The Lokoya are an ethnic group who broke out from the Otuho nation numbering about 30,000 people living in between Jubek State and Eastern Equatoria state, South Sudan.
Lokoya is the name by which the people are known. It is a distortion of ‘‘Akokoya’‘, a nickname the Bari gave them on account of their cattle rustling practices.
The Lokoya number about 30,000 people. They inhabit hilly terrain and valleys east of Juba in Torit district east bank Equatoria. They are counted as Lotuka sub-ethnic – ohoryok group. The main towns of the Lokoya are Liria and Ngangala.
The Lokoya environment is hilly terrain dissected by valleys and season streams covered with thick vegetation of grass, trees and shrubs. The Lokoya are agro-pastoralists; they herd cattle, sheep and goats. They engage in subsistence agriculture.
The cultivation of sorghum, maize, simsim, telebun, groundnuts and millets is authorised by the chief priest of the soil (ohiribo) at the beginning of each rainy season. The Lokoya also engage in extensive hunting practices. Like cultivation, hunting is a socio-economic activity that must be authorised by the chief of the land and mountains (ohobu lahadule) at the beginning of the dry season.
Tradition has it that the Lokoya came from East Africa along with the wave of migrations that brought in the Lotuka and the other ohoryok groups to their present respective lands.
The influence of the Lotuka language on the Lokoya is so great that they speak virtually a dialect of the Lotuka
The Lokoya society is stratified along occupational lines. The main groups are:
The function of each of these groups manifests itself in the annual social and cultural activities of the Lokoya. The end of the harvest (ohilango), the beginning of the dry season with all its socio-cultural activities, is marked by lifting of silence (edwar) declared by the chief priests of the grain and the mountain. This enables the Lokoya to engage in hunting, dances, songs.
According to the Lokoya tradition, the institution of marriage and sex is a means for child bearing, which is a lifetime achievement. Much interest is attached to the development of the girls because of the bride-wealth that accrues from their marriage.
Marriage begins with courtship (etharama), which may begin on the road when the girl is going to fetch water or in their sleeping quarters. The boy expresses his love and interest to marry (amumo).
This could take a long time before the girl accepts. Lokoya tradition prohibits marriages to kins and other blood relations. Acceptance of marriage proposal (eruhon) kicks off the marriage process and the paying of bride-wealth, which is done in bits according to the stage. The bride-wealth is distributed or shared out to all the relatives (maternal and paternal). Extra- or pre-marital conception is deplored and the culprit is heavy fined.
Upon delivery (ethamarayo), the mother and child are confined until the umbilical cord detaches from the baby. She is then brought out by the traditional birth attendant (midwife) to sprinkle grains (osingo) as a sign of good delivery and thanksgiving to God.
Naming is done in a ceremony in which the paternal grand parents repeat the osingo calling the name that has been given to the infant. The first born is named ‘‘oke’‘ (boy) or ‘‘ihye’‘ (girl), the second boy or girl in that succession is named ‘‘bila’‘ and ‘‘odicha’‘ or ‘‘iteng’‘, respectively. A boy born after several girls is named ‘‘okanyi’‘. The occasion at birth could form the name for the child. For example ‘‘lama’‘ (ama) boy (girl) born during an invasion of locusts.
When death (aye) occurs, the corpse is placed facing the door way in the hut. A goat is killed and the content of its stomach (amoyaho) is sprinkled onto the people both inside and outside the hut. A 7 foot grave (ahilame) is dug and the corpse is placed in facing the mountain.
A relative throws in earth as a sign of farewell. 3 monyomiji sit next to the grave and push the earth into the grave according to the sex. At the end, a funeral dance is performed by the monyomiji.
The Lokoya subscribe to a traditional governance system which combines spiritual, political and administrative authority. The monyomiji – ruling age set, wield power over a period of 25 years after which, the younger age-set takes over.
The other powerful elements in this traditional governance system are the 8 Chief Priests namely:
The initiation of the monyomiji (abongoro) kicks off the formation of every new Lokoya traditional government. This government controls the affairs of the individual Lokoya village through an open parliament (monyomiji) with the chief priests making up for the executive ministers running the spiritual affairs.
During the so-called indirect rule of the colonial administration, the Lokoya were reluctant to accept government appointed chiefs. As a result, the British administration brought in chiefs from other parts of Equatoria such as Chief Lolik Lado - a Nyangwara - who ruled over the Lokoya until after independence in 1956.
The Lokoya justice system (angoco na arami), is the joint function of the monyomiji who enforce the decisions of the chief priests of soil, rain, mountain and grain. In fact, the chief priest of the soil acts as the Chief Justice. The monyomiji arrests (endefuna) the accused (ohodyahani) and if found guilty (adyahuna), is fined or will have his grain, groundnuts, goats confiscated by the monyomiji. Major cases are settled with the help of the village elders.
The Lokoya believe in one god (Ojok), the creator but to reach Ojok they pray through a medium or an intermediary (Ojok-Lamolo). There are regular sacrifices made to make peace with the departed ancestral spirits. A family altar (Omunu) is erected for such sacrifices especially in times of bad health. In Lokoya tradition curative medical practices are linked to spiritual beliefs.
The Lokoya culture is expressed orally in songs, dance and folklore. They make friendship and relationships through generosity in which people eat and drink together in one and the same calabash. The Lokoya are very sensitive and mind the feelings of others. They decorate their bodies and carry spears and stick wherever they travel to.
The Lokoya neighbour and interact with:
They share much in terms of culture and social values with the other ohoryok groups and the Lotuka. The influence of Christianity and Islam is very negligible among the Lokoya as they still practice their ancient ways. They resisted the colonial administrative system as a result, the British imposed on them chiefs from other ethnic communities. The glaring example is that of Chief Lolik who hailed from the Nyangwara.
The war was the most spectacular development that adversely affected the Lokoya society. There was massive burning of villages, displacement and movement into towns and refugee camps across international borders.
There is a small Lokoya Diaspora in USA and Canada.