MARCH 21, 2018, The Nuer of South Sudan are second largest ethnic group whose population is approximately two million people in the north -east Africa.

Currently, Nuer tribe live in 3 States in South Sudan namely: Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity State and owns 17 counties namely: Mayom, Rupkona, Guit, Koch, Leer, Mayiandit, Payinjiar, Fangak, Ayod, Uror,Nyirol, Akobo,Ulang, Nasir, Mading Gaguong, Maiwut, and Mathiang. Moreover, Nuer are majority in Western Ethiopia Region 12- Gambella.

The Nuer sub- tribes are believed to have separated – at a certain stage in the past around Tharjiath Lich which is currently Jagei Nuer area (Koch County -Unity State) but in their latter development and migration assimilated many Dinka, Anuak, Shilluk and Mabaan in their path.

‘Nei ti Naath’ which translates simply into non cannibal people or non-human flash eaters see themselves as one people, one nation, one origin and unites against common enemies or outsiders who try to invade or provoke them. Therefore, Tharjiath Lich is believed by all Nuer people as their traditional home origin (Tharchieng).

In the beginning of the 18th century the Naath started to migrate and expanded their land from its origin ( Tharjiath Lich).

Territorial Eastwards Expansion across the Nile River was done through Wathngook basin in Melut. The expedition was carried by Nuer hero Latjor Diing Yian from W. Jikany Nuer to Nasir pushed Dinka Ngok Lual Yak, Anuak ( Baar) and Mabaan ( Chai) further northwards to Maban and Melut. Meanwhile Eastern Jikany Nuer’s expansion to extended towards western Ethiopia region displaced the Anyuak and Galla (Oromo) ethnic groups more deep into Ethiopian highlands.

Another group who crossed through ‘Wath Yooka’ basin in W. Jikany Nuer led by hero Bidiit from Lou Nuer to Fangak displaced Dinka Hol, Rut, and Nyarweng eastwards as well as Southwards and

The last groups who crossed Bahr El Jabel River through ‘Wath Pawarjak’ basin led by hero Buoh Kapeel from Gawaar- Nuer in Dok Nuer land to Ayod in Fangak ousted Dinka Nyarweng and Dinka Twic East Southwards.

Westwards expansion groups led by Paramount and leopard skin chief Chol Geah from Bul Nuer to Mayom and Mankien displaced Dinka of Apuok, Aguok , Kuac,Twic West, Dinka Ngok of Abyei and Arabs north-west to Muglad.

Southwards expansion groups led by Nuer heroes paramount and leopard skin- chief Wun Kuoth and Beliew Wiew the descent of Gatluak Nyak from Nyuong Nuer to Nyal and Ador pushed Dinka Agaar, Aliap, ciic and Atuot southwards and westwards respectively

South- West expansion was carried out by leopard skin chiefs ‘kuar Hook’ (cow custodian) Jal Chak Kuok and ‘Kuar mut’ (spear master) Pul Kam from Haak Nuer to Mayiandit displaced Dinka Pakam of Agaar,Manuer, Gok, Luac and Rek towards south-west of Bahr el Ghazal region

Finally, northwards expansion groups whom attempted to annex Gezira Aba from Arabs to Nuer land led by earth’s master (‘kuar muon’ ) known as Tang Kuany but unfortunately, they were unsuccessful in their mission. All these were done often by conquest, luring and assimilation of their neighbours -most of whom were the Dinka, Anyuak, Shilluk , Murle, Mabaan and Galla- Oroma tribes in Ethiopia.

Geographical Location of Nuer Nation

The territory of Nuer land dominated the large parts of former Upper Nile Region in north- east Africa which stretches for 2000 km from east to west. Fundamentally, Nuer people live in the swamps and open savannah on both sides of the Nile River, and its tributaries in the South Sudan. For instant,

Western Nuer- Bentiu live along the Lake No -the source of Bahr el Ghazal River which they called it Naam River whose length covering W.Jikany, Leek and Bul Nuer land towards northern Bahr el Ghazal region. In other hands, Bahr el Jebel River (cataracts poles along it coast is) known as ‘Kiir Pham’ which lengths engulfed Nyuong Nuer, Haak Nuer,Dok Nuer and Jagei Nuer territory.

Central Nuer- Fangak, live along Bahr el Jebel basin and Zerap River basin known as ‘Phow River’ which passes from Gezira towards Gawaar- Nuer territory located within the sudd region of former Upper Nile region.

In East of Central Nuer ( Akobo & Waat), we have got Pibor River whose source commence in Nasir area and flows towards Lou Nuer (Akobo) territory.

Finally, Eastern -Jikany Nuer (Nasir, Mading, Maiwut, & Longechuk,) live along the River Baro in Ethiopia as well as Sobat River and Nyading River in South Sudan.

Demographic and Major Clans Distribution

The Naath in their land are found as a federation of sections and major clans among Western Nuer (Bentiu), central Nuer (Fangak), Eastern- central Nuer (Waat & Akobo) and Eastern Jikany Nuer (Nasir) in former Upper Nile Region.

The River Nile is the principal geographic dividing line within Greater Nuer land ‘’Chiengnaath’’ which composes of ‘’Naath Doar’’ (Eastern Bank of Nuer land) and ‘’Naathchieng’’ (Western Bank of Nuer land) that together form the greater federal division of the ‘rool Naath.

District Major Section and Sub-clans of Western Nuer (Bentiu)
Bul Nuer (Kuac & Gok)
Jagei Nuer (Boor, Rengyian, Ror, & Wot)
Leek Nuer (Chiengdieng, Kerlual, & Chiengmatjaak)
Dok Nuer (Chieng Titjaah,Chieng Bapour, Juong& Duok)
Haak Nuer (Kuei, Beek, Jakar, Gawar & Jallouh)
Nyuong Nuer (Nyuong & Dor)

District Major Section and sub- clans of Central Nuer (Fangak):
Gawaar Nuer (Nyang & Baar) in Ayod
Laak Nuer (Chieng Kuacboor & Jocknyang) in New as well as in Old Fangak
Thiang Nuer ( Baang & Riaak) in New Fangak or Gezira

District Major Section of Lou Nuer Clans in former Central Upper Nile Region:
Goon section of Lou Nuer in Waat town
Moor section of Lou Nuer in Akobo town

District Major sections of Eastern Jikany Nuer (Gaatkiir Kaker- such as Jiok, Jaak, Thiang & Kun Kiir ) are below:

Gajiok Nuer in Nasir and ULang Diew Gai

Gajaak Nuer in Maiwut, Longechuk ( Mathiang) and Gambella

Gaguong Nuer in Mading Gaguong

Therefore, Nuer are believed to descent from God ‘Kuoth’ Nuer Gaw ( Row) Gaw Raan ,Raan Kuoth and has got 5 origin namely:
Geah clans: Thiang, Bul, Jinai, Bor, Riangyian, Wot and two sisters Duany and Kar
Geak clans: Dok, Nyuong, Kuac, Rol and sister Nyanger
Haak clans: Jaluoh,Beek,Kuei, Jakar and Gawar
Reel clans: Laak and Leek

Kiirkaker clans: Gajiok, Gajaak and Gaguong common in both west and east.

Economy and Natural Resources

Most of Naath homeland is located in the swamp ( Toch) areas of Upper Nile. The influence of the environment on the lifestyle of the Naath is obvious. The Naath people are sedentary agro-pastoralists whom balancing subsistence agriculture with cattle herding. Hence, Naath keep large herds of cows, sheep, goats, and practices fishing and hunting wild animals for food.

Their main crops are sorghum, millets, maize, groundnuts, pumpkins and tobacco. However, the Lou Nuer demonstrates yearly transhumance. The arid nature of their homeland in central Upper Nile dictates their dry season migration to the Sobat basin or to Zerap basin which result into pasture conflicts and feudal war with Eastern Jikany Nuer (fishing rights severed war trigger),Gawar Nuer and Dinka Nyarweng of Dukeen respectively.

Western Nuer homeland is imbued with enormous deposits of petroleum ( Lith muon). The experts say, ‘’the discovery, development and exploitation of this natural resource is more curse to the Naath people than a blessing’’. It is the cause of immense humanitarian disruption and unprecedented in Naath history. Other natural resources potential include wildlife ( lei doar), fisheries( Reec), Water lilies ( Yiel), acacia Senegalese (gum Arabic or African gum or auricle= ‘luac’ in Nuer)), and Ballantine aegyptiucm (laloob in Arabic or thaor in Nuer).


Recent Books on the Nuer written by:
1. Douglas H. Johnson ( 1994) .Nuer Prophets @ New York: Oxford University Press
2. Sharon E, Hutchinson & Jok Madut (1996). Nuer Dilemmas: Coping with Money, War and the State @ Los Angeles -University of California Press
3. Pritchard, E. E. Evans (1940 & 1990). Kingship and Marriage among the Nuer.’ Clarendon Oxford Press.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.; Emmanuel


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