People in Pagak already know me. I am, after all, one of three ‘bogni-bogni’ (whites) in Pagak. All the other NGO personnel are African, mostly South Sudanese, Kenyan, or Ugandan.
It is Sunday, and Mama Hellen and I are jogging through the airstrip. She cannot run much, so I do a few sprints here and there. A few children approach, and I start playing around, pretending to chase them, while they run and yell all around. It was a lot of fun.
One of the children is running away from me and suddenly falls and starts to cry. Hellen turned white…
‘Mr. Mario, think it is better we go’
I saw she was worried. While we are leaving back to the compound, she looks back. The girl is OK, and is playing with her friends….
Why are outsiders so afraid of the Nuer?
Evan-Pritchard is the author of the most comprehensive (guess the only one) book about the Nuer before the civil war. Here a short extract:
“When a man has killed another, he must at once go to a chief, who cuts his arm so that the blood may flow. Until this
Los lideres de Pagak...
Como en todo lugar, hay de todo: unos buenos, otros malos, feos y corruptos.
mark has been made, the slayer may neither eat nor drink….Within the next few months the chief elicits from the slayer's kin that they are prepared to pay compensation to avoid a feud and he persuades the dead man's kin that they ought to accept compensation’.
Some things change, but some never do.
The month before my arrival, a CARE driver from a town close from here was asked for a ride by a local, on the back of CARE’s land rover. The roads are terrible during the rainy season. During the ride, the local falls from the car and broke his neck. He died instantly.
The guy failed to report the following day. That morning, the whole town surrounded CARE’s compound and the local chiefs, now called judges, demanded compensation. CARE had to pay US$7,000 to the family of the guy.
A bargain, if you ask me, compared to the guy without arm of the book…
This morning, walking towards the office, I see Mama Hellen, head down, while the head of local judges is vociferating.
Dwaich, our driver, was caught infraganti while having sex with the daughter of a local. Dwaich, who
had not reported to CARE for the past four days, was supposedly visiting family because his uncle had died (also supposedly). But when he got caught, he did not hesitate to say that he was a staff from CARE, and any compensation should be handled by them.
So there is the chief, trying to force to give money to the family of the girl….Dwaich? Who knows where he is… What will Mama Hellen do? She just tried to calm down the chief, stating that she cannot take any decision about money, that decision has to come from Juba.
Stories like this abound in this area, but according to what I hear are not a Southern Sudan thing, they are rather specific to this place, Upper Nile.
I have never seen NGOs hostages of the community before. It is actually sad. Government Authorities have been recently imposed by the new government, replacing, displacing or re-accommodating traditional authority. Both the new comers and the weakened traditional chiefs gain legitimacy in the eyes of their people by getting money, food or jobs from the NGOs to be distributed around.
I told Mama Hellen this morning that she should not
give any money. ‘We are the employer, not his parents’, I said.
‘You are right, Mr. Mario’, Hellen sighs. ‘But we will probably end up paying’.
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