Saturday, 30 December 2017

SOUTH SUDAN: Who Are The Dinka People?

The Dinka people or Jieng are a community, composed of many ethnic groups, inhabiting the East and West Banks of River Nile, from Mangalla to Renk, regions of Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile former two of three Southern Provinces in Sudan and Abyei Area of the Angok Dinka in South Khordofan of Sudan.

The Dinka community is a domesticated community, which mainly lives on traditional agriculture and pastoralism, relying on cattle husbandry as a cultural pride, not for commercial profit or for meat, but cultural demonstrations, rituals, marriages' doweries and milk feedings for all ages.

The Dinka cultivate food crops and cash crops. The food crops are grains dura or sorghum and millet.

The cash crops are groundnuts, semsemi and more varieties like gum-Arabi etc. Cattle are confined to riverside and sudd and grass areas during the dry season, but are amounted to high grounds in order to avoid floods and water during the rainy season.

They number around 4.5 million people according to the 2008 Sudan census, constituting about 18% of the population of the entire country, and the largest ethnic tribe in South Sudan.

Dinka, or as they refer to themselves, Muonyjang (singular) and jieng (plural), one of the branches of the River Lake Nilotes mainly sedentary agripastoral peoples of the Nile Valley and African Great Lakes region who speak Nilotic languages, including the Nuer and Luo.

Dinka are sometimes noted for their height, they are believed to be the tallest people in Africa. A reported average height of 182.6 cm or 5 ft 11.9 in in a sample of 52 Dinka Ageir and 181.3 cm or 5 ft 11.4 in in 227 Dinka Ruweng measured in 1953–1954.

However, it seems the stature of today's Dinka males is lower, possibly as a consequence of undernutrition and conflicts.

An anthropometric survey of Dinka men, war refugees in Ethiopia, published in 1995 found a mean height of 176.4 cm or 5 ft 9.4 in.

Other studies of comparative historical height data and nutrition place the Dinka as the tallest people in the world.

The Dinka people have no centralised political authority, instead comprising many independent but interlinked clans. Certain of those clans traditionally provide ritual chiefs, known as the masters of the fishing spear or beny bith, who provide leadership for the entire people and appear to be at least in part hereditary.

Their language, called Dinka or thuongmuoingjang, is one of the Nilotic languages of the eastern Sudanic language family. The name means people in the Dinka language. It is written using the Latin alphabet with a few additions.

Dinka or Jieng is a Nilotic dialect cluster spoken by the Dinka people, the major ethnic group of South Sudan. There are several main varieties, Ngok, Rek, Agaar, Awiel, Twic Mayardit, Hol, Nyarweng, Twi and Bor, which are distinct enough though mutually intelligible to require separate literary standards.

Jaang, Jieng or Monyjieng is used as a general term to cover all Jieng languages. Rek is the standard and prestige dialect.

The closest non-Jieng language is Nuer, the language of the Dinka's traditional rivals. The Luo languages are also closely related.

The Jieng are found mainly along the Nile, specifically the west bank of the White Nile, a major tributary flowing north from Uganda, north and south of the Sudd marsh in southwestern and south central Sudan in three provinces: Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile and Southern Kurdufan.

Linguists divide Dinka into five languages or dialect clusters corresponding to their geographic location with respect to each other:

Northeastern and western: Padang da Ayuel jiel (Abarlang, Nyiel, Ageer, Dongjol). Luac da (Akook, Wieu, Aguer), Ngok de Jok (Upper Nile), Rut, Thoi, Western: Ngok de Jok Athuorkok (Abiei), Ngok de Jok da Awet and Kuel of Ruweeng (Panaru, Aloor and Paweny)

South Central: Aliap, Ciec (Jang), Gok, and Agar

Southeastern (Bor): Bor (Bor Super, Bor proper, Bor South, Bor Asili), Ngok-Alual/Padang da Ayuel Jiel (Hol, Nyaarweng, and Twic)

Southwestern: Rek, Abiem, Aguók, Apuk, Awan, Kuac, Lóu, Luac/Luanyjang, Malual or Malualgiernyang, Paliët, Paliëupiny, Twic

Southern Sudan has been described as a large basin gently sloping northward through which flow the Bahr el Jebel River, the (White Nile), the Bahr el Ghazal (Nam) River and its tributaries, and the Sobat, all merging into a vast barrier swamp.

Vast Sudanese oil areas to the south and east are part of the flood plain, a basin in the southern Sudan into which the rivers of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia drain off from an ironstone plateau that belts the regions of Bahr El Ghazal and Upper Nile.

The terrain is divided into four land classes:

Highlands: higher than the surrounding plains by only a few centimeters; are the sites for permanent settlements. Vegetation consists of open thorn woodland and/or open mixed woodland with grasses.

Intermediate Lands: lie slightly below the highlands, commonly subject to flooding from heavy rainfall in the Ethiopian and East/Central African highlands, Vegetation is mostly open perennial grassland with some acacia woodland and other sparsely distributed trees.
Toic: land seasonally inundated or saturated by the main rivers and inland water-courses, retaining enough moisture throughout the dry season to support cattle grazing.

Sudd: permanent swampland below the level of the toic; covers a substantial part of the floodplain in which the Dinka reside; provides good fishing but is not available for livestock; historically it has been a physical barrier to outsiders’ penetration.

Ecology of large basin is unique; until recently, wild animals and birds flourished, hunted rarely by the agro-pastoralists.

The Dinka or Jieeng people has fifty six subdivisions: Rek of Wau (Dinka Marial Baai), Palieupiny Malual, Pajook Malual (Malual Gieernyaang/ Malual Buoth Anyaar), Paliet Malual, Abiem Malual, Twic Mayaardit, Kuac Ayok, Awan Chan, Awan Mou, Wan Parek, Aguok Kuei, Apuk Giir, Apuk Padooc, Apuk Jurwiir, Konggoor, Abiem Mayaar, Lou Ariik, Lou Paheer, Luac (Luanyjang), Luac (Luanykoth), Akook, Thiik, Jalwau, Nyang Akoc, Abuook, Atok, Noi, Leer, Muok, Yaar Ayiei Cikom, Thony, Gok, Kuei (Agaar), Rup (Agaar), Pakam (Agaar), Parial (Agaar), Yak (Agaar), Atuot, Ciec, Aliap, Bor, Twi (Twic of Jonglei), Nyarweng, Hol, Luac Akok Yiew(Luac of Khorfulus), Rut, Thoi, Ruweng Paweny, Ngok Lual Yak (Ngok of Malakal), Dongjol, Nyiel, Ageer, Abialaang, Ruweng Paanaruu, Ruweng Aloor and Ngok Jok (Ngok of Abyei).

The Rek, Padaang, Malual and Agaar are groups which are composed of independent sub-divisions, each with known borders and a customary authority which managed the affairs of the section alongside governmental structures.

There is no such thing as Rek paramount Chief, but Rek paramount chiefs.

The number of Dinka sub-divisions is hotly contested as the border or line between group, sub-division and sections is blurred and often difficult to determine.

For example, one can divide the Atuot into Apak and Reel, Boor into Athooc and Gok, and Panaruu into Awet and Kuel and Ciec into Ador and Lou where Ador is sub-divided into Gok and Ajiek.

Malual is the largest of those groups, numbering over a million people. The Dinka's migrations are determined by the local climate, their agro-pastoral lifestyle responding to the periodic flooding and dryness of the area in which they live.

They begin moving around May–June at the onset of the rainy season to their permanent settlements of mud and thatch housing above flood level, where they plant their crops of millet and other grain products.

These rainy season settlements usually contain other permanent structures such as cattle byres or luaak and granaries. During dry season beginning about December–January, everyone except the aged, ill, and nursing mothers migrates to semi-permanent dwellings in the toic for cattle grazing.

The cultivation of sorghum, millet, and other crops begins in the highlands in the early rainy season and the harvest of crops begins when the rains are heavy in June–August.

Cattle are driven to the toic in September and November when the rainfall drops off and allowed to graze on harvested stalks of the crops.

The Dinkas' pastoral lifestyle is also reflected in their religious beliefs and practices. Since the arrival of Abrahamic religions most revere one God, Nhialic, who speaks through spirits that take temporary possession of individuals in order to speak through them.
The sacrificing of oxen by the masters of the fishing spear is a central component of Dinka religious practice. Age is an important factor in Dinka culture, with young men being inducted into adulthood through an initiation ordeal which includes marking the forehead with a sharp object.

Also during this ceremony they acquire a second cow-colour name. The Dinka believe they derive religious power from nature and the world around them, rather than from a religious tome.

The Dinka's religions, beliefs and lifestyle have led to conflict with the Arab Muslim government in Khartoum.

The Sudan People's Liberation Army, led by late Dr. John Garang De Mabior, a Dinka, took arms against the government in 1983. During the subsequent 21-year civil war, many thousands of Dinka, along with fellow non-Dinka southerners, were massacred by government forces.

The Dinka, led by Salva Kiir Mayardit, have also engaged in a separate civil war with the Nuer and other groups who accuse them of monopolising power.

Sizable groups of Dinka refugees may be found in distant lands, including the United States, Jacksonville, Florida and Clarkston, a working-class suburb of Atlanta, Georgia and in the Midwest such as Omaha NE, Des Moines IA, Sioux Falls SD, and Kansas City MO, as well as Edmonton in Canada, and Melbourne and Sydney in Australia.

The experience of Dinka refugees was portrayed in the documentary movies Lost Boys of Sudan by Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk and God Grew Tired Of Us, Joan Hechts' book The Journey of the Lost Boys and the fictionalized autobiography of a Dinka refugee, Dave Eggers' What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng.

Other books on and by the Lost Boys include The Lost Boys of Sudan by Mark Bixler, God Grew Tired of Us by John Bul Dau, They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky by Alephonsion Deng, Benson Deng, and Benjamin Ajak and, "A Long Walk to Water" by Linda Sue Park.

In 2004 the first volume of the graphic novel 'Echoes of the Lost Boys of Sudan' was released in Dallas, Texas, United States, chronicling in art and dialogue four lost boys' escapes from the destruction of their hometowns in South Sudan.

On November 15, 1991 the event known as the Dinkas Massacre commenced in South Sudan. Forces led by the breakaway faction of Riek Machar deliberately killed an estimated 2,000 civilians in Dinkas of Hol, Nyarweng, Twic, Bor and others in villages and wounded several thousand more over the course of two months.

It is estimated a 100,000 people left the area following the attack. Jieng People also killed in 1991 tribal massacre were people of Khorfulus and Ngok Lual Yak where about 500 people were killed, over 7000 herds of cattle taken, and thousand of houses burnt.

The area however remained under the control of SPLA under the commandership of late Gen. George Athor Deng who lated defeated Riek Machar forces in Panyagor when he reinforced Wuor Mabior of Duk.

Remarkable Dinka People:

Deng Adut, defence lawyer and former child soldier

Abel Alier, known as Wal Kwai, the first southerner to become Vice President of Sudan in 1972
Aliir Aliir, Australian Rules Footballer

Francis Bok, author

Manute Bol, former NBA player, one of the two tallest players in the league's history

John Bul Dau also known as Dhieu Deng Leek, one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan", author of God Grew Tired of Us, his autobiography, and subject of the documentary of the same title

Majak Daw, Australian Rules Footballer

Aldo Deng, former Sudanese cabinet member and current South Sudanese statesman; father of Luol Deng

Ataui Deng, fashion model and niece of Alek Wek

Lt. General Dominic Dim Deng, South Sudan's first political officer of SPLA, Minister for SPLA Affairs

Francis Deng, author, SAIS research professor

Luol Deng, NBA player

Ustaz/ Luis Anei Kuendit - Former Governor of Warrap, Ministerial Advisor to Ministry of Youth and Author of General Geaorge Athor

Late Gen.George Athor Deng - A man who defeated Dr. Riek Rebellion of 1991 and leader of SSDM/A

Valentino Achak Deng, a former Lost Boy and subject of What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, a biographical novel written by Dave Eggers

Salva Dut, a former Lost Boy, inspiration of the book A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

John Garang, former First Vice President of Sudan, Commander in Chief of Sudan People's Liberation Army and Chairman of Sudan People's Liberation Movement and founding father of South Sudan

Philip Aguer Panyang, former SPLA spokesman, currently serving as the Governor of Jongulei state.

Ater Majok, former NBA player

Thon Maker, current NBA player

Guor Marial, Olympic marathon runner

Lt. General Salva Kiir Mayardit, Dr. Garang's successor as First Vice President of Sudan, the First President of the Republic of South Sudan, Commander in Chief of Sudan People's Liberation Army and Chairman of Sudan People's Liberation Movement

Kuol Manyang Juuk, current Minister of defense and a former commander of SPLA high command.

Alek Wek, International fashion model

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