief of justice, political leader to lead and protect the Anyuak ethnic (population) from enemy attacks for many hundreds of years. But some people views on delicate replacement of Kwarro Cheway by his daughter's son do reflect neither its appropriation nor misappropriation to his kindness, heirs and descents. The replacement itself was not only controversial but also full of ‘conspiracy’ theory and tactics. The mystery was that even though King Gilo Okiro/Ochudho came to throne/power by fortune and cleverness, he had marked the downfall of Kwarro Cheway chiefdom and beginning of the new era of kingship which was the hitherto political system of Chullo- Shilluk, one of the Lou people groups.
Anyuak riverine people
Traditionally, King Gilo Ochudho is believed to be son of a strange man known as Okiro/Ochudho who had been caught from fishpond nearby village. Up to now no one knows about where that fishpond and adjacent village are located. King Gilo Ochudho mother, Koree was daughter of Chief Cheway and First Lady (Gwanyo) Ajo. Many people believe that Koree was decent girl who obeyed order of her father to provide all accommodations to that stranger guest with whom she eventually had controversial pregnancy. Apparently, King Gilo Ochudho was the first Anyuak king who came to power through his grandfather family tree or lineage because of the mistake or conspiracy that was committed by another clan, Jowadtong, who killed Chief Cheway's heir apparent son. The killing became good opportunity for those of Jowadtong clan to introduce feudal monarchy political system. In many aspects, King Gilo had replaced Kwarro Cheway tradition and political system by changing ‘Burra’ into ‘Chwott ‘to conduct his political, administrative and court affairs independently. He became instrumental in the reformed political system which became second or another option to attract many Anyuak people into the Kingship’s political spectrum.
According to interview with Kwarro/Granymatch Omot Oway Oja Gilo conducted in 1993 by UNDP enumerators in Gambella (Ethiopia), youngest children of Cheway had revived movement to resurrect political power of the Chiefdom. The revival of the Chiefdom was led by Kwarro Cheway's youngest son by the name called "Owthwonth." Therefore Owthwonth Cheway was the first descent to reclaim Cheway's political power.
Photographer: Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
However, the son of Owthwonth known as Ogwyieno had migrated into today's Itang where Jottido Anyuak and Olani ethnic group were living. The movement of Ogwyieno to find his own new space was supported by King Gilo Ochudho who never wanted to hand over his throne to his uncle son. Instead of that King Gilo made a little favor by instructing the members of Cheway clan to move into separate and different new land known as Openo/Baro salient/ on the bank of Openo River.
His Excellency Kwarro Granymatch Omot Oway Oja Gilo in the same interview pointed out that Ogwyieno and Cheway clan people were accompanied by King Gilo's body guards on his way to Eastward where those of Itang village people resided until today (Omot Oway, 1993).
Anuak women braiding her
Origin and Functions of the Two Political Systems
In recent history, Anywaa has two very close and identical political systems in running their affairs. In addition to the Kwarro traditional political system, Anywaa have /had a second Kingship political system. Most importantly, Anyuak kingdoms political system is almost a direct copy from that of the headman traditional political system. Of course slight changes have been made to formulate things differently while most of them stayed the same. Previously Kwarro was the head of the government and representative of the all village and its people. As the same as that, the King is also the head of his government and leader of his village and its people.
Anyuak kingdom has a conservatory of Kwarro Cheway early Chiefdom tradition political system and decent organizational structure, which maintained the ancient Lou tribal unity, political culture and societal stability. It’s political, administrative, social and economic institutions provided ample evidences that Anyuak is a nation that could manage its own affairs as a democratic republic rather than a political system that is based on old feudal monarchy of one man supreme authority. But how many people know that Anyuak kingdom was among the oldest kingdoms in the world with no written historical documents? Who were the first Anyuak Kwarro and Nyiea to establish the Anyuak kingdom? Why and when did Chief Cheway put his grandson to his own throne to be the King in the past and even today? These are mysterious questions that I would not intend to answer in this article. But there is fact that Anywaa themselves, friends, and other readers need to understand. That is about Cheway Kingdom's throne transference to Gilo Okiro when the empire was almost close to collapse and decline due to Chief Cheway physical malfunction; and his war commanders’ conspiracy and atrocity in killing his heir apparent son. In fact, the transfer of Cheway kingdom to his grandson, Gilo is the extension of Cheway chiefdom political system to several kingdoms in some villages around the east bank of Akobo River. Researchers and scholars need to do more findings about how Cheway kingdom was transferred to King Gilo Ochudho; by determining it as either the peaceful or unlawful mechanism in successions to power? In the following paragraphs in this article there will be short brief, comparison and contrast between the early Kwarro Cheway chiefdom and Kingship political system.
Culturally, there are some differences in term of the names of objects and possessions. For example the military headquarters of Kwarro is called "Balla", and "Bura" for his Capitol Hill, where as for the king is known as "Chwott." The farm land for Kwarro is known as "Omahal" while it is called "Odiek" to King. When it comes to other services, there are similarities and differences notably ‘Pandwong’/palace, and ‘Owanyongo’; ‘Kwaylwake/kwatchlwake’ for Kwarro is a person who is in charge of youth population. Whereas for Nyiyea, Kwatchlwake means is a strong person who is in charge of war as a commander.
The message here is that as the nobles spread and emblems circulated through many villages around eastern part of Akobo, the king for the short time of his tenure of emblems had great prestige but little authority outside his own village (Evans-Pritchard, 1977). This means that the king was powerful enough in his own village to penalize commoners/subjects who disobeyed him but no moral authority over other villages and commoners. Similarly, there was no central authority in Anywaa two systems of leadership that governed the entire Anywaa people.
Yet, few Anyuak exaggerate the old school of Kings central authority and jump to general conclusion that in Anyuak political and organizational structure there is one powerful king to preach to when we do not have any one at all. This is true also to Chiefdom in Anyuak tradition and political culture.
Many people do agree that there was no centralism obeyed by all chiefs/Kwarri or Nyiye due to absence of unification movement in Anyuak political history. In case some argue that there was one central leadership, I will be happier to review the tangible evidence rather than bringing cooperation acts and unity of the past in
which ancient and modern Anyuak have been helping each other to defend and protect their livelihood from outsider enemies' attack
Awesome Anuak woman
On the other hand, the hierarchy of Kwarro and King is not set either into written law or unwritten law as to who has the supreme power over another. Historically, Anyuak Kings refer to Kwarri as their uncles or grandfathers while kwarri called Kings as their nephews or grandsons. Throughout the years we have never seen any power struggle between the two ruling families on issues of accountability. In reality, study on governing structure shows that all kwarri were independent and accountable to their respective villages. No Kwarro is/was accountable to other Kwarro or Nyiea. The records indicate that ordinary Anyuak people were subjects to their village chiefs/Kings. They paid taxes to their own village Kwarro or Nyiea.
Similarly, no Kwarro was required by law to pay taxes either to other village Kwarro or Nyiea. Taxes were paid in form of kinds rather than cash. No paper money existed in the traditional political system. Any Anyuak citizen was/is obliged to give expensive wild animals and products eligible to taxation, such as elephant, lion, and leopard, tiger, ’Kong’, rhino and ‘Omhoa’. Only Kwarri had the right to possess these tax items. Anyuak snipers and hunters were/are blessed and awarded by all villagers when they kill these expensive wild animals because of obvious reason that they would present them to Kwarro in the form of taxation. The whole purpose of giving these expensive wild animals to Kwarro was that Kwarro would be able to help other citizens in the village with these taxes or assets. He would award other poor people from taxation to become married couples. This system provided opportunities for prosperity and increased the population of the village.
Anyuak cultural troupe, South Sudan
For further understanding of functions, the following were some of senior officials appointed in cabinet of kwarro to fulfill public duties.
3.1. Karwang, Special Administrator and Advisor to Headman/Kwarro to assist him in administrative matters, political policies and public issues. In the absence of Kwarro he would run all affairs of the village as speaker of Kwarro.
3.2. Nyikugu, Head of the Balla department who provided assistance in the administrative and political affairs of the village during the absence of both Kwarro and Karwang.
3.3. Nyitoga, General Counsel of internal affairs of the village who provided assistance to kwarro in social, economic and cultural matters. He was the strongest man in the village to advocate and mobilize the entire
village for prosperity. He was responsible for awards and special ceremonies among the leaders and ordinary people in the village. He also performed as Chief of Security and Advisor.
3.4. Nyiburr, Head of land tenure and Census. He made decision on use of farm land. He distributed farms and residential lands for the landless people, and kept update on the statistics of land and population. He also
provided justice for those in need of it and supervised village’s borders demarcation.
3.5. Nyieatowieli, Head of Public Relations and Information serving as Special Messenger.
3.6. Nyikano, Head of Home Economics, cook, and food services for Kwarro and offices of Pandwong. A chef of Kwarro should be a male in gender.
3.7. Kwatchtong, Military chief of staff & commander who provided assistance to Nyikugu in time of war in
the defense services.
3.8. Nyipour, Head of Economic and Welfare services department responsible for management and sanitation of ‘Amoa’, food court.
3.9. Kwachluak of Joburra was one of the commanders who provided assistance to Nyikugu in the time of war. He was the war front commander who put a lot of efforts to make all assigned soldiers fight accordingly.
3.10. Nyibatbogo, Personal Advisor and Protocol Officer who provided assistance to Kwarro on personal
matters. He protected Kwarro as security officer when moving on unofficial visits to other places out Burra and Pandwong.
3.11. Kwatchtongno, coordinator or contact person of Girls Club. He was responsible for management of the club and supply of drinks and sanitary services in Burra. He also organized youth of the village for occasional dancing and celebrations. In most of chiefdom political structures three senior officials: Kwatchtong, Kwachluak of Burra and Kwatchtongo are accountable to Nyikugu rather than to Kwarro.
Society, Social Events, Attitudes, Customs and Traditions
The Anyuak society was originally divided into two large clans: Tung Goc and Tung Odolla, which were perpetually feuding and competing for dominance. The Anyuak settled in big villages along the Akobo and Baro as well as Gilo Rivers and there are several such villages. Each Anyuak village has a Nyie (king) or Kway-Luak (sub-chief) in control of the social and administrative matters of the village.
Anyuak girl holding her kid sister
The Anyuak society is communal. It is obligatory to share resources and assist one another in times of famine and disease. The Anyuak engage in collective construction and building of the King''s royal palaces; the cultivation and weeding of his fields and gardens.
The Nyie obligates for these services by providing drink and food for which the people feast, dance and sing for several days in his home. Other social activities include hunting and fishing. However, the acquisition of fire arms has made hunting a solitary affair.
The Anyuak have no ceremonies attached either to birth, graduation into adulthood; nyako for girl and wadmara for the boy or marriage. The only custom linked to marriage is the payment of demuy (beads) and a few heads of cattle as dowry.
The bride stays in her parents’ home until the dowry or half of it has been paid, after which she moves to her husband. Sometimes a poor groom may raise up to two children with his wife while she is still staying with her parents.
Anuak girls. julio garcia
The Nyie gives his daughters to wealthy grooms. Indeed, flirting with the Nyie’s daughter could invoke his wrath resulting in confiscation of one’s wealth or abduction of three girls from one’s village. Several (sometimes up to ten) Anyuak marriages could be broken by breaking one marriage in the line. The demuy have become rare, so they are circulated and hence could even come back to the original owner in the course of several marriages.
Anuak people preparing food
The Nyie does not die but returns to the river. When he discovers that he can no longer hold on, he announces to his court that he has already returned to the river so his anointed son remains with the people.The new Nyie is placed on the Ocwak (royal throne and bead). The deceased Nyie is buried in an ordinary way, since his spirit is assumed to have returned to where he came from.
People don’t cry, they instead beat the royal drums and blow the trumpets singing song of praise to the departed Nyie. Sometimes, a person would mention in praise of the Nyie all the materials things he received from him.
The Anyuak kingdom used to be a federation of villages headed by an independent Nyie. These villages were constantly feuding among themselves for the control of the Ocwak – the royal throne and bead.
This state of insecurity prompted the British colonial administration to make Nyie Agada Akway king of kings ostensibly after the Ethiopian feudal system (Emperor Haile Sellasie, was king of Kings) rendering the Ocwak to permanently remain in his possession and protection (Adongo area has a huge army to protect the Ocwak).
All other Nyie come to his court to be put on Ocwak temporarily, for a few days depending on how much he trusted him, after the payment of three demuy. The Nyie has several kway luak or sub-chiefs who administer smaller villages.
Spirituality, Beliefs and Customs
The Anyuak are strongly religious and have strong beliefs in spirits to which one returns when one dies. One could communicate with the departed through a medium or when one becomes possessed by the spirit. The Anyuak attach important to "cien" or curse and "gieth" or blessing and the two create order in Anyuak society. For instance, before a man dies, he confides his will to somebody, who declares himself as the trustee of the will once the death is announced. Tradition has it that nobody can change or disobey the will of dead person.
Anyuak riverine man julio garcia
Marriage is expected of every adolescent. He pays bride price in demuy, cattle and sometimes money. The tradition of money started with the Ethiopian Anyuak and has now become common due to the scarcity of the demuy.
Marriage to blood relatives and incest is abhorred such that the social stigma can force one to find ease by going to live in a far off place. The Anyuak have an attitude of keeping pure by not marrying from certain ethnic communities neighbouring them.
Naming: The Anyuak have typical first (Omot/Amot), second (Ojullo/Ajullo), third (Obang/Abang) and twin (Opieu/Apieu; Ochan/Achan; Okello/Akello) births with ‘O’ and ‘A’ connoting male and female respectively.
Anyuak baby sleeping safely away from the hustles. julio garcia
A child left in the womb by the death of the father is named Agwa; and Ochalla/Achalla stand for the child born for a dead brother. Beside these names, the Anyuak have many different and occasional names including names of the important personalities in the clan or communities as a whole.
Anuak kids in their hut. julio garcia
Culture, Arts, Music, Literature and Handicraft
Anyuak literature is orally expressed in form of poems, songs, folktales, riddles and stories. These are handed over from generation to generation. The main music instruments included: thom (guitar), bul (large drum), tung (horn of kudu fitted with awal) (guard), odolla (small drum).
The Anyuak like other Nilotes have pany (hold in the ground for founding sorghum), lek (pole for founding) and lul (for winnowing of sorghum.) The Anyuak wear lots of beads and other artefacts like the tail of giraffe.
Neighbours and Relations with Foreigners
The Ajiebo (Murle), Nuar (Nuer), Dhuok (Suri), Galla (Oromo) and others neighbour the Anyuak. Their relations are far from cordial particularly with the Nuar who have perpetually pushed them to the east.
The Anyuak used to engage in slave raids on their neighbours. They sold their slaves to the Highlanders for firearms. This must have been the source of conflict between Nyie Akway Cham and the British colonial authorities in 1912.
Anuak people. julio garcia
Nyie Adongo Agada was enthroned in 2001. In May 2003, a peace agreement between the Anyuak and the Murle was sealed in Otallo under the auspice of Nyie Adongo. This has stabilised the relationship with the Murle. The conflict in Gambella between the Anyuak and Ethiopian Highlanders is affecting the Anyuak in Pochalla and Akobo.
The war in Sudan and the demise of Mengistu in 1991 have pushed many Anyuak to seek resettlement in America, Europe and Australia. There is a large Anyuak Diaspora in Canada and USA.
Special thank you to the julio garcia for his wonderful photos.
Anuak People of Ethiopia
“Don’t Force Us to Leave Our Homelands”
For more than 400 years, the Anuak (pronounced AN-yu-ak) Indigenous people have lived along the banks of wide rivers that flow through Ethiopia’s Gambella region and join with the White Nile. In the fertile soil of the river valleys, Anuak people grow maize, sorghum, and peanuts.
In the surrounding hills, they plant crops in small plots, rotating them each year to keep the soil healthy. Beyond their farmlands lie the forests, where they hunt and gather nuts, fruits, roots, and other useful plants. Life can be hard, with the constant threat of drought, but generations of Anuak people have learned how to survive by fishing and farming in their Gambella homelands.
Now they are being driven out. Ethiopian soldiers are forcing all the Anuak families to leave their lands behind and move into new villages. The government promises them jobs, schools, and health clinics, but most of the new villages have none of these. Some don’t even have water. Without land, Anuak parents can’t
feed their children. And they can’t return to their homelands because the government has given their lands over to foreign companies. Right now, those companies’ bulldozers are destroying the Anuak people’s forests and farms.
The Anuak People
Anuak people live in the hot, tropical lowlands of Ethiopia’s Gambella region. They speak their own language, Dha-Anywaa, and their customs are different from other Ethiopians. Each Anuak family has its own round grass-roofed hut called a tukul in a settlement where their grandparents and cousins live, too. They form larger groups called wimach to work together and to solve any conflicts or problems that arise.
They are skilled fishermen and farmers.In Ethiopia, there is a long history of discrimination against the darker-skinned Indigenous minorities like the Anuak. The government does not give them equal access to schools, colleges, and health care. When people protest against this discrimination, soldiers take them to jail. Many Anuak people have been tortured and even killed for trying to defend their lands. To find safety, thousands of Anuak people have fled to Sudan and Kenya, where many are now living in refugee camps. Around 3,000 Anuak people are living in the United States.
Land Rights and Land Grabbing
The Ethiopian government has a program called “villagization,” which means moving all the Indigenous Peoples, including the Anuak, from their homelands into new villages. The government says it will provide jobs, schools, and health clinics in the new villages, but they have not done this yet. Many Anuak people are trying to go back to their homelands, but when they get there they learn that the government has leased the land to foreign companies. These companies are making huge commercial farms, planting crops like palm oil, sugar cane, rice, and tea. Most of these crops will not feed poor people in Ethiopia. Instead, they will be exported to other countries. Foreign companies are eagerly grabbing up the cheap land in Ethiopia. In fact, this practice is called “land grabbing.
The Anuak people know that they have rights to their homelands, farms, and forests. The Ethiopian constitution and international laws say they cannot be forced to leave their lands, and if they leave voluntarily they must be paid. But the Ethiopian government is not obeying these laws.
“Villagization” and land grabbing are violating the rights of Indigenous Peoples, causing suffering, hunger,
disease, poverty, and death.
How can this be stopped? Anuak leaders think the United States government can help. The United States gives millions of dollars to Ethiopia to help end hunger and poverty there. Let’s tell the US State Department what’s happening to the Anuak people. Let’s ask what they can do to help.
Ethiopia's Genocide of the Anuak Tribe Broadens After December 13 Massacre
By Doug McGill
The McGill Report
(The following article appeared on May 6 in the Rochester Post-Bulletin of Rochester, MN.)
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- A genocide in western Ethiopia that began last December with a massacre of some 400 Anuak tribe members has broadened into widespread attacks by Ethiopian military troops against more than a dozen Anuak villages in the western Ethiopian province of Gambella, according to Anuak refugees and humanitarian aid groups.
Scorched-earth raids carried out from January through April have destroyed a dozen Anuak villages in Gambella, refugees said. The raids have driven more than 10,000 Anuak into refugee camps in neighboring Sudan and Kenya, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. While the December 13 massacre in Gambella town, the capital of Gambella province, was directed only at educated male Anuak, the new phase of the genocide has seen women and children killed, hundreds of Anuak homes and fields burned, and gang rapes of dozens of girls and women, according to Anuak refugees living in Pocalla, Sudan, and Nairobi, Kenya.
Fleeing earlier episodes of ethnic cleansing, more than 2,000 Anuak refugees have immigrated to Minnesota since the early 1990s. The present crisis, however, is by far the bloodiest phase of the continuing genocide of the Anuak in Ethiopia. More than two dozen Anuak survivors interviewed in mid-April in south Sudan said that on Dec. 13, several hundred uniformed Ethiopian soldiers led the slaughter of more than 425 male leaders of the Anuak tribe in the town of Gambella. The troops used a list of names to identify educated Anuak men whom they dragged from their homes and shot with AK-47 assault rifles in the streets.
Ethiopian troops also incited hundreds of ethnic Ethiopian "highlanders" living in Gambella to go to their homes to fetch machetes, knives and spears, and to join them in the slaughter, eyewitnesses said. Survivors said the Ethiopian troops burned hundreds of Anuak "tukuls," traditional mud and straw homes, and gang-raped hundreds of Anuak girls.
The Ethiopian military broadened its attacks after Dec. 13 by dispatching troop trucks and, in one case, allegedly a helicopter gunship, against Anuak villages throughout Gambella state. The total casualties from these attacks is said to be more than 1,000.
The eyewitness Anuak accounts have been corroborated by independent investigations
made by humanitarian groups including Genocide Watch in Washington, DC., and the
World Organization Against Torture, based in Geneva, Switzerland. Amnesty
International and the governments of the U.S., the European Union, Canada have all
called on the Ethiopian government to immediately investigate the reports.
“The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Defense Front and highland Ethiopian civilians
[have] initiated a campaign of massacres, repression, and mass rape deliberately targeting
the indigenous Anuak minority,” Genocide Watch wrote in its February 2004 report,
following a research team visit to Pochalla. “A severe escalation of violence [has] the
potential to provoke a full-scale international military confrontation if not immediately
The Genocide Watch team documented numerous instances of attacks on Anuak as the
Highlander attackers sang or chanted slogans like “Let’s kill them all!” and “Now is the
day for killing Anuak!” Hand grenades thrown into huts was frequently reported, as was
looting and, on February 1, the exhumation of a mass grave in the Jabjab region of
Gambella by 11 Ethiopian soldiers, apparently to remove evidence of the massacre.
In Addis Ababa on April 22, Barnabas Gebre-Ab, the Ethiopian Federal Minister with
statutory responsibility for Gambella state, insisted that all reports of an Anuak genocide
Gebre-Ab admitted the region had suffered “tragic” bouts of violence in recent months
but said the killers were not the Ethiopian military but, rather, armed revolutionary cells
of the Anuak people themselves.
“These are Anuak,” Gebre-Ab said. “It’s an Anuak group which claims to have formed a
liberation front in Gambella, okay? So these are the ones who are killing. They kill
engineers. They kill health workers. Teachers. If they are Highlanders, they kill them.
Deliberately. And we are hunting them. We have to hunt them down.
“If you want to challenge the political order through violence, we won’t let you go. So we
are doing our job. Because we are giving them a mortal blow, they are fabricating about
this rape, and this and that, it’s all fabrication.”
According to Gebre-Ab, it was a mob of “vagabonds” and “social scums” including many
Highlanders who precipitated the widespread killing of Anuak on December 13. “It’s
related to animosity. It’s hatred, you know,” he said. “Why couldn’t they control
themselves? Why did they go into this emotional outburst and start to kill? Because they
are social scums.”
“In all societies there are backward elements,” Gebre-Ab said. “They are illiterate. They
are backward. They are liable to commit crimes.”
On December 18, five days after the December 13 massacre, Gebre-Ab released a
statement blaming the killings on the Oromo Liberation Front and the Eritrean Peoples’
Liberation Front, two resistance forces fighting the Meles regime that are based in areas
far remote from Gambella state. A few days later, the Ethiopian defense ministry
announced on national radio that inter-tribal conflicts between the Anuak and the Nuer
Okello Akuai, the governor of Gambella state last December 13, strongly disputes GebreAb’s account of the massacre. An Anuak himself, Okello fled for his life on January 8
and today lives in exile in Europe.
"Stop the Killings"
“Gebre-Ab gave the order to the local military,” Okello said in a telephone interview. “I
know that because I was at the military camp when it happened. I was sitting next to the
military commander in the region, Tsegaye Beyene, when he got the call from Gebre-Ab
on December 13.”
“From there they started killing people in the town,” Okello said. On the second day of
the killing, Okello said he pleaded with Tsegaye to stop the killing. “I quarreled with him,
I told him to stop the killings,” Okello said. “He said to me, `All Anuak are the same,
they are butchers.’”
On the early morning of December 13, before the killings began in Gambella, an
unidentified group attacked a vehicle carrying eight Highlander government officials,
killing them all. According to Okello and other Anuak eyewitnesses, the Ethiopian army
displayed their corpses in downtown Gambella and incited local Highlanders to their
murderous fury by saying that Anuak had killed the eight, and that the murders needed to
be avenged by killing all grown Anuak men living in Gambella.
On December 14, the second day of the massacre, Okello said he called Gebre-Ab in
Addis Ababa to report on the killings and to plead that they stop. Gebre-Ab’s telephone
line to his military commander was not working at the time, so Gebre-Ab told Okello to
relay a message to Tsegaye.
“I told Gebre-Ab that the military was killing people,” Okello said. “And Gebre-Ab told
me, ‘Tell Tsegaye to increase the military force.’”
Okello also said Gambella municipal employees had earlier reported to him that a list of
educated Anuak men marked for execution had been drawn up. Okello said before he fled
Gambella on January 8, eyewitness reports to the massacre by Anuak women who had
lost husbands and brothers were destroyed en masse.
In an interview last week with the Reuters news agency, the Ethiopian Prime Minister,
Meles Zenawi, called reports of the Anuak genocide a “fiction.” He said the Ethiopian
military had intervened to stop killing by armed Anuak insurgents and that “without the
intervention of the army, the killings would have continued.” No more than 200 people
have died, he said.
The statement to Reuters was Meles’ first public mention of the violence in Gambella
since it started on December 13. Neither Meles nor Gebre-Ab explained why a radical
Anuak militia -- even if it conducted armed attacks on the Ethiopian military -- would
also kill large numbers of Anuak farmers and herders, loot Anuak homes, and rape Anuak
The Anuak King, Adongo Agada Akway, whose permanent home is in the village of
Otallo, southern Sudan, is presently living in Nairobi where he is meeting with foreign
diplomats, journalists, United Nations officials, and other humanitarian workers to try to
bring international pressure on the Ethiopian government to stop the genocide of the
“What is happening in the Anuak Kingdom is exactly what happened in Rwanda, and
what happened in Darfur, western Sudan,” King Adongo said. “Innocent people are killed
in all these cases. They don’t know why they are being killed. And in every case it is
designed by the regimes in those countries. The Ethiopian government is the one that
gave the orders.”
decreased the tribe's population by 10 percent since 1991, when the present government
took power. There are about 150,000 Anuak living both in a small portion of eastern
Sudan and, primarily, the Gambella state of Ethiopia.
The Breadbasket of Ethiopia
Historically, the lighter-skinned Ethiopian tribes have shunned the darker-skinned
African tribes, and sometimes raided the tribes to acquire slaves.
The Anuak are one such dark-skinned African people indigenous to regions of the lower
Nile, others including the Nuer, Dinka, and Shilluk. All these tribes are racially distinct
from the olive-skinned Ethiopian tribes such as the Tigray, the Oromo, and the Amhara.
The Anuak’s ancestral homeland of Gambella is not only geographically remote from the
capital of Addis Ababa – it is also agriculturally fertile, relatively sparsely populated,
and blessed with gold and oil reserves. This has made their land much coveted by the
central government for economic development and population resettlement.
“Gambella is potentially a very rich area,” said Gebre-Ab. “It could be the breadbasket of
Throughout the 20th century, the Anuak Kingdom has been studied by many Western
anthropologists who have lived among the Anuak for long periods, including the famous
British social anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard.
The Anuak have been admired in particular by anthropologists for their system of dispute
resolution, in which all major arguments throughout the Kingdom are resolved by open
discussion between all the disputants in front of the King and his cabinet which holds
session every day in Otallo, Sudan.
greatest crises the Anuak Kingdom has faced in its history.
“Before taking up arms we want to find a democratic way,” he said. “A way of
reconciliation. We don’t want to aggress anybody. We want to have peace talks with
somebody who aggresses us. We want to have a meeting with the Ethiopian government
with the intervention of the world community. There is no alternative unless people sit
Copyright @ 2003 The McGill Report
Akwai Agada Akwai Cham become 24th King of the Anyuak Kingdom