South Sudan refugees: displacement threatening our cultural identities

Living in concentrated refugee settlements is taking a toll on cultural practices of South Sudan refugees in Uganda.

The refugees say living in refugee settlement is making it extremely hard to commemorate their seasonal cultural practices, which define their unique tribal identity.

57-year-old Ali Fanuel, an elder in the Moro tribe was displaced from Western Equatorial.

He said food gathering is an important part of their tribal identity celebrated in a unique annual food ritual.

 He said part of the ritual involves hunting wild game to supplement the diet of their descendants.

Fanuel said they have also been forced to abandon social activities such as traditional dances, which kept them in touch with each other due to random settlement patterns that have mixed them with other tribes.

According to Fanuel, the Rumo dance is celebrated during the onset of the rainfall season for entertainment and appeasing the gods of productivity while Jalia dance is performed during the time of harvest to celebrate plenty of food.

The other Fanuel said is known as Nyalu dance, which they often perform between September and November to celebrate their agricultural year and courtship.

Samuel Ura, an elder from Neur says their identical traits are under attack due to intermarriage that has infiltrated their settlements.

He said marital values are fast getting diluted by values of other tribes in the settlements.

Dr. Jok Madut Jok, the former South Sudan undersecretary in the ministry in Charge of Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sports, said it is regrettable that civil strife had forced the South Sudan nationals to abandon their ways of life.

Dr. Jok said the refugees are likely to learn new culture based on what is surrounding them in settlement camps.

He said culture is an important identity property that must be protected even in situations of emergencies.

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