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The Anuak, also known as the Anyuak, Anywaa Anywaa and Anywaa, are a Luo Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting parts of East Africa. The Anuak belong to the larger Luo family group. Their language is referred to as Dha-anywaa. They are primarily found in villages situated along the banks and rivers of southeastern South Sudan as well as southwestern Ethiopia, especially the Gambela Region. Group members number between 200,000 and 300,000 people worldwide. Many of the Anuak people now follow Christianity. It is one of the first of the Nilotic groups to become almost entirely Christian, the other being the Shilluk (Collo).

Anuak Girls, Dimma (10399695426).jpg
Anywaak children in Dimma, Ethiopia
Total population
Approximately 250,000 people
Regions with significant populations
South Sudan, Ethiopia
Christianity, Traditional
Related ethnic groups
Acholi, Shilluk, other Luo peoples, other Nilotic peoples


Ethnic overviewEdit

The "Anuak" are from the family of Nilotes. They have lived in the area of the Upper Nile for hundreds of years and consider their land to be their tribal land. Hundreds of thousands of Anuak people immigrated to the United States to escape the wars, where they live mostly in Minnesota, which had a refugee resettlement program.

Anuak people on the banks of the Baro River in the Gambela Region.

Unlike other Nilotic peoples in the Upper Nile, whose economies are based on raising cattle, the Anuak are herdsmen and farmers. They are believed to have a common origin with their northern neighbors, the Luo and Shilluk. Also, they share a similar language with their neighbors to the south, the Acholi.

The Luo peoples are scattered all over Eastern Africa, including Sudan and Ethiopia; they identify as a people who have preserved their cultural heritage wherever they reside. The Luo- speaking people of Eastern Africa are found beyond the Sudan and Ethiopia in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and the Congo. Their language(s) and dialects belong to the broader cluster of Nilo-Saharan languages.

The Gambela region is hot and tropical with rich, fertile, well-watered soil coming from the rivers. Much is carried down from the mountains of the highlands, which has a cooler, drier climate. The differences in geography have caused self-identification by Ethiopians into distinctive categories of "lowlanders", such as the Anuak and other indigenous groups in the area, as opposed to the "highlanders." The latter, including the Amhara, Oromo, and Tigrayan ethnicities, comprise the majority of the population of Ethiopia.

The Anuak and others who live in the lowlands of Gambela complain of racial discrimination and marginalization by other ethnicities in Ethiopia. This has affected the Anuaks' access to education, health care and other basic services, as well as limiting opportunities for development of the area.

The Anuak of Sudan live in a grassy region that is flat and virtually treeless. During the rainy season, this area floods, so that much of it becomes swampland with various channels of deep water running through it.

Anuak Justice CouncilEdit

The Anuak Justice Council (AJC) is an umbrella organization for the Anuak that advocates for non-violent solutions to alleged human rights abuses being perpetrated against the Anuak in the Gambela region of Ethiopia by Ethiopian Defense Forces. The AJC's approach to restoring peace, justice and the rule of law to this area is by means of international advocacy, increasing public awareness and utilizing established legal processes. .

Since 2005, the AJC filed a several complaints against the government of Ethiopia with several international bodies including, International Criminal Court concerning alleged December 2003 atrocities targeting the Anuak in the Gambela Region. However, the government has denied any involvement in the event. Allegedly, several eyewitnesses who were US citizens were in Gambela during the time of killing and testimonies of several international organizations such as the Genocide Watch report Today is the day of killing the Anuaks! and the International Human Rights Law Clinic's reports submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.[1] In May, 2004, the BBC reported that 20 members of an illegal armed gang, including their leader, an escaped convict known as "Major Kut", were killed by Ethiopian security forces following a shootout in the Gambela region, and that approximately 200 people had been killed in the ethnic violence that began in 2002, ending with the death of Kut.[2]. The December 13, 2003 killing of the Anuak people was alleged to have been sparked by the death of 8 Ethiopia highlanders who were killed by unknown groups. However, the strife did not start in 2003, but earlier on, several groups fighting the government of Ethiopia massacred the Anuaks of Itang in 2002 [3], the same location where the alleged ambush occurred.

Anuak genocideEdit

Anuak militants have allegedly attacked Government forces and non-Anuak civilians.[1] In June 2006, the BBC reported that men dressed in military garb attacked passengers on a bus, killing sixteen, as part of the widespread violence that has occurred in the country.[2]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on March 24, 2005 that documents systematic and widespread atrocities committed against the Anuak by Ethiopian military units and local Ethiopians[3]. HRW indicates that these acts meet the definition of crimes against humanity; however, no one really knows full details of what has occurred.

According to Anuak militants Anuak men (and some women) continue to be subject to arbitrary arrest, beatings, detentions and extra judicial killings in Ethiopia[who?]. Rape of Anuak women is allegedly widespread as part of the wartime atrocities. The Anuak continue to suffer huge problems with basic access to water, health care or clinics, food, and education, just like the rest of Ethiopia. Even though the country currently has one of the fastest growing economies and GDPs, poverty still exists. Entire generations of Anuak children are unable to attend school, and are growing up, without any formal or informal education at all.[citation needed]

According to exiled Anuaks, the Anuak have been the targets of military oppression by Ethiopian governments. Genocide Watch placed the Anuak massacre on its emergency list of ongoing genocides in the world. "The situation reminds me of Rwanda in 1993, when all the early warning signs were evident but no one paid attention," Dr. Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, said.[citation needed] Various external actors and governments are involved in proxy wars and conflicts in numerous borders in the unstable region of the horn of Africa, including in Gambela, thus ethnic conflicts could possibly spark and resume.[4]


  1. ^ Anuak militant attack on non-Anuak civilians Archived 2006-11-11 at the Wayback Machine, Ethiopia First, 2002
  2. ^ Amber Henshaw, "Passengers die in Ethiopia ambush", BBC, 12 June 2006
  3. ^ "Ethiopia: Crimes Against Humanity in Gambella Region". Human Rights Watch. 2005-03-23. Retrieved 2017-08-18.
  4. ^ "Governments, rebels in various conflicts in the horn", Gambela Today

External linksEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1940. The Political System of the Anuak of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. New York: AMS Press.
  • Feyissa, Dereje. 2011. Playing Different Games: The Paradox of Anywaa and Nuer Identification Strategies in the Gambella Region, Ethiopia. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books.