Alur people

Last updated
Total population
2,550,000 [1] [2]
Regions with significant populations
Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Alur, French, English
Related ethnic groups
other Luo peoples, other Nilotic peoples
Necklace, iron - Alur, Uganda - Royal Museum for Central Africa - DSC07044.JPG
Alur necklace
Lyre - Alur, Zaire - Royal Museum for Central Africa - DSC06996.JPG
Alur lyre

Alur are a Nilotic ethnic group who live in northwestern Uganda and northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They are part of the larger Luo group.


In Uganda, they live mainly in the Nebbi, Zombo, Pakwach and Arua districts, while in the DRC, they reside mostly north of Lake Albert. [3]


Most members of the group speak Alur, a language closely related to Dojunam Acholi, Adhola, and Luo languages. Some Alur speak Lendu or Kebu. [4] Alur language dialects vary considerably. The highland Alur (Okoro) speak a slightly different dialect from the lowland Alur (Jonam), and it might be difficult to for a native highland Alur person to properly understand his lowland kinsman. [5]


The Alur Kingdom is probably the only one that was unaffected by the Ugandan ban on traditional monarchies in 1966. [6] All Alur Kings are referred to as "Rwoth", just like all Luo Chiefs and Kings. The current Alur King is Rwoth Phillip Rauni Olarker, whose coronation was in 2010. [7]

When the Europeans arrived, the Alur people were organized in ten chiefdoms, namely: Angal, Juganda, Jukoth, Mukambu, War Palara, Panduru, Ukuru, Paidha, Padeo and Panyikano. Based on the royal spear head bearing tradition, the Ubimu of Alur tribe H.M Philip Olarker Rauni III is the supreme ruler of the entire Alur tribe, with his capital at Kaal Atyak Winam, Zombo district, Uganda. [8]

In Angal, the current king is Rwoth Djalore Serge II. He took over from his late father Kamanda who died in 1998. All these sub tribes of the Alur descended directly from King Nyipir lineage. [5]

History, politics and tribe life

The largest Alur tribe was the Ukuru clan, who counted 10,000 adult men in 1914, although Alur counted boys as young as 14 years as men.

The Ukuru tribe was founded in 1630 when Ngira, a member of the Aryak family migrated with a number of young men including his younger brother Ijira. They took over the territory from the indigenous Bantu inhabitants. The region was quickly alurized. [8]

The descendants of the original Bantu men now form the Abira family. Bantu maternal ancestry is very common in Ukuru. The Ukuru tribes grew in competition with other tribes. Some other clans were completely taken over providing the Ukuru clan with more food resources, women and men to defend their territory. [8]

Other clans were dominated from afar. In 1789 the Ukuru clan defeated the Panduru clan to become the most powerful Alur clan. For years the Ukuru clan was the most powerful, populous and largest Alur clan. [8] [9]

Meanwhile, in the Ukuru clan, the Atyak family was losing his importance. For generations the Atyak family provided the Rwoth, Chief. Alur society is strictly hierarchical. Men have a higher social standing; then women and the men themselves also have a strict hierarchy. [8]

Social rank depended on a lot of things – assertiveness, number of friends and family (allies), performance on male prestige tasks (war, patrols, hunting and fishing). Rank is in theory not inheritable. But a man who had a high-ranking father had, as a rule, more brothers, cousins, and family and was better able to attract allies. But overall every man could reach a high status with the right mix of qualities. [8]

Every Alur men from 16 years old could vote which man was to become the chief. Only a man who is already high-ranking could become a chief. [8]

The Alur have a tendency to choose young men as chiefs but if he is a good chief he remains chief for life. Alur clans are in fact a number of patrilineages living together. Most clans have around five patrilineages but the Ukuru clan has 11 patrilineages. [8]

These patrilineages can include large numbers of men, all descendants of the same man. The Parombo family (patrilineage) in the Ukuru clan, for example, included 2000 men in 1949. These patrilineages are not strictly fictional. The Alur are very serious about it and maintain a family tree. Of course, a certain level of flexibility has occurred but overall we can trust the picture the Alur paint of their patrilineages. By 1820 the other patrilineages worked together to prevent an Atyak man from becoming Rwoth. This decline in Atyak power resulted in the rapid growth of other patrilineages like the Parombo, Palei and The Aryek. In particular the Aryek family became politically important. [8]

High rank confers many advantages in Alur society. Expecting respect and admiration, high-ranking men had first choice in food, especially prestige food like meat and beer. High-ranking men typically had a large number of cattle and since the Alur paid the bride price in cattle high-ranking men had the most wives and thus children. The chief typically had the most children of any man in the clan. High-ranking men had three or more wives, average men two and low-ranking men typically one. As always there was flexibility since low-ranking men could be very successful in tending cattle and thus in acquiring wives but then their rank typically rose. [8]

Men always stayed in the clan they were born in but women married men from other clans and moved there. Very few women married men from their own clan since the Alur had very strict rules about incest avoidance. Every man in your patrilineage was un-marriageable no matter how long ago the common ancestor was. Since Alur fathers typically arranged marriages for their daughters outside their own clan only a specific request from a man from her own clan could keep an Alur woman in her own clan. [8]

Day-to-day life

Traditionally, the Alur live in grass-thatched huts. The homesteads in Alur clans are in the central part of their territory. This helps keeps the territory under their control. The Alur were farmer-herders. The Alur grew (and grow) millet, cassava, maize, sweet potatoes, spinach, and pumpkins. They herded cattle, goats, and chickens. Goat and chicken were important sources of meat. Other important resources were salt, forest and wild animals all who were protected from other clans. In the drought season fishing was important. The large herds of animals the Alur typically hunt as secondary sources of meat so as not to exhaust their own goat and chicken numbers moved away to greener pastures. [8]

In Alur society men did most of the work. They herded the domestic animals, grew the crops, built the huts, hunted, fished and dominated political life. The women were responsible for keeping house, rearing the children and cooking. Although at first glance it looks like the men have more work but in fact the men have more pasture than women. Many of the men jobs are bound to strict times (they hunted in large groups just once a month for example). The sexes are segregated by the Alur. Husband and wife have their own hut. The men sleep alone and the women and children together. They also eat separately. [8]

Women and men rarely mix socially. This behavior is not enforced by the men but it is in the woman's best interest to minimize contact with men out of fear of aggression and the husband's jealousy. Alur men are very close and social with men from their own clan. They hunt, farm, fish, go to war, herd, patrols form coalitions against rivals together. Since Alur men stay in the clan they are born in and women move to the clan of their husband the men are typically more social, have more friends and a wider social network than women. This is a very important factor in male dominance by the Alur. All men of a particular patrilineage can use land to plant crops to feed their families. [8]

Famous Alur people

Amula was born in the Aryek patrilineage as the son of Alworuna and Acoamfa. The fortunes of the Aryek family had been rising before Amula's birth. The first known Aryek patriarch, Abok Ucweda had been an insignificant man in the politics of the Ukuru clan. The same couldn't be said for some of his sons. Ugena had been chief for five years (1845–1850) before being deposed with help from his half-brother Nziri, Amula's paternal grandfather. Amula's father Alworuna had been known to be the best warrior of the Ukuru clan. Three brothers of Alworuna, Amatho, Kubi and Avur also managed to become powerful, respected men. Four Amula brothers, including his full brother Aryem, also became powerful. Amula grew up in the 1878 Ukuru-Panduru war which the Ukuru clan lost and in which around 600 Ukuru men died in a few days of intense fighting. Amula's father Alworuna was burned alive by Panduru forces led by their chief, Ujuru. Amula's uncle Amatho died trying to avenge his brother's death. Amula grew up to be a powerful man who rapidly rose in the social hierarchy from the age of 15. In 1890, at 19 years old, he was elected as the chief of the Ukuru clan. He immediately began a war with the Panduru clan and managed to avenge his father's death. Afterward, he consolidated his hold on the Ukuru clan by entering into allegiances with other powerful patrilineages mainly with the Palei, Parombo and sections of the Patek patrilineage. He also could count on the support of many individual men. Amula proved to be a good chief, strong willed but compassionate. He was skillful in wars partly because of his ability to secure alliances with other clans. He was the voice of reason when the British arrived in 1914, compelling the clan not to fight them. He was exiled by the British in 1917 for not rigidly following their orders but was allowed back in 1922. He died in 1942, still very popular and loved by the clan. As a chief, Amula had many wives and children. His son Jalusiga (1896–1978) succeeded him as chief although this was a British doing and not a choice of the clan. Another son of his, Jalaure (born in 1888), acted as chief in his absence from 1917–1922. [9] [10]

Related Research Articles

The Nilotic peoples are people indigenous to the Nile Valley who speak Nilotic languages. They inhabit South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania. Among these are the Burun-speaking peoples, Karo peoples, Luo peoples, Ateker peoples, Kalenjin peoples, Datooga, Dinka, Nuer, Atwot, Lotuko, and the Maa-speaking peoples.

Adhola people Ethnic group of Uganda

The Adhola people, also known as Jopadhola, are a Nilotic ethnic group of Luo peoples that live in Tororo District of Eastern Uganda and comprise about eight percent of the country's total population. They speak Dhopadhola,, which belongs to the Western Nilotic branch of the Nilotic language family. They are primarily pastoralists. The Jopadhola call their land Padhola which, according to historian Bethwell Ogot, is an elliptic form of “Pa Adhola” meaning the "place of Adhola", the founding father of the Jopadhola people. Officially, land of the Adhola is called Padhola, but the Baganda who misinterpret 'Widoma' – a Dhopadhola word for 'war cry' meaning 'You are in trouble' refer to the Jopadhola as "Badama". The social structure of the Jopadhola can be described as polysegmentary because there is no traditional centralized government and its organization is limited to a clan called Nono. There are over 52 clans, each with cultural practices, common ancestry and a distinct lineage.

Buganda Bantu kingdom in central Uganda

Buganda is a Bantu kingdom within Uganda. The kingdom of the Baganda, Buganda is the largest of the traditional kingdoms in present-day East Africa, consisting of Buganda's Central Region, including the Ugandan capital Kampala. The 14 million Baganda make up the largest Ugandan region, representing approximately 26.6% of Uganda's population.

The early history of Uganda comprises the history of Uganda before the territory that is today Uganda was made into a British protectorate at the end of the 19th century. Prior to this, the region was divided between several closely related kingdoms.

Kisii people Ethnic group of Kenya

The Abagusii are a highly diverse East African ethnic group and nation indigenous to Kisii and Nyamira counties of former Nyanza, as well as parts of Kericho and Bomet counties of the former Rift Valley province of Kenya. The Abagusii are unrelated to the Kisi people of Malawi and the Kissi people of West Africa, other than the three communities having similar sounding names.

Luhya people Number of ethnic groups in Kenya

The Luhya comprise a number of Bantu ethnic groups native to western Kenya. They are divided into 20 culturally and linguistically related tribes.


The Bukusu people are one of the seventeen Kenyan tribes of the Luhya Bantu people of East Africa residing mainly in the counties of Bungoma and Trans Nzoia. They are closely related to other Luhya people and the Gisu of Uganda. Calling themselves BaBukusu, they are the largest tribe of the Luhya nation, making up about 34% of the Luhya population. They speak the Bukusu dialect.

Kamba people Ethnic group in Kenya

The Kamba or Akamba people are a Bantu ethnic group who predominantly live in the area of Kenya stretching from Nairobi to Tsavo and north to Embu, in the southern part of the former Eastern Province. This land is called Ukambani and constitutes Makueni County, Kitui County and Machakos County. They also form the second largest ethnic group in 8 counties including Nairobi and Mombasa counties.

Suba people (Kenya)

The Suba (Abasuba) are a heterogeneous Bantu group of people in Kenya with an amalgamation of clans drawn from their main tribes Ganda people, Luhya people, and Soga who speak the Suba language that is closely similar to the Ganda language spare some lexical items borrowed from Dholuo and Kuria. Their population is estimated at about 157,787, with substantial fluent speakers. They migrated to Kenya from Uganda and settled on the two Lake Victoria islands of Rusinga and Mfangano, others also settled on the mainland areas including Gembe, Gwassi, Kaksingri of Suba South and Migori and are believed to be the last tribe to have settled in Kenya. The immigrants to present-day Subaland trace their ancestry among Ganda people, Luhya people, Soga people, Kuria people, Luo people and the Abagusii. The evidence supporting this is the fact that some Suba groups speak languages similar to Luganda, Lusoga, Kuria, Luhya and the Ekegusii. The Suba groups tracing ancestry among the Kenyan tribes preceded those groups from Uganda in present-day Subaland and are the numerous and influential ones. Those groups from Uganda are mostly concentrated in Rusinga and Mfangano islands with small pockets of them being found in mainland Kenya. Linguistically, the Suba are highly influenced by the neighbouring Luo, to the point of a language shift having taken place among large portions of the mainland Suba. As a result, their own language has been classified as endangered. Despite this language shift, the Suba have kept a distinct ethnic identity. The Rusinga Festival is held in December of every year as a cultural festival to celebrate and preserve Suba culture and language.

Nyamwezi people Bantu ethnic group in Tanzania

The Nyamwezi, or Wanyamwezi, are one of the Bantu groups of East Africa. They are the second-largest ethnic group in Tanzania. The Nyamwezi people's ancestral homeland is in parts of Tabora Region, Singida Region, Shinyanga Region and Katavi Region. The term Nyamwezi is of Swahili origin, and translates as "people of the moon" on one hand but also means "people of the west" the latter being more meaningful to the context.

Masaba people People of eastern Uganda

The Masaba people, or Bamasaaba, are a Bantu people inhabiting the eastern Ugandan districts of Sironko, Manafwa, Bududa, Mbale,Namisindwa and Bulambuli. They are closely related to the Bukusu and Luhya of Western Kenya. They are a mainly agricultural people, farming millet, bananas and sorghum on small-holder plots. Maize became popular with the coming of Europeans in late 1890s.

The Nyakyusa are a Bantu ethnolinguistic group who live in the fertile mountains of southern Tanzania. They speak the Nyakyusa language, a member of the Bantu language family. In 1993 the Nyakusa population was estimated to number 1,050,000, with 750,000 living in Tanzania. Nyakyusa are marked as highly educated and eager agriculturists. The Nyakyusa are colonising people where success and survival depended on individual effort. Nyakyusa have managed to collect vast wealth from trade and agriculture than any tribe in Tanzania.

Kavirondo is the former name of the region surrounding Kavirondo Gulf as well as of two native peoples living there under the regime of British East Africa. Broadly, this was defined as those who dwelt in the valley of the Nzoia River, on the western slopes of Mount Elgon, and along the northeast coast of Victoria Nyanza.

Sandawe people

The Sandawe are an indigenous ethnic group of Southeast Africa, based in the Chemba District of Dodoma Region in central Tanzania. In 2000, the Sandawe population was estimated to be 40,000.

Turu people

The Turu are an ethnic and linguistic group based in the Singida Region of north-central Tanzania who speak the bantu language Kinyaturu. In 1993, the Turu population was estimated to number 556,000.. The current population of the Turu is now over 1,000,000. They speak the Turu language.

Baganda Bantu ethnic group native to Buganda, Uganda

The Ganda people, or Baganda, are a Bantu ethnic group native to Buganda, a subnational kingdom within Uganda. Traditionally composed of 52 clans, the Baganda are the largest ethnic group in Uganda, comprising 16.5 percent of the population at the time of the 2014 census.

Bara people

The Bara people are a Malagasy ethnic group living in the southern part of the central plateaus of Madagascar, in the Toliara Province, concentrated around their historic capital at Ihosy. The Bara are the largest of the island's zebu-herding peoples and have historically lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle, although an increasing proportion are practicing agriculture. Bara society is highly patriarchal and endogamy and polygamy are practiced among some Bara tribes. Young men practice cattle rustling to prove their manhood before marriage, and the kilalaky musical and dance tradition associated with cattle rustlers has gained popularity across the island.

Demographics of South Sudan Overview of the demographics of South Sudan

South Sudan is home to around 60 indigenous ethnic groups and 80 linguistic partitions among a 2018 population of around 11 million. Historically, most ethnic groups were lacking in formal Western political institutions, with land held by the community and elders acting as problem solvers and adjudicators. Today, most ethnic groups still embrace a cattle culture in which livestock is the main measure of wealth and used for bride wealth.

Detailed anthropological and sociological studies have been made about customs of patrilineal inheritance, where only male children can inherit. Some cultures also employ matrilineal succession, where property can only pass along the female line, most commonly going to the sister's sons of the decedent; but also, in some societies, from the mother to her daughters. Some ancient societies and most modern states employ egalitarian inheritance, without discrimination based on gender and/or birth order.


  1. "Alur". Ethnologue . Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  2. "Alur people group in all countries | Joshua Project".
  3. "Alur People and their Culture" . Retrieved 2021-05-27.
  4. "alur language - Nonya Google". Retrieved 2021-05-27.
  5. 1 2 "Uganda - Western Nilotic Language Groups". Retrieved 2021-05-27.
  6. "Kama jaluo rade gi joluo wadgi".
  7. Daily Monitor (23 October 2019). "Excitement as OPM hands over house to Alur king". Nation Media Group. Daily Monitor. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Aidan 1953: The Alur Society; a Study in Processes and Types of Domination
  9. 1 2 Administration, Kampala (Uganda) Institute of Public. Papers.
  10. Gilbert, W (2020). "Integrating the intangible traditional forms of farming knowledge and practices of the Alur people of North-Western Uganda into the IP laws of Uganda". Journal of Physics. 482 (1): 012006. Bibcode:2020E&ES..482a2006G. doi: 10.1088/1755-1315/482/1/012006 .