South Sudan: Tonj Historical Background, Location and its ancestral owners

Posted: October 21, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers, Valentino Akech

Tonj Federation of Australia 1st Conference – Melbourne Australia

By Valentino Malueth Akec, Melbourne, Australia

Tonj youth association welcome distribution of counties in Tonj

Tonj youth association welcome distribution of counties in Tonj


Sunday, October 21, 2018 (PW) — Before I could venture into defining Tonj area, we first need to understand the kind of administration that was governing in the Bahr Elghazal Region at that time in history. Starting from the time when Mohammed Ali Pasha (Ottoman Empire) invaded Sudan in 1820, nothing was known about Tonj or the kind of governing systems in the Greater Bahr Elghazal region.

Wau as the capital of Bahr Elghazal was established under the Equatorial administration in 1864. Under the Crown of Ottoman Empire led by Khedive Ismail, Samuel Baker was appointed to rule Juba (Equatoria) including B. Elghazal Region in the year 1870, he was followed by Charles George Gordon 1874 and Amin Pasha in 1878.

After a visit made by Mr. Junker to Mushra in January of 1887, it was then inaugurated as a River port in 1887, hence Wau became a strategic Town because of Mushra and that was why it had to be separated from Juba administration in 1948.

The emergence of the Mahdist revolution in the Northern Sudan in 1880, had caused a big administrative disturbance to the Turkish administrators, especially when a joint military force composed of Turks and Egyptians was defeated by Militia forces allied to Al Zubair Wed Rahma in 1873, who was consequently based on that, got recognized by the Turkish rule and got appointed as the ruler of Bahr Elghazal Region, under which the slavery trade flourished in Bahr Elghazal Region.

Bahr Elghazal Region became fully under Mahdist rule in 1884, and Mr. Karmallah Mohammed Kurkusawi was appointed to rule in the present day Wau Town. The British invaded Egypt in 1882, and extended its rule to Sudan and consequently to South Sudan, Juba administration ceased to exist in 1879 under the Turkish rule, it briefly continued under the Mahdist rule, but Bahr Elghazal was made a region of its own in 1948.

Gordon Pasha was made the Ruler of Sudan, and he got killed by the Mahdist fighter during the fall of Khartoum in 1885, and this is when the revenge forces from Egypt under British administration entered Sudan under the leadership of Kitchener Pasha and Ahmed Eldifterdar and they managed to hunt down the Madhist Ansar fighters and defeated them making them retreating to Peripheries leaving Khartoum for the British administration.

Egypt became independent under the kingdomcy 1922 and became a Republic in 1953 after a military coup detat staged by what was term as free military forces in 1952. Sudan consequently became independent in 1956.

Tonj which was formerly a District and currently Capital of Tonj State

Geographical Location

Tonj Town is located North West of Juba Town, the Capital City of the Republic of South Sudan, Tonj is situated between Rumbek/ the current Capital city of Western Lakes State and Wau Town, the current capital City of Wau State, it lies 75 miles from Rumbek by road and 63 miles from Wau Town by road, Tonj has a significant location as a transit area for road travelers between Wau and Rumbek, and it is connected by three routes, a road to Wau, another to Rumbek and the third one to Thiet and the surrounding locations.

The exact location of Tonj Town in the goggle map of South Sudan is given as 7 16 48 N, and 28 40 48 E, on the Latitude of 7.2800 and longitude of 28.600 with an average elevation of 427 meters (1,401 ft) above the sea level.

Tonj is an ancestral land for the Dinka ethnic groups, Bongo and other smaller minority ethnicities whose origins are traced back to Northern Sudan as well as some migrants who have long migrated from different parts of South Sudan and took Tonj as their permanent home town.

As part of the Turkish administrative Unit established around 1860, it gained its strategic importance after the establishment of Mushra in the midst of 1870, Mushra after it has been found to be a feasible River port by Junker in his first visit in January 1870, was then established on the recommendations of Junker and was officially inaugurated as a River Port from that time on.

Tonj District under the British rule was one of the richest areas, as it has lots of livestock, cattle Sheep, Goats as well as agricultural produces, it has contributed number of bulls to the frontline in the world war two.

The name of Tonj in the real sense has no specific meaning in the Dinka or Bongo Languages; some stories are speculating the name to be attributable to (Thony), so that and with time, it evolved into Tonj, others have considered as a deliberate act by the colonizers meant to deter Thony people from claiming the ownership of the area, other names are (1) Kalkuel because to a tree named Kuel. (2) Jur Gatach because of a Turkish rules who was then accommodating and facilitating slave trade. (3) Gen. Anyuon, because most of the fences and houses were mostly thatched and constructed with dry tall grass that is naturally found growing in abundance in Tonj surrounding forests. (4) Gen. Ngeu, someone by name Ngeu was the first resident found in the area. Jur is of course attributable to Jur River.

Tonj as a district under the British rule was administered through (19) Chiefdoms divided into five appeal courts, and they were as follows: –

  • Thiet Court with its Paramount chiefs as : –
  1. Malek Mathok Malek
  2. Akol Mawien (Aduol)
  3. Chikom Ayiei
  4. Wut Akot and
  5. Buguai Awudo

  • Anan Atak Court with its Paramount Chiefs as : –
  1. Bol Malek Jok
  2. Deng Achuil Duot
  3. Akuecbeny Cherong

  • Room Abooth Court with its Paramount Chiefs as: –
  1. Aguer Adeel Makol
  2. Madhieu Anyuon Madhieu

  • Akop Court with its Paramount chiefs as : –
  1. Luol Wol Ciec
  2. Ayai kuol Ayuol
  3. Parek Machar Maduot
  4. Ariik Mawien
  5. Them Arop Akol
  • Warrap Court with its Paramount chiefs as : –
  1. Mayar Mareeng Yel
  2. Ayii Kuot
  3. Akoc Majok Akoc
  4. Akeen Koor

Some sub chiefs were so widely known for effective contribution in the administration set up in the area and were members of the above appeal courts, these sub chiefs were: –

  1. Buk Alok. (Warrap). 2. Matik Mayan (Akop). 3. Majok Makom (Anan Atak). 4. Luol Tinyjok (Room Abooth) and 5. Chol Wol (Thiet).

Tonj district during the British rule was a hub for education facilities, Primary, Elementary as well as technical and teachers training centers were operational and have graduated a great number of the first educated south Sudanese, most of our former political leaders have started their first education in Tonj.

Tonj population was given according to the population census of 2010 as 17,340 persons, but that population has changed now since the time Tonj was declared the capital town of Tonj State in October 2015.

You can reach the author via his email: Valentino Akec<>

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  1. Valentino Malueth Akec
    I think some of your statements are absolutely true but others fall short to have come up with fully explanation specific, about Tonj as you were trying to come up. Well, the word Tonj come from Toch, meaning swamped and you can even see there is a river near Tonj town and goes to Jal Wau swamps. Second to that, the port Mushar Achol is from Tonj North and mom Achol was the first woman in all Bar El Ghazal regions to started her business at the port of Mushar Achol. Later on, the business woman moved to Wau and she did established her business and this is how Wau was called Wau Achol and it is obvious and well known by the people in there.
    Thirdly, the population of Tonj communities maybe around 700,000 or even more in my view and the good example was the time for voting. Lou Mawien community were 46000 and the whole population of Lou Mawien community maybe 150,000 and that telling us our Tonj population is beyond. I am not going to indicated everything but just to give you Idea.
    Thank Albino Aleu Aduol


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