The Jiye of South Sudan

The south-eastern corner of South Sudan, the newest country in the world, used to be labelled the “Great Thirst”. It is a remote area marked by a low, and above all, unpredictable annual rainfall. Early Western explorers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries rushed through the region from one water point to another, barely pausing to get to know its inhabitants. The Jiye, Toposa, Murle and Nyangatom continue to be relatively unknown, and although some NGOs started working in the area, little attention is paid to the cultural diversity and the social structure of these agro-pastoralist societies whose economy is mainly based upon a mixture of pastoralism and agriculture, whenever and wherever the latter is possible.

This book focuses on the Jiye people and their closest neighbours, the Toposa. The Jiye population is less than eight thousand, which makes it one of the smallest groups in that part of South Sudan. It is a particularly resilient society, which, over the two centuries of its existence, has survived periods of extreme droughts and famines, severe cattle diseases and periods of devastating raids by their more powerful neighbours. Not much has changed since then …

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