Origin, culture, pride and the practice of Azande people
By Elijah Akuei Ajou Ajou & Nema Juma
The Azande community or tribe is one of the 64 tribes in South Sudan. They are living in western part of the country, Western Equatoria state.
The Azande tribe came from western part of the country before the time of colonialism.
According to Mr. Bausumo E. Abiuda, a teacher by profession, the Azande was originally staying along River Bamu, the river that divided South Sudan, Congo and Central Africa Republic. He narrated that the coming of Azande tribe to South Sudan was as a result of disease outbreak and over population along the river Bamu.
In an exclusive interview with Juba Monitor, Mr Bausumo who is also a humanitarian worker said that the leaders of the community of Azande led their people to move out of the place in fear of being congested in the same area by then along River Bamu.
“This happened so many years back before the colonialists divided the country (Africa) into many countries, that was when Africa was one and nobody knew about South Sudan, Congo and Central Africa Republic. When the colonialists came, Azande were the people who gave them hard time in colonizing their areas,” said Mr. Bausumo.
It is written in history that, Azande fought colonialists so many times but it was not easy to colonize their area, until when they used so many tactics and different weapons that was when they managed to defeated Azande and managed to enter in the area of Azande Community in South Sudan, Mr. Bausumo narrated.
However, in Congo and Central Africa Republic the history was different according to Mr. Bausumo, the King who was ruling Azande by then, he was so tough and never allowed any foreign Body to come under or interfere in its Kingdom until when the colonialists used a lot of weapons which the Azande never had before and managed to defeat the Azande Army, the King was called King Gbudue, one of the well-known king in South Sudan.
“Azande is the community which has centralized the community, we had the King, Chiefs and sub-chiefs and all these hierarchy were there before colonialists,” he continued narrating.
The Azande system was centralized and King Gbudue was having an army, the army was categorized into so many divisions, this groups including the military division, one of these military division is Apaanga, these are the youths which are ready to fight any war but they are not yet married, secondly is Abaigo this division are the body guards to the King (we call them tiger in South Sudan here, the third is Awiri Ti Ngime (this division or group) fought with weapons which are locally made by Azande community, fourth division is Abaakumba (elderly who are married with full experiences and they can stay in their home, they are only called when there is war.
King Gbudue was having the chiefs, sub-chiefs and gold leaders and they were having commanders who were responsible for different operations and other things in Azande Kingdom.
When the British came to conquer and divide Africa, the first community to be divided was Azande because it was very hard to manage them.
The British divided Azande into three (3) countries there were those in Southern Sudan who became Azande South Sudanese; there were those in Congo who are Congolese and those in Central Africa Republic.
“The culture is paramount as well as the identity of the Azande but because of the civil war in the country, many of our youth who had never grown up with their elderly people doesn’t know their culture and they really moved away from Azande Culture and adopted some neighboring countries’ cultures and western culture,” Mr. Bausumo narrated.
Azande culture was full of respect and they were people who are known by their respect and acting quickly, they can first think and reason out before they take any action.
“In Azande Culture, you must respect someone elder than you and you should not talk arrogantly to that person, you must listen to him or her and you should do what that person tells you to do,” he added.
In Azande traditional marriage is not used to be individual project, whereby you can easily find a girl and marry. Marriage used to be a family business where your father and mother would identify for you a responsible girl in that family whom at least they trust her behaviors, then they come back and tell you that they have got the lady to marry.
The only thing from the man side was to organize themselves with his father and visit the family of the girl and discuss about the girl that they wanted their son to marry. And if the family of the girl thoroughly checked the boy’s side to know they are going to be responsible for their daughter, then they would accept because Azande tribe don’t accept the family that is not respectful in the community.
So when two parents agreed to the marriage then they come together and talk of what should be done. “In our culture respect makes one to get married not materials, materials are there to bind the relationship to show that you are committed to the relationship,” Mr. Bausumo.
“Money were not an issue and we were getting married using material like spears, hoes and our traditional tools that because we were the hunters, Agriculturalists and Azande were the warriors, so they could call for hoes, spears and arrow tools that they could use for war and their other activities,”
Small money could be given but money was not something considered. Marriage also binds relationships between one parent to the other because when you marry from one family then the two families must become one and they will be acting like one family.
In the Azande community, there were those who were reckless because Azande had the King, Chiefs and Sub-chiefs that time those government would make the law according to the crime committed, by then if someone committed crime like adultery, killing or spoiling somebody’s daughter, you would be taken to court for judgment and it was the truth that would give the punishment like digging in the King’s Garden for a number of years.
That nice culture of Azande was destroyed by the British and colonialists claiming that the culture was not good, and when you do a mistake and it was not reported to the king or chiefs then the elders in the community could sit and discuss it in a family way.
The whole South Sudan is very reach in culture, it has very diverse cultures, and it will be okay when they bring up those cultures, by funding them and respecting them and continue showing its diversity but the problem our people doesn’t respect the other tribes or cultures.
Any community without a culture never lives with the group, culture is the one that brings people together to live as one family and to live as a community,
“For me I feel like South Sudanese and our leaders should put much effort in our culture to continue to be practicing, our culture is our culture even if it is a small tribe, their culture can be promoted for the nation,” he said.
Azande culture interacts with other cultures in the way that we respect other communities, Azande comprises of other small tribes.
Other communities joined the Azande just not because they at least want to be protected but the Azande were treating a lot of diseases from local doctors, this attracted every community to live with Azande.
“Our youths especially the 21 years below have lost our identity which is the culture, most of our children were born in desperate situation because, they don’t know our culture and languages,” he added.
“My message to the type of youth who doesn’t know their culture or language is that they should practice their language and culture because now we don’t know whether they are South Sudanese,”
Any child who can speak by his mother tongue can be identified South Sudanese but you can speak in Arabic or English but it’s not enough,”
“I encourage the community especially the youth to make sure that the young ones speak our own language or families should teach their own children the language because our culture is our pride. We can develop our culture to be one of the sources of tourism in the country, our diverse cultures can make tourism industry to develop,” he said.