By: Amb. Wani-Christopher Jada Kwajok

Part 1

People and Setting

The Bari Speaking tribes of South Sudan inhabit the territory between latitude 6, 0’ north which lies south of the Dinka land in Jonglei and latitude 4, 0’ south from the equator stretching along the eastern and western bank of the Nile river and its hinterland. From its extreme north pole position on the eastern bank, curving eastwards and then towards the south, the land extends to its borderline with the Lokoya, Lotuko and the Peri/Pöri while in a parallel direction, stripping along the bank reaching the extreme limits at Madi Land in the south proximate to the equator. On the western bank, in a similar parallel direction from a north-south bearings along the Nile river, the territory   stretches southwards to the land of the Kuku through the K’aya river stemming from the Kuku Mountains and further west to the hinterland reaching the Kakwa land. From there in a reverse direction, the Bari Speaking tribes land fringes areas lying in western equatoria and stretching vast territories northwards up to its extreme northern western borderline between the Mondari and the Dinka of Bahr el-Ghazal namely, the Aliab and Atuot Dinka Buxton(1975). So, within the territory described, generations of the ethnic group lived in propinquity over a varying period of time, navigating through a trajectory of developments that shaped their present geographical and socio-cultural profile. According to historical and geographical survey records, the size of the territory inhabited by the Bari speaking tribes covers an area that extends from north to south the size of 256km in length and from east to west 144km in breadth. Precisely, the two riparian tribes, the Mondari and the Bari proper, inhabit the eastern bank as well as the western bank of the Nile and along its tributaries flowing from high grounds, hills and mountains. From the epicenter at the Nile in Bariland, lies the lands of the other Bari Speaking tribes; the Kuku to the south, the Kakwa and the Ligi to the west and extreme border, the Nyangwara north west of the Nile, the Pojulu west through south and the Nyepu further south between the Pojulu, Bari and Kuku. Thus, Nyangwara, Pojulu, Kakwa, Kuku and Nyepu are clustered in a stretched habitat belt bounding the Bari in all directions from the west. Although the bulk of the population of the Bari Speaking ethnicity is in South Sudan, few segments of the group extend into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda-Kakwa and Ligi. Notably, the Kolubo tribe people in Uganda are Bari Speaking native of Bari descent territorially confined to Uganda. 

This mode of settlement of the Bari Speaking tribes provides not only a geographical distribution pattern setting the stage to accurately describe the territory inhabited by the Bari proper, but does reinforce evidence-based findings from scholarly works of anthropologists, ethnographers derived from European explorers and Missionaries sources largely based on oral tradition recount such that of G.O. Whitehead (1921) of the Christian Missionary Society  C.M.S. school in Juba, documenting that these tribes evolved from the fission of one- the Bari proper, in prehistoric ages. The oneness of the Bari Speaking tribes is solidly founded in the presence of few Bari clans among the Monadri, Pojulu, Kuku,…e.t.c namely the Bekat and Nyori. Whether their population situates is on the eastern or western bank of the river Nile, the chronology of descend probed by anthropologist  S. Simones (1992) or ethnographers Nadler(1937), documented in manuscripts published as early as 1852 for works or oral tradition narrative decades before, including inter-alia, incisive reports of colonial administrators such as Amin Pasha-the provincial Governor of Equatorial Egypt Sudan Province 1879-1892 and his subordinate at Ilibari E.B. Haddon and linguists Spagnolo(1934) , had largely concurred that these tribes form a defined whole one stock, distinguished in unambiguous terms from their neighbours in language and sharing of common customs, traditions and descend.

Territory and Topography


The Bari tribe or in a strict context, the Bari proper in South Sudan, is one of the Bari Speaking tribes and the largest. It had all its clans inhabiting the territory historically known as the central district of Mongalla Province extending from the shallow plains in the north downwards to Juba and further south. Northwards, from river K’aya in the south on the west bank to Simsima and on the east bank from River Uma to Mangalla in the north. The Bariland lies between longitudes 31, 15’ East and 32, 15’ East and latitudes 4, 0’ and 5, 15’ north of the Equator. Anthropological missions conducted in the 18th century described the Bariland topography east and west of the Nile as consisting of undulating plains at an altitude of 1,700 feet above sea level, deep steep valleys rips the surface, and further east and south east the land rises, penetrates mountains and mountain ranges reaching its ends at Lokoya and Luluba hills. In short, the Bari people live along the banks of the Nile river natively called Supiri and around its tributaries east and west flowing from the hinterland heights over  a total area length extending 150km. Hence, Bariland is characterized by water abundance with perennial supply in all seasons. It is worth noting in this context that, there exist a symbolic geographical and territorial indication of origin for the Bari tribe population distribution using River Kit south of Rajaf as the nodal point-Bari ti lobot for the Bari people north of Kit river while the Bari people south of it are commonly known as Bari ti loki.

Historical and Cultural Sites

Page [unnumbered] of The Bari.

The Bariland is endowed with physical features of great significance to the Bari people from a sociological and cultural standpoint among which of great repute are the large homesteads of Ilibari and Bilinyang, Nyakönyi and Sindiru, and their surrounding hills as being either ancestral homes to Rain-Makers clan or battle grounds against foreign invaders. In historical context, the most recently distinguished Bari rain chief from the Bekat clan whose home is Sindiru was Chief Pitiya Logör who ruled from 1912 to 1933 A.C. Beaton(1933). 

In general, the Bekat clan line of rain chiefs is held in high esteem not only among the Bari but among the Pojulu, the Mundari and the Kuku. In Bilinyang chieftainship during Chief Subek lo Logunu reign about 1865-1873, the Bari fought Samuel Baker who was the Governor of Equatoria Province in his mission around May 1871 aimed at subjugating the areas south of Ilibari, also called Gondokoro, while across the river at Ilibari itself, the Bari turned against him under the command of Chief Loro lo Lako, torpedoed his plans and forced him to abandon the seat of the government in 1872. At the same time, in what was believed to be a coordinated resistance to Baker, the Bari in Tokiman at the helm of Chief Lako lo Rondyang joined in action in a tripartite alliance in contempt of Baker. Baffled by Bari resistance, Baker set up two posts in Nyarkönyi and Rajaf to discharge his task from and then he proceeded to the southern part of the province into Bunuyoro and Baganda lands in the present Uganda. In perspective, the identity and physical appearance of Baker’s conquest regiment made up of Egyptians and Sudanese elements, in the eyes of the Bari, is akin to those of the armed marauding slave traders he was commissioned to suppress. In retrospect and highlighting importance, Ilibari in particular is of high religious standing because the first Christian missionary in Equatoria was founded there in 1851 by Fr. Angelo Vinco.

Another historical landmark is mount Nyarkönyi or Jebel Lado at the west bank of the river which derived its significance from functioning under Governor Colonel Gordon Pasha and the Provincial Governor Amin Pasha as the site for the capital of Egypt’s Equatorial province 1876-1885 which extends up to lake Albert in Uganda. It gained more geopolitical significance following the Berlin conference 1884 for Africa colonization, and in 1896  Nyarkönyi was established as the capital of Lado Enclave under Belgian colonial power which ended in 1906 with its annexation to British rule. 

Part 2 next…