The Alur people are among the diverse ethnic groups that thrive in the west part of the Nile popularly known as West Nile. The Alur live amongst the Lendu, Okebu, Alinga and the Kakwa along with other ethnic groups in West Nile. The Alur are Luo and they belong to the same language group like the Japhadhola, Acholi, the Kenya’s Jaluo, Anuak and Shiluk of Northern Sudan.
The Alur tradition notes that they migrated from South Sudan along the Nile banks and their original place is noted to be Rumbek at the convergence of River Nile and Bahr el Ghazel. They moved along the Nile and reached a point called Pubungu where they got dispersed with some of them continuing to Bunyoro while others settled in Acholi and others to the East of Uganda where some continued to the Nyanza of Kenya while the Alur continued to the West Nile. Though the historians claim that the Alur are not pure Luos and that they are intermarriage.
The Alur Legend states that there was a King called Atira who is noted to have been a direct descent of God and after his death; he was succeeded by his son Otira. Otira was later succeeded by Opobo and he ruled from a place named Nyraka in the county of Lango. After the death of Opobo, he left three sons named Nyapiri, Tiful and Labongo.
Nyapir one day borrowed the Spear of Labongo to spear an Elephant and unfortunately an elephant took away with the Spear. The news of the Spear reached Labongo and he reacted demanding the brother to bring back the Spear regardless of Nyapir’s plea to provide a substitute. As a result, Nyapir resolved to follow the elephant and after crossing the River, he found himself in a very good land with a cool atmosphere. He started to wander in this land until he encountered an old woman who took him to a place where many Spears were gathered and Nyapir was able to locate the Spear of his brother Labongo and also the woman gave him a bead.
Nyapir returned home and presented the Spear to his brother and it was amazement to everyone and also the issue of the bead. He handed the bead to everyone to look at and unfortunately in the process the Labongo’s infant son swallowed it.
This was the time for Nyapiri to pronounce his revenge and thus demanded that his bead be returned to him. Nyapir refused all other substitute avenues and with no other alternative left, Labongo handed the child to Nyapir to open his tummy and retrieve the bead. Nyapir killed the child and got his bead. This was an epitome of the brothers’ disagreement and they resolved to part ways.
One of the brothers Tiful had already been impressed by the story of the good land beyond the River and thus opted to get his followers including the Okebu and the Lendu to the highlands of the West. The descendants of Tiful are noted to be including the Alur of Zaire. Nyapir also followed his brother Tiful and moved along the western bank of Victoria Nile and eventually camped with his followers at a place opposite Pakwach. There was no good grazing land and there were no salt licks on the area. The cattle began grazing away and one day some of the cows which were noted to have disappeared made their way back by themselves and had salt licks adhering to their hooves. Nyapir got together his people and followd the tracks of the cows in ot the West Nile Highlands. Nyapir left behind one of his sons named Dosha to reign in Pakwach and he then established himself in the highlands of West Nile.
However, historians have always argued that the Alur’s entry into the West Nile embedded in the legend of Spear and the Bead was in reality a power struggle and that the spear was part of the Royal Regalia. When they entered West Nile, they are noted to have mixed up with the Okebu and the Lendu along with the Sudanic Madi in the north and later with the Bendi, Nyali and the Bira in the southwest.
Regarding the Alur religion, their religious worship rituals were cultivated and protected by the Bandwa, Jupa Jok and Jupa Jogi. These people were the equalities of the clergy. The God’s equivalent was called Jok and the manifestations of Jok were often not in personal terms. As a result, Jok could be a male or female, old or young among others. But at times, Jok could be conceived of in non-personal forms like a situation. Thus there ultimate Jok’s nature was every unknown.
Amongst the Alur, the issue of worship wasn’t a routine thing such as morning, evening or Fridays, Saturday and Sundays. It was facilitated by misfortunes of some sort which required the Jok should be appeased. The Alur people believed that the misfortunes like diseases and other were not natural consequences but rather caused. The causes of these misfortunes were though in differing dimensions. Special parties or dead ancestors could demand beer, food, meat and other sorts of comfort by inflicting punishments on the living people such as deadly diseases, slight sicknesses that would end up serious if not attended to and other misfortunes. These could result into body paralysis, dumbness, mental breakdown among others.
At times of misfortune such as sickness, the head of the family along with his brother and two associates would head to the diviner named Julam bira, Julam wara or Anjoga for diagnosing the misfortune. The diviner would then use the range of instruments at this disposal to derive the trouble cause. Appropriate measures would be taken to avert the misfortune. The Misfortune could be caused by either evil spirits or by evil person who would use magic to harm the healthy person.
The Alur had a religious marriage conveyed in the Mukeli gagi rituals.
The man had to be initiated into the religious cult of the woman in order to be officially recognized as the married people. The Man would retain the religious status that he was given at the time of marriage.
At times, the married woman would be attacked by the ancestral spirits from her side and then the man would take the Cowrie shells to her home. The shells would be tied on the pole of the ancestral shrine of her father and the husband would be pledging to pay two goats that is a male and a female in the process of rescuing the cowrie shells that were not supposed to remain at the home of the father in law forever.
If the husband had been initiated into the religious cult, he would then rescue the shells himself but if he wasn’t, then he wasn’t supposed to know. But there was a possibility of going there if accepted to be initiated there and then. This was preferred most since at the end of the ritual the woman would cease being his if he was not a believer and the sexual relations would stop immediately. The woman would then be married to another man ritually if the former hesitated on being initiated. The ritual husband could go ahead with her and even produce children.
The process if ritual joining started in the late evening as the believers sung to alert the people in the environs about the going. The woman would seat in the circle center and after showing signs of possession, she would be led to her chosen place where a goat would then be slaughtered and eaten. The believers would also be given another goat to slaughter and eat. The husband and wife would then lie down facing one another on a papyrus mat and the man would be asked to throw his hands and legs on the woman while the woman was asked to assume the posture and then they would be asked to play sex. This process was called Ariba (joining). After this encounter, the couple would be given grass stems to be simultaneously broken. This woman would by all means have power over the other wives of the man if they were not ritually joined with him. If the husband is not the initiated one, he would go ahead and pay the bride price and if he was confirmed, he would retrieve his wife and even if the ritual husband had already had children with her, he wouldn’t complain, he was meant to treat them well hoping that at one time he will also be initiated with another man’s wife and produce children.
Economically, the Alur are settled agriculturalists and they grow a range of crops including millet, cassava, sorghum, potatoes, simsim and a range of beans. They also grow coffee and cotton. They also keep cattle, goats, chicken and sheep.