24 Oct 2020


Time To Stop Dependency In Jieng (Dinka) Communities Of South Sudan

"In spite of the modernization, a few Jieng who moved to towns seeking education and employment still practice those customs. However, their children who never grown up in villages face obstacles to accept or adopt those practices."

By Ater Yuot Riak, Ph.D.

Roughly, more than 80% of Jieng communities are living in rural areas without a proper access to modern services such as electricity, schools, and health services among others. Modernization started by colonization era and the notable firsts of Jieng went to schools at around 1940s. Most of them were born at around 1940s or earlier 1930s and started their schools at around 1950s or 1960s. They were born in villages where education was not a right and only younger children were sent to school.

Jieng is a very communal society in which everything is almost shared. For instance, marriage is a family responsibility rather than a personal. The main purpose of marriage is then to raise big family and produce many children. Normally, Jineg marry girls immediately after their first menstruation starting from 14 years old onward.

Big family means wealth, power and protection as well as reputation in a society. In this regard, Jieng normally marry wives to their dead people (brothers, cousins, sisters etc.) And attentively children of the same man name themselves after ghost fathers. Everything depends on cattle, the bigger the number of cattle herds, the many wives and children you have. Interestingly, Jieng in villages will leave to seeking treatment but at the expense of a relative in town.

In Jieng communities, one man can reach to over thirty (30) wives and that children are still born and name after him despite of his death. Many explanations can be traced in here that his elder sons continue to marrying his wives. These sons can be older than some of his wives by 10 to 20 years which qualified them as their husbands.

Another practice is that a man can marry to his uncles who are still alive. Further, if one of the family has fertility problem, his wife may secretly get pregnant from a family member probably a brother or a cousin.

In spite of the modernization, a few Jieng who moved to towns seeking education and employment still practice those customs. However, their children who never grown up in villages face obstacles to accept or adopt those practices. This in turn has remarkably increased the level of burden to those Jieng living and working in towns.

Jieng are relatively rich people in terms of natural resources that include fertile land, livestock, and fishers’ resources among others. Even the current oil operation in Upper Nile State and Unity state are mostly in Jieng areas. These are opportunities if properly enhanced could create prosperous societies which entirely depend on themselves.

For instance, more than 20 million of cattle herd is own by Jieng communities; still these resources are not yet economically utilized. The fertile land not yet cultivated and fish in rivers and swampy areas not yet economically recognized by Jieng.

Oil is a national commodity but law gives a percentage to Jieng communities living inside operation zones which is another prosper opportunity.

Dependency has become a very big issue in Jieng communities. Many use kinship to force their relatives deliver services. Productivity in Jieng community is very limited because of its communal characteristics. Jieng communities in towns should have introduced innovative or complimentary ideas.

Marriage is a personal decision but this does not mean we should not involve our parents. The main purpose of marriage is to have a partner who completes the rest of his/her life with you. After marriage you are mandated to three priorities and responsibilities whether you are a man or a woman. The first priority is your family (wife/husband/children), the second priority is your parents (Father/Mother) and the third and last priority after you got married are your father/mother in laws.

Productivity and independency are to be encouraged and that livestock, fishers and lands should be economically oriented resources.

It is true that some Jieng in towns own cattle herds in camps in rural areas, now it is a time to introduce veterinary medicine and improve health of livestock to better benefit the community.

It said “You shall not covet”. Productivity and Independency must be practiced and that this culture of desire what does not belong to us should be abandoned immediately. God helps those who are helping themselves. There is a different meaning between a person under a mountain and a person who is climbing.

Education will reduce illiteracy in Jieng communities. Education does not mean attending classes in schools and acquiring degrees or certificates only but phasing out conventional and adopting modernization culture. Education and modernization are better to improving our living style tremendously. It does not make sense if educated Jieng persons with tools of change and improvement in their hands still follow the traditions which are described as strange customs.

 e-mail: ater.amogpai@gmail.com

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