The Pojulu (or Pajulu, Pöjullo) is a tribe of the savanna lands in the White Nile Valley, in Yei and Juba counties in central Equatoria (South Sudan) but have extend to Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Pöjullo differentiate into smaller clans of Nyori, Morsak, Mankaro and a few other smaller ones. The population of the Pöjullo is estimated to be 750,000 persons.
The Pojulu differentiate into smaller clans of Nyori, Morsak, Wonduruba, Goduck, Lobora, Moje, Mulusuk, Pirisa, Malari, Mankaro, Sadim, Jomi, Nyigo, Komojok, Limbe, Mundu, Jebele, Maranga, Donni, Gokoni, Borri, Moyita, Gojang, Liggi, Soka, Yondoru, Mijibura, Wande and many more.
The majority of the Pojulu population are located in Lainya county Central Equatoria state, including Mukaya Payam. The Pojulu are also found in Juba and Yei county. Pojulu people also occupy the area from Lainya to Kagwada and Mukaya. The centre of Pojulu will be Kenyi Payam from Mundu 20 miles, Mukaya 18 miles, Wonduruba 21 miles, Bereka 15 miles, Lainya 9 miles and from Kagwada 22 miles.
The name Pojulu is derived from several sources. The Pojulu language can be differentiated from all the other Bari speakers from the way they pronounce words, for example how other Bari speakers say their greetings or how each group socialize — such as along the roads from Juba up to Lainya and from Lainya to Bereka and Wonduruba.
The environment in Central Equatoria is typically tropical. There can be arid periods with less rain. The neighbouring tribes are Bari to the east, Nyangwara to the north, Kakwa to the south, Mundu to the west, and Avukaya to the northwest.
The Pojulu people speak the Kutuk na Pojulu language, as other Karo people, but with particular dialectic variation which highlights the difference between the Pojulu among the Karo. This Bari language has some distinct variations linked to people's daily activities and traditions that have evolved over time from their experiences.
There is little knowledge about the origin of the Pojulu as a people, and their relation to the Bari and other Bari-speaking ethnic groups.
According to the 'Toposa Traditional History', the Bari-speaking people, of whom the Pojulu are an offshoot, are believed to have originated in the Kidepo Valley in the Kapoeta region. These Bari-speaking people were, however, forced out of Kapoeta and moved south and west by the Toposa, who are also believed to have migrated from Masindi port of Uganda. Being strong warriors, the Toposa raided and fought the Bari-speaking groups and took their girls, boys, women, and stock animals.
Therefore, the roots of the Pojulu community were traced through the use of linguistics and oral traditions to Bari ancestors in Kapoeta. The present Pojulu people are therefore pure descendants of in-common Bari ancestors through kinship. The present Toposa live in the Kidepo Valley, where the Pojulu originated. Statistically, the 21st-century Pojulu population is over 86,000 people (2004 estimate).
In the past, the Pojulu forged a rare alliance with Muru, Mundu against the marauding Azande armies. This cut off the main Azande force and led to the formation of the Makaraka.
The common ancestor of Bari groups was called Julu Lo Jululon. The dispersion of the Bari group from Kapoeta region might have been caused by several factors, which include:
This common Julu Lo Jululon ancestor, together with all his people followed the Nile and settled along the Eastern Bank of the White Nile. From here a second dispersion took place possibly due to pressure for more land. It is from here where the Pojulu (are believed to have) declared their independence from the major Bari group, broke away, crossed the Nile westwards and continued their journey up to Gumbiri near the present geographical zone.
In the Gumbiri area, a third or final dispersion of the Pojulu people took place probably due to power struggle or lack of enough agricultural land. Then the Pojulu settled down in their present geographical locations. This was before the European Scramble for Africa.
The pre-history of the genesis of the Pojulu people originating from Kapoeta is illustrated by the similarities in the studies of linguistics and oral histories of the Toposa, Bari and the Pojulu peoples. These three groups have similar words in their languages:
The Pojulu differentiate into smaller clans of Nyori, Morsak, Wonduruba, Goduck, Lobora, Moje, Mulusuk, Pirisa, Malari, Mankaro, Sadim, Jomi, Nyiga, Komojok, Limbe, Mundu, Jebele, Maranga, Donni, Gokoni, Borri, Moyita, Gojang, Liggi, Soka, Yodoru, Mijibura and many more. The majority of the Pojulu population are located in Lainya county Central Equatoria state, including Mukaya Payam. The Pojulu are also found in Juba and Yei county. Pojulu people also occupy the area from Lainya to Kagwada, Kopera, Jamara and Mukaya.
The centre of Pojulu will be Kenyi Payam from Mundu 20 miles, Mukaya 18 miles, Wonduruba 21 miles, Bereka 15 miles, Lainya 9 miles and from Kagwada 22 miles.
The Pojulu economy is predominantly agrarian. The majority of Pojulu people are peasants practicing mixed farming: subsistence agriculture in which the main crops are cassava, sorghum, maize, simsim, groundnut, wheat, sweet potatoes, cabbages, beans, onions, tomatoes, okra, etc. The Pojulu keep goats, sheep, few pigs, chicken, ducks and cattle in some suitable areas due to the prevalence of tsetse fly which rendered cattle herding very difficult.
The Loka Plantation Teak forest is the largest teak plantation in Africa. The planted forest reserves within the Pojulu area are at Kawale, Lijo, Loka West, and Nuni.
There are different seasons for plating and land prepation by the pojulu, April and May is for land preparation july and August is for planting and November for harvesting.
The Pojulu Economy depends largely on subsistence production. It is an economy which aims to meet the daily food needs of the Pojulu community. Activities range from reliance on animal husbandry to total dependence on crop production. The Pojulu use human labour combined with the most elementary tools locally made. This primitive mode of production has always dominated the lives of the Pojulu.
The Pojulu grow both staple and cash crops. The staple crops are for consumption and include cassava, sesame, maize, beans, and groundnuts. The cash crops include tobacco, cotton, coffee, and timber.
The Pojulu are not sophisticated in agricultural implements. They use local agricultural tools made locally by their own blacksmiths, using scrap iron. The local blacksmiths produce tools such as hoes, sickles, axes, arrows, spears, and knives.
Animal wealth in Pojulu land includes goats, sheep, chickens, and cattle. They are raised for food, marriage dowries, and as 'animal cash crops' earning the Pojulu money to enable them to purchase other goods and services.
The Pojulu practice "Mole" – a type of collective farming where a group of people—5–10 or more—are called to clear a field for a neighbour or relative in one or two days. Here, a goat is slaughtered and beer is brewed for these people. This system of farming is advantageous. It clears hectares of land just in a day or so. "Lukonin" is also practiced, where two or more people agree to work in their farms on rotational basis. This system also saves time and effort. Women also do the same during preparation of land for planting and weeding of crops.
Past colonial regimes did nothing to improve the Pojulu reliance on subsistence agriculture. Successive Arab governments since Sudan independence perpetuated this primitive mode of production. The continuous civil wars exacerbated the problems until the 2011 formation of South Sudan. However, despite the practice of subsistence agriculture, the Pojulu never suffered a major famine. There was self-sufficiency in food production for local consumption in the Pojulu community. This food sufficiency is now sustaining the remnants from the civil wars in the Pojulu land.
The Pojulu chiefs play a great role in encouraging agricultural production. In the villages, chiefs pass local orders banning people from coming to the town or local station in the mornings. Bars for "Kwete" can be closed until noon, resulting in morning work at the farms. The chiefs are polygamous. Citizens volunteer to grow food crops for chiefs and their families. Meanwhile, during visits to the villages, the chiefs return food to needy families, a 'Pojulu food relief program.'
Pöjullo is the name by which this Bari-speaking ethnic community is known. Pöjullo society ascribe to certain norms and values. Like other communities, Pöjullo is a male dominated society. The eldest male member of the family is entrusted with the responsibility of caring for the rest unless he demonstrates incompetence and irresponsibility.
The Pojulu have evolved an oral culture expressed in songs, poems, dance, music, folklore, magic. Pojulu is the name by which this Bari-speaking ethnic community is known. Pojulu society ascribe to certain norms and values. As with other communities, pojulu is a male dominated society. The eldest male member of the family is entrusted with the responsibility of caring for the rest unless he demonstrates incompetence and irresponsibility.In most Pojulu areas, the eldest male members are charged with the entire responsibilities of the family or clan and elder daughters are also considered responsible for the well-being of the older people. This is one of the reasons that led Pojulu women taking the role of being good carers.
Marriage begins with courtship and once the prospective bride and groom have decided to marry each other, the matter is then reported to both families for endorsement. Pojulu dowry is in the form of goats, cattle and cash money. This is accompanied by celebrations and merriment. The Pojulu dowry is not settled at one go – even if there were prospects for that. The explanation is to maintain links and relationship between the two families, and during the marriage event there is a whole celebration for the whole relatives which includes dancing, drinking, singing and conversations.
The Pojulu specifically marry to produce children. Provision of services by the wife is secondary. If the new wife fails to conceive within a reasonable length of time, this creates worry and disappointment to the two families. Marriage in the Pojulu takes several methods and steps:
This is a marriage arranged by both parents of a girl and parents of a boy. When both families have agreed to the marriage, then the dowry is paid in installments until it is completed.
Finding a match.This is normally in social, cultural activities. For example, dances, funerals, marriage ceremonies, schools and/or even at homes. Following this, contacts are initiated and in most cases through associates (friends, relatives and/or parents), love messages are transmitted to both parties.
Exchange of visits and presents (Tu'yo). In this stage, the two families or lovers begin to exchange visits to acquaint themselves and/or study each other. Other visits may be followed by exchange of presents which range from pottery, basketry, handcraft, food items, beer, etc. In some instances, songs and praises are constructed to express the feelings by the two parties.
Declaration of marriage (Piya/Topiya). In recognition of the above steps, both families—aware of what is happening—begin to make necessary arrangements to have the two parties announce their intentions in the presence of the members family members, friends and wellwishers. This stage is considered the most binding for any meaningful marriage in the Pojulu culture. It is likened to taking an oath. Part of the bride wealth is normally settled, and once accepted the occasion is celebrated with drinks, food and dances lasting for days.
Handing over ceremony (Nyomoji). Following declaration of marriage, the handing over ceremony is performed. This ceremony is prepared well in advance for the bride to be escorted to her new home. It is a commitment of both families, friends and wellwishers. On the side of the bride, the family ensures provision of support for domestic items such as cooking pots, bedding, and other domestic appliances necessary for starting a new home. Drinks are prepared for this function. On the side of the bridegroom, the family also prepares to receive their son's in-laws and the new bride. This occasion in itself is a big celebration characterized by dances and drinking. In performing this function, the balance of the bride wealth may be settled.
Another important feature in this function following the above, a few days later, is empowerment. The active player in this process is normally the mother-in-law through arrangements with the father-in-law of the bride to introduce her to her full responsibilities and to witness the first time the bride eats food prepared by her mother-in-law. This is a long Pojulu tradition that a bride or bridegroom does not eat food in the family where she/he is married to or marrying from until this function is performed. This is believed to be a measure of integrity and respect.
In this kind of marriage, the boy takes the girl by force. It is a marriage that involves a lot of problems between the two families and may cause tribal or clan fights. However, after a heated debate and amicable discussion, marriage may be agreed upon and dowry is then paid.
As it is briefly mentioned above, this is the normal and civilized method of marriage. Because choice of this marriage is an affair of both the boy and girl. When the relationship between the boy and the girl becomes strong, the girl then reveals it to her parents. The boy and girl are interviewed on whether they love each other and are willing to get married. Then, the parents give their approval or rejection. This is followed by screening of both families to check whether any one family has a social defect or bad social history. Neither the boy nor the girl will eat in either home, nor parents with future in-laws. Marriage is by parental consent and it is considered the most advisable and preferable of all marriages.
The main aim of the Pojulu marriage is to produce children. It is for this reason that the mothers of the girls are advised to be strict on their girls' behaviors and movement. They are advised and coached well to be good housewives and good future mothers.
In a Pojulu family, there can be 'problems' which make lives of a new married woman uncomfortable. The new wife is kept under suspicion throughout her life in the household:
Today, however, as a result of effects of civilization and the influence of religions such as Christianity, some of these 'problems' have been abandoned.
Immediately after giving birth, the mother of the newly born child is confined in her hut or room for seven days, but assisted by young children. She will have her meals in the room with the young children while taking care of her new baby. The whole period of her confinement may last 21 days. During this period, other women in the family or co-wives are charged with the responsibility of all the daily services in the house.
The occasion of giving a name to the newly born child is called "Yiji" in the Pojulu. Much food is prepared, e.g. meat, beans, variety of oils, beer, etc. Some people may slaughter a goat because of happiness in a new family member being added to their number.
After the traditions are performed, usually by women, a dance is staged when the women, their husbands and most of the youth in the location join in the dance and drink to the health of the newborn.
Death, when it occurs—even in a natural circumstance of disease or old age—is usually attributed to some mishap and to it having been instigated. Family members have their heads shaved throughout the mourning period. Mourning may last up to a month.
In the Pojulu, death is treated with caution and respect for the deceased. A burial is normally done in the morning or evening—in the cooler hours of the day. Before any burial of the dead, maternal uncles have to be consulted and cleared of their requirements. The funerals can be peaceful if the traditional requirements are fulfilled otherwise, abrogation of the traditions/demands causes chaos. Christianity though has had quite an impact so much so that some traditional requirements considered evil in the Church are no longer being practiced. Today, many funerals are conducted in a Christian way.
The Pöjullo chief plays the role of a political leader with judicial powers. It is hereditary usually falling to the eldest son of the departed chief. The Pöjullo chief is always assisted by a council of elders, who come from different clans or families. The criterion of choosing these people is wisdom, bravery, and experience in matters pertaining to the tribe.
The Pojulu, like other Bari-speaking people, believe in a Supreme Being god (ŋun) who is the creator. They also believe in the existence of spirits of the departed ancestors. Many of these beliefs are now fading under the influence of modernity and Christianity. Choir in Pojulu
The Pojulu practiced African Traditional Religion before the introduction of Christianity. They practice some form of ancestral spirit worship. They strongly believe in one God. According to the Pojulu, it is He who creates, protects and destroys all mankind, irrespective of race, religion or political orientation. They believe that humankind is subject to the one Supreme power of God.
There was among the Pojulu, a religion known as the Biri religion. This was a cultural import. The Biri religion came to the Pojulu, brought by the Muna Akufi between 1910–1917. In this religion, people were baptized; however, unlike Christianity, in the Biri religion, water is not used in baptism. When Christianity was introduced, it was accepted without resistance. The first man was baptised by water in 1920, in Lainya County.
Traces of the Biri religion are still known among the Pojulu today in the names of the converts. Because believers of the Biri religion received names such as Makambili, Kamara, Doromo, Piri-Piri, Kamisa, Maamet, Malangi, etc. The converts became disciples. They were considered holy and they spread the Biri religion to other lands. They traveled from village to village – converting unbelievers into the Biri religion. This was their fellowship. When the Biri religion died out, it gave way to Christianity which was better able to meet the spiritual and material needs of the believers.
Since the Ottoman Empire, and through the Mahdiya, Islam has little impact on the Pojulu. And during the era of General Ibrahim Abboud (1958–1964), attempts were made to introduce Islam to the Pojulu. These attempts were unsuccessful. Khalwa and Maahads flourished in the major towns and it was in these towns that some Pojulu converted to Islam and adopted Islamic names.
Christianity is foreign to the Pojulu; it came to Yei in 1916 and spread throughout Pojulu lands. In 1929, Nugent School was opened in Loka, and from there Christianity became more widespread. The African Traditional Religions (ART) prepared some of the Pojulu to practice Christianity. Christian Pojulus have gathered to create and develop Christian institutions, such as St. Peters Yondoru, and to train Christian leaders.
The Pöjullo neighbour:
In the past, the Pöjulu forged a rare alliance with Moro, Mundu against the marauding Azande armies. This cut off the main Azande force and led to the formation of the Makaraka.
The long running Second Sudanese Civil War caused drastic changes in the lives of the Pojulu. Many were displaced and this eroded their social and family fabric. At its formal conclusion in 2005 a separate administrative unit was established separating the Pojulu from the Kakwa and others in Yei River District. In 2011 the Pojulu lands became part of the new nation of South Sudan.
The diaspora of the Pojulu people is highlighted by the move to Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Africa and Egypt. Others live in displaced people's camps in Juba, Khartoum and other Countries outside of Africa. Some are now living in the US, UK, Israel, Europe, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.