Get to know the Moro (Moru) people

The Moro Tribe

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Demography and Geography

The Moru nationality consists of clans or sections namely Meza (the largest), Gbariba, Kediro, Agyi, Andri, Lakamadi, Nyamusa, Biti and Wira. The Moru number about eighty to one hundred thousand and are found in Mundri and Maridi Counties. The main towns are Mundri, Amadi, Lui, Jambo, Maridi, Kotobi and many other smaller settlements.


Environment, Economy and Natural Resources

The Moru land is plain with several isolated hills. The climate is tropical with thick tropical vegetation sustained by fairly high annual rainfall between April and November. Moru economy has been agriculturally based but they have of recent started to acquire livestock.


The main crops are sorghum, cassava, maize, beans, groundnuts, simsim and fruits like mangoes, pawpaws, bananas, guavas, lemons, etc. and cash crops like coffee. They harvest exotic trees like mahogany and ebony which are abundant in their forests. There is a huge potential in timber, gold panned from the Yei River and its tributaries. The Moru collect honey and other forest products.


Mythology and History

The Moru are said to have come from West Africa but there is nothing in their memory that points to how they came to where they are presently. However, what remains sharply in their memory are the attacks by the Azande which drove the Moru onto a hill near Lui and the raids by slavers from Congo.



The Moru speak Moru tongue with several variations. The dialect of Moru-Meza is the standard or rather formal in construction. It is the Moru-Gbariba which is full of life and social expressions. The Moru language is related to the Madi, Avukaya, Lugbwara, Keliku and Lulubo.


Society, Social Events, Attitudes, Customs and Traditions

The society is organised as clans and agnatic lineages that look at themselves as Moru with social values shared by all. The society and its attitudes has been influenced by Christianity and Christian traditions. In the Moru society, for instance it is difficult to commit such crimes as murder, theft, etc., the last murder case in Moru land was in 1958.


The Moru compose songs against anti-social habits and traits. These songs act as a deterrent to crime. The society promotes peace and harmony among people. They avoid problems and express their disdain through isolation and boycott. The Moru will not openly show anger and hence it is difficult to identify their enemies.


The social events that bring the Moru people together include:

Death or sickness is the biggest event that brings together even enemies. The Moru believe that non-participation in such occasions may result in one’s boycott. They are very particular about attendance.


Marriage stages e.g. during negotiation for the dowry not all are expected to attend, but for the marriage celebration itself, the invitation is extended to as many as possible.


Dances bring the youth together and it is where courtship and eventual engagement commence. The funeral dances may last for four days with lots of feasting.


Prayer meetings – these are meeting occasions especially for the Christians. New members and visitors are announced such that they introduce themselves and talk to people about their problems, etc.


The Moru used to engage in communal hunting and fishing. Hunting was undertaken during the dry season and they used traps, spears, arrows, etc. Fishing was carried out by poisoning the water channel to kill all the fish. These social activities are dying.


The Moru engage in work parties particularly in cultivation in which one invites people to cultivate one’s field.


Socio-political organisation, traditional authority

The Moru don’t regard themselves as a state, thus there are no formal political institutions. The administrative authority lies with the Paramount chiefs, chiefs, sub-chiefs, head men who adjudicate minor cases of elopement and adultery. Their main role in society is conflict resolution, peace and reconciliation between families and clans.


Spirituality, beliefs and customs

The Moru people have been greatly influenced by Christianity and many of them are Christians. Nevertheless, the traditional system of beliefs still endures in some areas. Sorcery is practiced. The rainmakers are respected and wield influence in the lives of the people. It is difficult for a Moru to disobey a rainmaker lest something bad befalls one and which can only be treated by a rainmaker. There are also fortune-tellers and witch-doctors who can cleanse one of the bad omens inflicted by a wizard.


Culture: arts, music, literature and handicrafts

The Moru society is agnatic. The culture evolved in the context of the mode of social reproduction. It is transmitted orally and is expressed in song, dance, poems and folklore. These reflect the best part of human nature, personal integrity hard work and respect for others. The Moru admire the successful and hence songs, dance, names are given in honour of or to glorify success. The Moru instruments of music include the drum, the finger guitar , trumpet and fire-torch shining in the face to attract the admiration of girls. The Moru handicrafts include baskets , and trays for carrying things . The Moru perfected the arts of making bows , arrows and spears as war and hunting implements.


Neighbours and foreigners, relations, co-operation

The Moru neighbour the Nyangwara, Pöjulu, Avukaya, Biele, Atuot, Mundari and the Azande. They have cordial relationship with all their neighbours and have inter-marriages with some of them. Foreigners are the non-Moru and connote the Arabs and Europeans, otherwise the Moru consider other south Sudanese as brothers and sisters. The Moru have special respect for the British, who found it easy to work with the them. This explains their presence in all parts of south Sudan as paramedics, police and prison-warders, etc.


Latest developments

Social and political developments in south Sudan affected the Moru in a very adverse manner. Many people were displaced and families scattered. The migration of the Bor Dinka and their cattle was a test for Moru patience. Some Moru intelligentsia feel they are being politically marginalised or excluded by the SPLM/A.



Even before the war there was large Moru Diaspora in different parts of South Sudan. The war has exacerbated the situation that Moru Diaspora are now found in United States, Canada, Britain and Australia in addition to the east African countries.


Further Reading

  1. E. Evans-Pritchard, ‘Non-Dinka peoples of Amadi and Rumbek.’ Sudan Notes and Records. Vol. XX, 1937 pp 156 – 158.
    Seligman, C. G., and Seligman, B. Z., ‘Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan.’ George Routledge & Sons Ltd., London, 1932.

Collins, Robert O., ‘Land beyond the Rivers, the Southern Sudan, 1898 – 1918.’ Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1971.

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