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The Aja is a small ethnic community divided into two sections: The largest section living close to the Banda inhabits the upper parts of Sopo River; The smallest section is found scattered around Raga town.
The environment in which the Aja live in is similar to that described by the fertit tribes of western Bahr el Ghazal. The Aja economy like others, are predominantly agrarian and their activity is essentially subsistence. They keep fowl and goats.
The real name of Aja is Gbaya and their old home was at Gbotu, north-west of the Naka near the Buma . During Zubeir’s period they were ruled by Nur al Anqara representative of Suleiman but their tribal leader Mereke, spent most of his time with this overlord.
After Suleiman’s fall and during the subsequent Mahdiya, the Aja shifted gradually northwards to Mbere, Angbaya, Mukpa together with the Banda and other tribes as a result of being pressured from the south by Rafai’s raids. They settled on Kumu and Mbangana rivers but were badly beaten by Sanusi forcing them to flee into Bahr el Ghazal.
The Aja language is a crossbreed between Kresh and Banda.
In terms of social organisation, language and traditions, the Aja are very close to the Kresh on the one extreme and the Banda on the other. This gives credence to the idea of being a crossbreed between the two tribes. The tribe has been affected by raids, foreign domination and oppression that most of their social norms and customs have been lost or eroded. In this context there is need for further research into the social organisation of the Aja. It is therefore pertinent that Aja people reading this page to kindly consider contributing to the knowledge about their society and its traditions.
The Aja had traditional authority, for example, Chief Mereke dealt with the Belgian but led his people to the Condominium government . The Aja chiefs were then appointed government chiefs. This must have eroded their traditional system of rule.
The Aja practiced traditional African religion based on the Supreme Being and the spirits to whom they erected special shrines and sacrificed chicken, goats and sheep as they communicate and intercede with them through individual prayers or mediums for good fortune and health. A large portion of Aja have converted to Islam and therefore subscribe to Islamic teachings and traditions.
Like their social organisation the Aja culture expression in arts, songs, dance and handicraft remains to be researched.
The Aja neighbour the Banda to the east, Kresh to the northwest and Azande to the south. Their relations with the Banda are cordial unlike with the Azande.
War and subsequent displacement have characterised Aja''s recent history. Many of them have moved to Raga, Wau and northern Sudan.
There is no concrete record of Aja Diaspora in any part of the world.
Stefano Santandrea, ‘A tribal history of the Bahr el Ghazal.’ Museum Combonianum N 17, Bologna, 1964
Stefano Santandrea, ‘Ethno-geography of Bahr el Ghazal .’ Editrice Missionaria Italiana, Via dell’Arcoveggio 80/7, Bologna, 1981.
Seligman, C. G., and Seligman, B. Z., ‘Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan.’ George Routledge & Sons Ltd., London, 1932