The Daju people are a group of seven distinct ethnicities speaking related languages living on both sides of the Chad-Sudan border and in the Nuba Mountains. Separated by distance and speaking different languages, at present, they generally have little cultural affinity to each other.
The traditional area identified with the Daju are the Daju Hills in the southern portion of the Marrah Mountains located in the Darfur province of Sudan. As the Marrah Mountains are the only area in Darfur that has a temperate climate and thus could support large populations, a Daju state arose perhaps as early as the 12th century BC.
Very little is known of this kingdom except for a list of kings and several mentions in Egyptian texts. The most ancient mention of king's names is king Githar at the time of the Daju prophet Saleh who died and buried at the bank of Wadi Saleh in the southwestern corner of Marrah Mountains See Nachtigal, 1971 . The Daju appear to be the dominant group in Darfur from earliest times vying for control with their northern Marrah Mountain later rivals, the agricultural Fur people. The original settlement of the Daju people was in the Yellow Nile River [now called Wadi Howar]. They also left ruins at Jebel Meidob, the Great Oases and Darb el-Arbayyn trade route to Egypt
As a result of their defeat at the hands of the Tunjur and then dominance by the Fur, the Daju were displaced from much of their territory and now exist in several distinct pockets in the Sudan and Chad.
The remaining Daju people exist in the following distinct groups:
There are also two groups located in the Nuba Mountains and due to their sharp linguistic differential from each other as well as the other Daju languages, it is generally agreed that they come from a very early migration (perhaps 2,000 years ago) out of the Daju Urheimat in the Marrah Mountains. There they carved out their own small territory in the midst of the original inhabitants of the eastern Nuba Mountains, the Kordofanian tribes, as well as amongst later migrating tribal/linguistic groupings: the Nyimang tribes, the Temein tribes, and the Kadugli tribes. The migration of the Hill Nubian tribes in the Nuba Hills is generally seen as coming after the main Daju migration. The Nuba Mountains have generally been an area of "retreat" for persecuted groups seeking security hence the significant linguistic diversity.
The Daju, who known to Henri Barth as "Pharaoh's Folk", had migrated originally from the Nile valley in the aftermath of the invasion of Kingdom of Meroe by Izana, king of Axum around the middle of the fourth century A.D. Accounts refer their origins to Shendi, which means in their own language "ewe." First they settled in Wadi al-Malik, Wadi Howar and Jebel Midob in B.C. 3000 then migrated, due to climate change, to the Nile valley and Egypt where they ruled under the name of Libyan Pharaohs. An Iraqi King expelled them southwards where they returned to their capital Nepta. Then they have been driven southwards again to Meroe until Izana drove them westwards to Wadi Howar and Kordofan in western Sudan and there they established their capital towns around Jebel Qadir in the Nuba Mountains and many other towns now in Darfur and Chad. After several generations, they annexed the land now called Dar Fur and beyond. Historians attribute this later expansion to the war between the Daju kingdom and the Kingdom of Dongola in 1100 AD which led King Ahmed al-Daj to relocate his headquarters to Meri in Jebel Marra massif. Meanwhile, Semia, one of Daju capitals, was completely destroyed by the Amir from Dongola.
The Daju peoples live on both sides of the Chad-Sudan border. One large group of the Daju only in the Sudan are normally listed by the Province, Dar Fur (also written in some sources as Darfur). Ethnologue lists their language as Daju, Dar Fur, with alternate name Fininga. One ethnic name for them is Fininga.
Dar Fur is a comparatively recent name, from the Arabic for "Home of the Fur." The name of the area in the language of the Fur people is Poraáng Baru. However, there was a Daju state in what is now Dar Fur, before the Fur or their predecessors, the Tunjur, came to the area.
The Daju ruled a small empire in this area from around 1200 till roughly 1400, when it was taken over by the Tunjur Dynasty. They are considered one dynasty in a series in Dar Fur. The British conquered Dar Fur in 1916, and ruled the area with a light indirect rule, partly due top the warlike reputation of the Daju and other independent Nuba peoples.
When the Daju kingdom was lost, the Sultan escaped westward with some of his people and established a small new kingdom in the Dar Sila Area, now the home of the people known as the Dar Sila Daju. Today the primary Daju groups are known by the name of the primary areas where they live.
What is now known as Dar Fur was a busy trade area from the Sixth Dynasty of Egypt, around 2300 BC. Trade caravans travelled between Aswan in the Nile River and Dar Fur where items like ebony, ivory and frankincense from Yam in West Africa were available. It is thought that at that time, this area was not as much a desert as now.
Nearly all the Daju in Dar Sila have migrated into Dar Fur in recent times. The majority of this group still live on the Chad side of the border.
There are sometimes five groups included in the Daju group. This profile covers three, as named in the header demographic information. Others sometimes included with them are the Shatt and the Logorif (Logorik, or Liguri), whose languages are included by the Ethnologue in the same Western Daju group with the three Daju groups we cover here.
The Daju group of peoples are listed in different ways by different sources. Some prefer to use the common tribal self-name of the people, while others follow the language name using a form of Daju (French spelling Dadjo). PeopleGroups.org, for instance, lists Bokoruge, with alternate name Daju, Dar Sila, while Ethnologue's language name is the latter. Joshua Project lists them under the name.
However, PeopleGroups.org list the third major group under the name Dar Fur Daju, rather than their tribal self-name Fininga. The Registry of Peoples, originally compiled from disparate world databases, has listed them by inconsistent names, which were recently standardized under the Daju format.
The Internet Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, describes the Dar Sila, one of the Daju groups, as themselves multi-tribal:
Dar Sila is the name of the wandering sultanate of the Dar Sila Daju, a multi-tribal ethnic group in Chad and Sudan. The number of the persons in this group exceeds 50,000. They speak Dar Sila Daju, a Nilo-Saharan language. Most members of this ethnic group are Muslims.
Groups of the Daju speak three closely-related languages. Different linguists have tried to account for the relationship between the languages of the three groups we profile here, and related neighbouring groups, in different ways. The designations we follow here are those published in the Ethnologue.
Dar Daju (code djc) and Dar Sila (dau) are spoken primarily in Chad and Dar Fur (daj) is spoken mostly in Sudan. These three Daju languages are classified in the western branch of the East Sudanic languages of the Nilo-Saharan family. These languages are related, but are not mutually intelligible. Other languages in this branch are Baygo (byg) and Njalgulgule (njl), both spoken in Sudan. More distantly related are the Eastern Daju languages Logorik (Logorif, code liu) and Shatt (shj).
The Ethnologue reports the following speech forms as dialects of the main Daju languages:
Daju, Dar Daju (Saaronge): Bardangal, Eref, Gadjira
Daju, Dar Fur (Fininga): Nyala, Lagowa
Daju, Dar Sila (Bokoruge): Mongo, Sila
Most Daju now also speak Arabic of the Sudanese or Chadian variety, but Daju Sultans had formed important dynasties long before the Arabs came.
Dar Fur was an independent Sultanate from around 1700. In the 1780s, the Sultan of Dar Fur extended his area by conquering Kordofan, now also a province of Sudan. In 1874, Dar Fur submitted ot the Egyptian Khedive, and in 1898 recognized the sovereignty of the Anglo-Egyptian administration of the Sudan.
In World War I, Dar Fur made a bid for independence by allying with Turkey against the British. However, the British conquered Dar Fur in 1916, since when it has been part of Sudan. Since the 1970s, the Dar Fur area has suffered some of the effects of the northern Arab war prosecuted in the south against Southern tribes who wanted to secede from the Sudan.
War has been the primary factor in the last few decades of the Darfur area. A civil war lasted about 20 years, until the end of the 20th Century. A new conflict arose in 2003, involving local Arab militia called janjaweed attacking the African peoples village by village in a campaign of terror, reportedly supported by the Sudanese military.
Three rebel groups in Dar Fur are now fighting the Sudanese government. These groups arose partly as a defense against the increased actions for Arabization by the Khartoum government. "The rebels took up arms in 2003, accusing the government of discriminating against the black African residents of Darfur" [BBC News 9 May 2006]
The breadth and ferocity of this victimization has elicited numerous international charges of genocide, and comparisons with the massacres not many years ago in Rwanda. The tribes most directly attacked appear to be the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa. All the peoples in the whole Darfur and some of the Kordofan have been affected.
However, over the three years of this conflict, estimates of those killed range from 200,000 (BBC) to 300,000 (Various sources). More have been displaced, estimated by different sources to be between 1 million and two million [BBC World News, 8 May 2006]. Already in November of 2003, the number of refugees who had fled into Chad was numbered at 300,000.
Many of these have fled west into Chad, and are living in makeshift refugee camps, living as they can. Many die to starvation and diseases related to their living conditions. In early 2006, the conflict itself spread into Chad, with the Janjaweed forces crossing the Chadian border to attack refugees and local residents in that country. The Chadian government seems powerless to stop this conflict, worsened by the apparent alliance of this informal Sudanese militia with Arab rebels in Chad, also terrorizing the local populace.
Interviewed on BBC, the Sultan of Dar Sila stated that his people have suffered 30 years of war. Still, he said with an unexpected hopefulness, "We don't want this to become like Somalia" [BBC World News, 8 May 2006]. Observers at that time stated that the current Chadian government is in serious danger of falling, and prospects for the people along the Chad-Sudan border are unclear.
African Union troops have been there in 2006 for observation only, and there was pressure form the AU and other quarters for a strong UN or NATO force to enter with an active mandate for defense and settlement of the conflict to stabilize the area. The African Union had brokered peace talks between the Sudanese government and the Darfurian rebels, but a fragile cease-fire broke down on 2 May before any final agreement, and fighting resumed.
Each male-led clan has its own role in society. The Sultan is chosen from one; his advisors are drawn from another. Now the Sultanship is primarily a role of religious leadership. However, the Sultan remains a figure of tribal identity and unity.
Until their lives were disrupted by the recent decades of warfare, the Daju were primarily farmers, concentrating on cereal grain production, like millet, sorghum, and corn (maize). They did some hunting, and also gather honey, berries and wild fruits, accoridng to some sources.
Women are the house-biliders, making round houses with cone roofs. In the towns, houses tend to be rectangular. Women also sowed the crops, ground grain and cooked the meals. Traditionally, community chores were shared, with young people being given work assignments in the village.
Daju women are reported to whiten their teeth with sticks and tattoo their eyelids, gums and lips with acacia thorns. Similar to other traditional African tribes, they often remain bare-breasted among relatives.
The Daju people have been committed to a form of Islam since the rising dominance of the Arab peoples in recent centuries. But they still practice many of their traditional religion customs.
Some would be considered traditionalists, rather than Muslims. But they are usually classified as a Muslim people. They profess Islam, but one still finds them building straw shrines to their traditional high god Kalge, whom they equate with Allah ("The One God") of Islam.
The religion of the Daju of Dar Fur would be classified as Animism, while that if the Daju of West Kordofan would be classified as Islam. The Daju observe the two annual festivals by lighting fires, but celebrate the traditional grain harvest by pouring out water and beer beneath a sacred tree or stone. Yet the Daju are proud of their Islamic faith, which has been greatly strengthened in recent years by Muslim missionary schools.