Alur people

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Alur necklace
Alur lyre

Alur are an 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, and Arua districts, in the DRC, they reside mostly north of Lake Albert.


Most members of the group speak Alur, a language closely related to Acholi and Adhola. Some Alur speak Lendu or Kebu.[citation needed] 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.


The Alur Kingdom is probably the only one that was unaffected by the Ugandan ban on traditional monarchies in 1966.[1] 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.

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.[2]

In Angal, the current chief 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.The Alur Kingdom is probably the only one that was unaffected by the Ugandan ban on traditional monarchies in 1966.[1]

History, politics and clan life[edit]

The largest Alur clan was the ukuru clan, who counted ten thousand adult men in 1914, although Alur counted boys as young as fourteen years as men.

The Ukuru clan 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.[2]

The descendants of the original Bantu men now form the Abira family. Bantu maternal ancestry is very common in Ukuru. The Ukuru clan grew in competition with other clans. Some other clans where completely taken over providing the Ukuru clan with more food resources, women and men to defend their territory.[2]

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.[2]

Meanwhile, in the Ukuru clan the Atyak family was losing his importance. For generations the Atyak family provided the Rwhoth, Chief. Alur society is strictly hierarchical. Men have a higher social standing, then women and the men themselves also have a strict hierarchy.[2]

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 heritability. But a men who has a high ranking father has, as a rule, more brothers, cousins and family and is better able to attract allies. But overall every man could reach a high status with the right mix of qualities.[2]

Every Alur men from sixteen years old could vote which men were to become the chief. Only a man who is already high ranking could become a chief.[2]

The Alur have a tendency to choose young men as chiefs but if he is a good chief he stays 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.[2]

These patrilieages can include large numbers of men, all descendants of the same man. The Parombo family (patrilineage) in the Ukuru clan for example include two thousand 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 over their patrilineages. By 1820 the other Patrilineages worked together to prevent an Atyak men from becoming Rwoth. This decline in Atyak power resulted in the rapid growth of other Patrilieages like the Parombo, Palei and The Aryek. Particular the Aryek family became politically important.[2]

High rank confers many advantages in Alur society. Expect respect and admiration high ranking men had first choice in food, especially prestige food like meat and beer. High ranking men typically had 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 every men 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 acquiring wives but then their rank typically rose.[2]

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 avoidances. Every men from your Patrilineages was un-marriageble no matter how long ago the common ancestor was. Since alur fathers typically arranged marriages for their daughters outside the own clan only a specific request from an man from the own clan could keep an Alur woman in her own clan.[2]

Day to day life[edit]

The Alur live in typical African huts. The homesteads in Alur clans lay 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. This sound paradox, but then the large herds of animals the Alur typically hunt as secondary sources as meat as not to exhaust their own goat and chicken numbers, moved away to greener pastures.[2]

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 look 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) while the work women do is very monotonous. The sexes are segregated by the Alur. Wife and husband have their own hut. The men sleep alone and the women and children together. They also eat separately.[2]

Women and men also keep their space in social life and rarely mix.This behavior is not enforced by the men but it is in the women best interest to minimize contact with men out fear of aggression and their husbands jealousy. Alur men are very close and social with men from their own clan. They hunt, farm, fish, go to war, herded, 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 are the men by the Alur typically more social, have more friends and a wider social network than women. This is a very important factor for male dominance by the Alur. Land is not individual by the Alur. All men of a particular patrilineage can use land to plant crops to feed their families.[2]

Famous Alur people[edit]

Chief Amula Amula was the last independent chief of the Ukuru clan.(2) Born in 1871 in the aryek patrilineage to parents Alworunga and Acamfoa(2). Since his father Alworunga had also being a high ranking man Amula had many paternal half brothers, though he had only one full brother, Aryem.(2) His father died in 1878, burned alive in battle by the Panduru clan(2).Despite this he was by all accounts a happy child close with his mother and brother with many play mates(2). By the age of fifteen Amula quickly rose in status and by the age of nineteen he had become a high ranking man(2). At that age he was elected to become the rwoth(2). The qualities for which he was elected included fearlessness, being a good warrior, sociability and an easy laid back character.(2). Although a strongly built man, Amula mostly maintained his position by his ability to form alliances with other men(2). Amula could count on the support of his patrilineage, the parombo patrilineage, his ally Awena Thore patrilineage Palei, sections of the Atyak patrilineage and of individual allies(2) Broadly seen as a good leader, Amula avenged his father death on the panduru clan, defended the Ukuru clan from a Lugbara attack, a neighbouring tribe and defeated a counterattack from the Panduru clan(2) He was a voice of reason when the British arrived in 1914 and demanded subugation(2) It was mostly because of Amula's wise insight that firearms could not be fought against that the Ukuru clan subjugated peacefully.(2) Despite this, he clashed with the British.(2) As a result, he was banished in 1917 and only permitted to return in 1922.(2) Even then, he was the unquestionable chief of the Ukuru clan and remained so until his death in 1942.(2) As the chief Amula had many children.(2) His sons include Jalaure who ruled the Ukuru clan during his exile and was his oldest son born in 1888.(2) Jalusiga succeeded Amula as chief, but although Jalusiga was a high ranking man he was not elected by the Alur people but by the British.


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Aidan 1953: The Alur Society; a Study in Processes and Types of Domination