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Bantu Speakers of the Eastern Forest and Plain

DR Congo Ethnic MapTo the south of the Central Sudanic-speaking groups and to some degree mixed in with them live a number of Bantu-speaking groups. While generally forest-dwelling, some groups have sited themselves in the more open plain leading to the eastern highlands, and a few have established themselves in the Ruwenzori Mountains. They have been grouped together primarily because they and their Central Sudanic-speaking neighbors share some significant cultural and organizational features and may be clearly distinguished from the neighboring highland Bantu speakers.

Here again, the village in which a localized lineage dwells is the significant political unit rather than any overarching descent group. Links between villages are provided by religious associations and initiation rites. Clan names are shared with adjacent Bantu-speaking groups as well as with some Central Sudanic- speaking communities. Lineage alliances found in some parts of the area also sometimes cross linguistic lines.

Farther south along both sides of the Lualaba River and extending east along its tributary, the Ulindi, another congeries of varied Bantu-speaking groups may be found. All but the Lengola and Metoko share closely related languages. Frequently, in this area of close intermingling, communities are known to have adopted the language and much of the culture of a neighboring, unrelated group. For example, groups of Lega origin, according to anthropologist Daniel Biebuyck, have adopted the culture of other entities and vice versa. Among most of these communities, hierarchically graded religious and political associations have served to tie together systems in which patrilineal lineages provide the bases.

Despite the absence of a centralized state among the Lega and despite the permeability of the borders between them and their neighbors, the Lega have a strong sense of their own historical and cultural unity. That sense was reinforced during the mid-1960s rebellions in eastern Congo; rebel groups led by intrusive ethnic groups killed a number of Lega and thereby turned most of the others into supporters of the national army that fought and eventually defeated the rebels.

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Page last modified: 23-06-2015 20:53:15 ZULU