Mundu is an ethnic group in Western Equatoria in South Sudan. Its population in Sudan is about 50,000 to 60,000. They speak Mündü, a Ubangian language
Demography and Geography
The Mundu people belong to the central Sudanic group. They are found in Maridi district in western Equatoria and into the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo. On the Sudan side of the border they number about 50,000 to 60,000. Their main settlements and towns are Ras Wullu, Maridi, Ibba.
The Mundu believe they originated in West Africa and they migrated eastward during the dry seasons, in groups. As the first groups journeyed, the leaves of the mahogany trees around them fell and covered over their tracks so that the people behind them lost the route. In this way, some Mundu traveled only as far as Democratic Republic of Congo while the leaders reached what was then Sudan and settled there. Linguistically, Mundu is closely related to some West African languages, giving more evidence that they originated there.
The war in what was Sudan has forced some Mundu to move south, back into Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the current instability in Democratic Republic of Congo may mean further displacement. The Mundu have always lived under one foreign government or another. Consequently, they can feel threatened, but generally they have a good self-image and are proud of their culture and language.
In recent years it has become apparent to older Mundus that their traditional culture is not being taught as carefully to their children as it was in the past. Increased mobility and Western influence is slowly changing their traditional village lifestyle where elders would be the primary means, outside the family, of passing on customs and laws.
The ground is fertile and the rain is plentiful and so, despite dislocation and war, they are able to survive on the food they grow. However, they are subsistence farmers and lack utilities, clean water supplies, transport, schools and especially medical care. Infant mortality is high and basic medicines are not easily available.
Trade languages are used for education in both Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. The first missionaries came to the Mundu in the 1920s, but only learned and used the trade language. Mundu is spoken in the home and remains the 'heart language' of the people. Consequently, the Mundu are happy to have their language written down and their culture strengthened. They are excited to have literature in their own language and Christians especially want a hymn book and Scripture.
Mundu land is situated in tropical rain forest of western Equatoria. The terrain is a series of low lying hills that form the Nile-Congo water shed, dissected by valleys drained by perennial streams which flow into the river Nile. The Mundu are predominantly agrarian living in solitary settlements. The economy is subsistence agriculture and the main crops are millet, cassava, sweet potatoes, bananas, yams, palm oil, maize and rice. The area is rich in forest products: timber, honey, and in small games.
The Mundu are said to have migrated together with other Sudanic groups from Central Africa Republic and settled in their present place in the 18th century. They have had conflict with the Azande. Tradition has it that on his deathbed Gbudwe sent his army to kill and behead the Mundu king and to have the head buried with him. This has not been forgotten or forgiven by the Mundu that even in the late 1970s when the Azande wanted to construct the Gbudwe grave into a national monument officiated by the President of the Republic, the Mundu community in Yambio put up a stiff resistance and the ceremony was cancelled.
The Mundu speak a language related to the Ndogo and Feroghe languages.
There is little information in print about the social organisation of the Mundu. However, the fact that they had kings indicate that they were socially better organised and must have had evolved customs and traditions that made them stick together as people in face of their stronger adversaries. More research needs to be carried out to establish their current social organisation, norms and practices.
The Mundu used to have kings and chiefs which means like the Azande and other communities who had such authority the Mundu had a concept of a state. This traditional system of authority has been eroded by the harried existence of the Mundu being driven backwards and forwards between Sue and Yei Rivers by the ebb and flow of inter-tribal warfare. The Mundu now have government appointed chiefs but they also subscribe to the authority of the magicians, fortune tellers, oracles and charms which control their spiritual life.
The Mundu are extremely superstitious practicing all kinds of witchcraft, sorcery and magic. This could be explained in terms of the difficulties to which they have been subjected in their lives. The practice of witchcraft therefore must be viewed as a defence mechanism against the spirits and the living.
Mundu culture and social values are expressed in their songs, dance poetry, physical arts, dance and folklore. Their culture and social values are largely oral. Like the Baka and Bongo, the Mundu make the best tomb totems from hard wood. They were also advanced in the smelting of iron. These iron products: axes, spears and hoes were traded with the neighbouring communities. Their interaction with modern forces has led to the destruction of this indigenous knowledge system. The Mundu are skilful wood carvers and craftsmen. They give much attention to basketwork, strainers to filter beer, baskets for carrying things, basket-pots for fishing, basket-work walls of huts and bee-hives.
The Mundu neighbour the Baka, Avukaya and the Azande. The relations with the Azande have not been friendly due to warfare.
The Mundu have also been affected by the war. The fighting for the capture of Maridi in 1991 drove many Mundu to stay with their kins in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The only known Mundu Diaspora is in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).