Moru people



Moru is an ethnic group of South Sudan. Most of them live in Equatoria. They speak Moru, a Central Sudanic language. The population of this ethnicity possibly does not exceed 200,000.


Demography and Geography

The Moru, who belong to the ethnic group which includes the Madi, Lugbara, Avukaya and Logo of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, live in the southern part of Mundri County, Western Equatoria, South Sudan. Mundri County is located in Central Western part of Equatoria Region in Western Equatoria Province. There are five main divisions of the Moru, namely: Miza; Ägyi; Moroändri; Kediro and 'Bari'ba, who each live in a distinct area and have their own dialectical differences. Other partial divisions can also be recognised.

The northern part of Mundri County is inhabited by the Jur cluster, which includes the Beli, Sopi, Mödö, Nyamusa, Wira, Biti and Morokodo. Although they are often erroneously classified as Moru they form a distinct language group, more closely related to the Bongo and Baka. The Moru have received the most attention in the past and Moru Miza was the vernacular used in education and the church throughout the district.

Settlement is in extended family groups surrounded by their gardens. These families are linked together into clans under headmen and sub-chiefs, but there are few physical concentrations of villages. The term village is generally used to describe the people who relate to one centre.



The clearest communal historical narratives are of attacks by the Azande, particularly those that drove them onto a hill near Lui, raids by slavers from the North. It was loosely part of the Ottoman-Egyptian province of Equatoria, administered by Sir Samuel Baker and then Charles George Gordon and finally Emin Pasha. The Moru area was then part of the Lado Enclave, in the far north east of the Congo Free State, later Belgian Congo from 1894 to 1910.


Environment, Economy and Natural Resources

The Moru land is plain with several isolated hills. The climate is tropical with thick tropical vegetation sustained by fairly high annual rainfall between April and November. Moru economy has been agriculturally based but they have of recent started to acquire livestock .
The main crops are sorghum, cassava, maize, beans, groundnuts, simsim and fruits like mangoes, pawpaws, bananas, guavas, lemons, etc. and cash crops like coffee. They harvest exotic trees like mahogany and ebony which are abundant in their forests. There is a huge potential in timber, gold panned from the Yei River and its tributaries. The Moru collect honey and other forest products.



Most families are subsistence farmers depending on rain fed agriculture to produce food for their families. Any surplus may be sold for cash or bartered for products that cannot be produced locally. The staple crop is sorghum which is grown in various field types in association with sesame, cowpeas, bulrush millet and finger millet. Other important crops are groundnuts, maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, okra, pumpkins and various green vegetables. Livestock are kept mainly on the northern and eastern sides of the district. The most commonly kept animals are sheep and goats. Poultry are kept by most households. The number of cattle has increased during the last two decades.

Contact with the wild bush is important, and many of the relishes are obtained from wild sources. Hunting and fishing are important economic and social activities. Other wild foods include vegetables, wild fruit, fungi and insects, especially termites. The bush is also the source of building materials, fuel and fibres. The traditional way of cultivation is for close relatives to cultivate together in one area. This is traditionally called a Kätiri, and is traditionally made of segments divided round a central marker such as a large tree or ant hill.


Mythology and History

The Moru are said to have come from West Africa but there is nothing in their memory that points to how they came to where they are presently. However, what remains sharply in their memory are the attacks by the Azande which drove the Moru onto a hill near Lui and the raids by slavers from Congo.



The Moru speak Moru tongue with several variations. The dialect of Moru-Meza is the standard or rather formal in construction. It is the Moru-Gbariba which is full of life and social expressions. The Moru language is related to the Madi, Avukaya, Lugbwara, Keliku and Lulubo.


Society, Social Events, Attitudes, Customs and Traditions

The society is organised as clans and agnatic lineages that look at themselves as Moru with social values shared by all. The society and its attitudes has been influenced by Christianity and Christian traditions. In the Moru society, for instance it is difficult to commit such crimes as murder, theft, etc., the last murder case in Moru land was in 1958.
The Moru compose songs against anti-social habits and traits. These songs act as a deterrent to crime. The society promotes peace and harmony among people. They avoid problems and express their disdain through isolation and boycott. The Moru will not openly show anger and hence it is difficult to identify their enemies.


Social events that bring the Moru people together

Death or sickness is the biggest event that brings together even enemies. The Moru believe that non-participation in such occasions may result in one’s boycott. They are very particular about attendance.

Marriage stages e.g. during negotiation for the dowry not all are expected to attend, but for the marriage celebration itself, the invitation is extended to as many as possible.

Dances bring the youth together and it is where courtship and eventual engagement commence. The funeral dances may last for four days with lots of feasting.

Prayer meetings – these are meeting occasions especially for the Christians. New members and visitors are announced such that they introduce themselves and talk to people about their problems, etc.

The Moru used to engage in communal hunting and fishing. Hunting was undertaken during the dry season and they used traps, spears, arrows, etc. Fishing was carried out by poisoning the water channel to kill all the fish. These social activities are dying.

The Moru engage in work parties particularly in cultivation in which one invites people to cultivate one’s field.


Socio-political organisation, traditional authority

The Moru don’t regard themselves as a state, thus there are no formal political institutions. The administrative authority lies with the Paramount chiefs, chiefs, sub-chiefs, head men who adjudicate minor cases of elopement and adultery. Their main role in society is conflict resolution, peace and reconciliation between families and clans.


Spirituality, beliefs and customs

The Moru people have been greatly influenced by Christianity and many of them are Christians. Nevertheless, the traditional system of beliefs still endures in some areas. Sorcery is practiced. The rainmakers are respected and wield influence in the lives of the people. It is difficult for a Moru to disobey a rainmaker lest something bad befalls one and which can only be treated by a rainmaker. There are also fortune-tellers and witch-doctors who can cleanse one of the bad omens inflicted by a wizard.


Culture: arts, music, literature and handicrafts

The Moru society is agnatic. The culture evolved in the context of the mode of social reproduction. It is transmitted orally and is expressed in song, dance, poems and folklore. These reflect the best part of human nature, personal integrity hard work and respect for others. The Moru admire the successful and hence songs, dance, names are given in honour of or to glorify success. The Moru instruments of music include the drum, the finger guitar , trumpet and fire-torch shining in the face to attract the admiration of girls. The Moru handicrafts include baskets , and trays for carrying things . The Moru perfected the arts of making bows , arrows and spears as war and hunting implements.



Between and during economic activities, the Moru spend a lot of time on other cultural pursuits which are of non-economic values. Predominant among the many cultural and social activities are dancing and singing. Both of these activities serve as recreation and realization of cultural values. Drumming, dancing and singing in Moru society are related to the three seasons. The correlation between the drumming, dancing and singing, the three seasonal periods, and general physical and economic welfare of the people, is one of the most interesting features of the Moru society. [12] From January to April, food is abundant, the people are healthy, physical labour is very little, and there is a great deal or idle time. During this time, the dance performed is called RUMA. The number of drums used during this dance is four. The biggest drum is called Dugye (sometimes also called Lari Endre ‘the mother drum’), the medium size drum is called Ruma, from which the dance takes its name, and the two small high pitched drums are called Lari Ngwa ‘Children of the Drum’. From May to August, when there is a great deal of agricultural economic activities, the dancing is called DEGO. The number of drums used during this dance is one Dugye and two small lari ngwa. With the peoples' strength sapped by the heavy labours and the assumed or real scarcity of food, the movements or this dance begin slow in relation to the rhythm or the songs which is also slow. The movements progress to Ngala when the movements and steps become considerably quicker and faster. DEGO dances are infrequent and do not last a complete night. From September to December the dance is called YELU. The number of drums used is five. They consist of one Dugye, one Diri (also known as Biri) and three small high-pitched drums Lari Ngwa. The movements which are involved reflect the great health and strength which the people have just acquired as a result of eating freshly harvested crops. YELU is the harvest season dance.


Musical Instruments

The Kudi and Lekyembe are harps which play important roles in Moru society. They serve as recreation and realization of cultural values. They particularly play a role during engagement between males and females. They are also used as important instruments for covering long distances and entertainment.

A rattle called gara is used by women in church or at dances. It is made from a small gourd that has been dried. It has a spherical body and narrow tapering neck with rounded end that serves as the instrument's handle. It is filled with a number of medium-sized seeds, normally okra, inserted through a circular hole cut into the centre of the top, and then resealed.


Neighbours and foreigners, relations, co-operation

The Moru neighbour the Nyangwara, Pöjulu, Avukaya, Biele, Atuot, Mundari and the Azande. They have cordial relationship with all their neighbours and have inter-marriages with some of them. Foreigners are the non-Moru and connote the Arabs and Europeans, otherwise the Moru consider other south Sudanese as brothers and sisters. The Moru have special respect for the British, who found it easy to work with the them. This explains their presence in all parts of south Sudan as paramedics, police and prison-warders, etc.


Latest developments

Social and political developments in south Sudan affected the Moru in a very adverse manner. Many people were displaced and families scattered. The migration of the Bor Dinka and their cattle was a test for Moru patience. Some Moru intelligentsia feel they are being politically marginalised or excluded by the SPLM/A.



Even before the war there was large Moru Diaspora in different parts of South Sudan. The war has exacerbated the situation that Moru Diaspora are now found in United States, Canada, Britain and Australia in addition to the east African countries.