Friday, June 13, 2008

Sometimes I Eavesdrop

But eavesdropping seems a little harsh, I personally prefer to think of it as listening to a conversation that I'm not actively participating in. Yesterday I went to visit two schools in Mvolo county, both of which are receiving support from my organization, and one of which will be part of my project. I went with a driver, the education officer from my NGO, the education officer from our local partner, and a member of the Ministry of Education. Over the many hours of bumpy roads filled with puddles and potholes, I listened to them talk about everything from the division of labor by gender to interpretations of the war and the current manifestations of the peace agreement. I think the tidbit that stuck with me most has to do with cattle grazing.

Both North and South Sudan are made up of a number of tribes, all of which are full of subdivisions. The Dinka are some of the most well known people, partially because of their statuesque build and partly because of their involvement with cattle. For as long as anyone (in the truck at least) could remember, the Dinka had been starting inter-tribal clashes by taking cattle from other tribes, who would then take the Dinka cattle and fighting would break out. Some tribes have now gotten out of cattle raising all together in attempt to avoid the violence, although they are the poorer for it.

The SPLM/A (Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army) is currently in charge of South Sudan, the politics of which are complex and way beyond the scope of my experience. But needless to say, after the temporary division of the country into north and south with the peace agreement, the commanders of the SPLA are now some of the most powerful people in the country, and because they are powerful, they have cattle. Now these SPLA commanders have hired the Dinka to help raise their cattle and bring them to graze. So you've got Dinka herding the cattle of army commanders through the land and fields of subsistence farmers who barely grow enough to eat as it is. But no one stops them, because the cattle belong to the army, and the army has given the Dinka AK47s to protect their cows. And so the cycle of hunger, poverty and violence continues.

Just one of many anecdotes from the car ride, I could go on for ages with more, but I figure if I don't keep these reasonably short then no one will read them! After many requests, the link to my pictures is if you'd like to see where I'm living and who I'm working with. I'll have more about the project I'm working on (a baseline survey for a School Health and Nutrition intervention) next time, as many of you have been wondering what I'm actually doing here. :) Take care and thank your lucky stars for indoor plumbing!

1 comment:

  1. It wasn't my intention to single out the Dinka as the only tribe with guns and cows and who destroy crops. I was merely relaying a story I heard. From my experience here, in a community with no Dinka residents as far as I can tell, there seems to be lingering resentment towards the tribe, the root causes of which I haven't discovered yet. There are absolutely prejudices present in the story, but at the same time I found the whole scenario so remarkable I thought it was worth sharing. Also, the presence of guns and AK-47s definitely isn't solely the fault of the government and their desire to protect their cattle. Much of the population of Southern Sudan is heavily armed (as is evident by the men with sub-machine guns who ride by on bikes, motorbikes, cars, trucks etc etc), which is why disarmament is so important and so difficult at the same time. But the idea that the government is continuing to supply weapons while broadcasting its efforts to disarm civilians stuck me as incredible. Cattle raiding has occurred for as long as anyone can remember, this was just such an interesting twist on it I was eager to share.