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The Wife-Stealing Ceremony In South Sudan’s Latuka Tribe

If you pay a trip to South Sudan and visit the Eastern part of the landlocked country in East Africa, you’ll likely come across the Latuka tribe. They’re a small ethnic group living in mountains and settlements. The people of Latuka, or Otuho as they’re commonly referred to, are predominantly farmers keeping large herds of cattle, sheep and goat. They practise subsistence farming, which means everyone farms for himself or his family. They grow crops like groundnuts, sorghum, maize and tubers like yam and potato.


Photo: Outwardon

The Latuka people are mostly traditionalists who believe in nature and ancestral worship. Over the years, they have stayed true to their belief. They have defied all forms of religious penetration from the white missionaries down to the breeze of Islam which is major in North Africa. Another thing that’s interesting to note about the Latuka people is the fact that they promote a communal lifestyle in the tribe. They share what they have with one another and there’s no single person in authority, rather a group of elders.

Like a lot of things in Latuka , one thing that has not changed over the years is the marriage tradition. In the Western world, when two people are interested in one another and intend to get married, they typically seek the approval of their parents. In the Igbo culture in Nigeria, for example, the father hands over his daughter to a man in a traditional marriage. After the ceremony, the new bride packs her bags to her husband’s house where she’s expected to start her new life.

Traditional dancers perform during celebrations to mark the first anniversary of the Republic of South Sudan’s independence in the capital Juba


However, the same cannot be said about the Latuka tribe. Their courting customs are still very different from the typical tradition you know. In Latuka , when a young man wants to marry a girl, he kidnaps her from her home. It is after this act that he goes to visit the girl’s father along with his elder male relatives to ask for the blessing to marry.

The father then has to respond with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. If he says yes and blesses their marriage, he is expected to beat his prospective son-in-law to show consent. However, if he says ‘no’, the young man is at liberty to return the girl to her father’s house or marry her as he so wishes.

Photo: African Styles and Culture (1)

Like many traditions in Africa, the marriage rite of the Latuka tribe reeks of patriarchy. Kidnapping a woman and giving her no say in whom she gets to spend the rest of her life with takes us back decades in the progress achieved by feminism. Culture is not static; it should and must change when it is found to be harmful.

The Latuka marriage rites belong in the class of culture that needs changing.

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