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How money, guns and brides fuel South Sudan’s cattle wars

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By AFP
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Weak rays of early morning sun seep through the smoke rising from smouldering piles of dried dung, keeping flies away from the precious cattle.

Children instinctively reach down for the white ash, a natural mosquito repellent, and rub it on their skin as women set to milking and men prepare for a long day seeking pasture at the peak of the dry season.

The passing of centuries seems to have changed little in the ebb and flow of life for herders in remote South Sudan, whose cattle serve as a bank account and play a core role in every aspect of life.

There has, however, been one devastating shift.

Instead of their traditional spears, cowherds now carry automatic rifles that have transformed cattle raids, a generations-old phenomenon, into massacres that have unleashed brutal cycles of vengeance.

“It is good to have a weapon because it helps you to protect the cattle,” said Puk Duoth, 25, a herder from a camp outside the northeastern village of Udier.

While South Sudan’s elites signed a power-sharing truce in September 2018, cattle raids have worsened, highlighting the herculean task required to resolve local conflicts in a society shattered by war.

According to the UN peacekeeping mission UNMISS, 218 members of herder communities were killed in January in tit-for-tat attacks – almost three times the toll of 73 in the four months from October 2017 to January 2018.

Observers blame a deadly cocktail of factors for the rising body count: a breakdown of law and order in the war-torn nation, an influx of guns and inflation in the bride price that is paid in cattle.

In these parts, cows are everything.

In the culture of the Nuer and Dinka peoples – South Sudan’s largest herder communities – boys are named after a favoured bull, and songs are written to glorify the long-horned beasts.

“If you are sick, then the cow can be sold and the money used for treatment,” says Beny Chuer, a Dinka chief from Amading camp outside the central city of Rumbek – one of the areas worst affected by raids and revenge killings.

“If a mother dies leaving a small baby, that child will live because a cow will be milked to feed it.”

Cattle is currency – each head worth about $500 (440 euros). The more a man owns, the more admiration he garners.

“If you are sitting in a community meeting and you are talking rubbish, but people know you have many cows, you will be honoured,” said Peter Machar, of the NGO Saferworld working on local conflicts.

In his 1940 study of the Nuer people, British anthropologist Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard found this single-minded preoccupation frustrating in his research efforts.

“I used sometimes to despair that I never discussed anything with the young men but livestock and girls and even the subject of girls led inevitably to that of cattle,” he wrote.

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“For us, a cow is the source of money,” said chief Chuer, well over two metres (6 feet, 7 inches) tall – a genetic legacy perhaps of tall women being viewed as more valuable in herder communities.

He boasts that his tallest daughter earned him a whopping 250 cows.

This is part of the cause of conflict, said Peter Machar’s colleague Majok Mon, his own first name a Dinka word for the markings on a bull.

Bride prices soared as donor money poured into the country after independence from Sudan, allowing politicians, military men and the well-connected to enrich themselves and “get a lot of money” to pay for a wife, he said.

The average price went up from about 20 head of cattle to 100, in a country where the majority of people follow the tradition.

Suddenly, many young men could not afford to get married unless they raided cattle from other communities.

Guns flooded the country between the war for independence, achieved in 2011, and the internal conflict that erupted two years later as President Salva Kiir and rival Riek Machar fell out.

Both sides armed young herders and mobilised them to fight, said Peter Machar.

As any semblance of law and order collapsed, the warring also destroyed traditional systems, managed by tribal chiefs, for settling feuds.

“What brought the issue of cattle raids is the gun… if you don’t have a gun, then you will be monitored slowly, slowly until you are shot and your cows taken, but if you have your gun, then you can shoot” in defence, said Chuer.

While fighting has stopped in most of the country as a result of the peace deal, this has changed nothing for herder groups nursing long-standing grievances unrelated to the national tug of war for power.

And with the attention elsewhere, armed herders are launching increasingly deadly military-style attacks on rival camps, with women and children among the victims.

The reality in these remote communities “is very far from what is happening with the elites in Juba,” United Nations special envoy David Shearer told AFP.

A report on the “militarisation” of cattle raiding in South Sudan, published last year in the Journal of International Humanitarian Action, warned that leaders like Kiir and Riek Machar, “having undermined the traditional mechanisms that once governed violence in order to further their individual political interests, no longer have control over these raiders either.”

All these factors bode ill for prospects of peace in a country whose youth has known nothing but conflict.

“This generation were born in the war and grew up in the war… they are a majority and they are the ones who are fighting, so how do we really transform that?” said Mon.

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Coronavirus: Lenku waives taxes for Kajiado traders – KBC

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Traders in Kajiado can now breathe a sigh of relief after the County Government waived all taxes and levies for the next three months.

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Governor Joseph Lenku said the move was meant to ensure business continuity and cushion residents from higher food prices during the Coronavirus/Covid-19 quarantine period.

While issuing the directive the Governor said his government is fully aware that the Coronavirus-19 pandemic has impacted many businesses negatively with many suffering huge losses, enterprises closing down as many workers lose their livelihoods as a result of the slow pace of business.

“I have directed the County Department of Finance to waive all taxes and levies for the months of April to June 2020. We need businesses to thrive so that our people can have food supplies in affordable prices in these difficult times we are all facing,” said Lenku.

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All daily market and transit Cess fees on agricultural produce, Slaughterhouse inspection fees and Monthly parking fees for Passenger Service Vehicles (PSVs) have also been suspended with immediate effect.

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On the County’s preparedness to combat the virus, Lenku revealed that 150 health workers had already been trained on prevention, control and management of the Corona virus pandemic with Ksh 50 million set aside to cater for the purchase of protective gear for the medical staff.

He noted that three isolation centres at the Kajiado Referral Hospital, Kitengela Sub-County Hospital and OlKesasi Health Centre in Ongata Rongai had been set up with two other centres being set up in Oloitokitok and Namanga.

Lenku further directed all business enterprises that deal with essential goods and services and are still operating to ensure that their customers observe the recommended social distancing when transacting.

Currently, 81 people in Kenya have tested positive for Covid-19 with more than 1,500 others put on quarantine awaiting further testing.

Kajiado County is among the five counties listed by Health CS, Mutahi Kagwe, as hotspots with the first positive case being reported in Kenya coming from the County. Others are Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Nairobi.

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Mother and her two daughters arrested for murder in Siaya

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The trio is said to have beaten him senseless before retreating to their house

A mother and her two daughters were on Tuesday evening arrested in connection with the murder of a man suspected to have been beaten to death in Ukwala Township of Siaya County.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

The 37-year-old woman who is a primary school teacher and her daughters are locked up at Ukwala Police Station after the body of the deceased, said to be the caretaker of a plot neighbouring the teacher’s house, was found along a footpath.

Ugenya sub county police commander, Willy Simba who confirmed the incident, identified the deceased as Davine Otieno Ogunja.

Simba said that a member of the public called the police with information that a person had been beaten to death by three women.

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“The officers visited the scene and found the body which had no visible injuries,” said the police commander.

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He said that preliminary investigations have revealed that the deceased had a quarrel with the family after he objected to one of the daughters hanging clothes on the fence of a plot where he works as a caretaker.

Simba said that a bitter argument ensued between one of the teacher’s daughters and the caretaker, attracting the attention of her mother and another of her daughters who all pounced on Ogunja.

The trio is said to have beaten him senseless before retreating to their house.

The police commander said that the body of the deceased was removed to Ukwala sub county hospital mortuary to await a post mortem examination, adding that the suspects will be arraigned in court once investigations were complete.

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Esther Passaris bashed for donating sanitary pads branded with her photo – Nairobi News

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Nairobi Woman Representative Esther Passaris has been bashed for donating sanitary pads with her pictures plastered on them.

Passaris posted on her social media pages the packets of sanitary pads she was donating to Nairobi students.

“900 cartons of quality menstrual hygiene products dispatched today so that our girls in Nairobi County can experience their menstruation in dignity and free of shame. No one should choose between a sanitary pad or meal. #TwendeKazike,” she wrote.

She handed the donation to the Kenya Red Cross for distribution. She later said that the donation was made by the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) which falls under the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs and the Chinese embassy.

Many netizens wondered why the Woman Rep branded the sanitary pads with her pictures.

Sital Chandaria wrote, “It’s donated thru yr office, not by u….why your pic…yr position is temporary, but the donation should not be associated with u but yr office…next time think long term.”

Mayodi_H commented, ” what was the cost of the branding? Certainly, it would have added an extra carton or so… but since you are headless, we move…..”

Teve posted, “The money you used on branding could have been used to buy more pads. What happens after you are no longer in office? the noble project dies? Think sustainability.”

“Nice gesture but did you have to print all the pads? Stop playing PR stunts with vulnerable Kenyans. If you want to help, help ppl out without such f****ry,” wrote Deejay Sylar.

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“Tenda wema nenda zako. Must you include your picture on the sanitary pads?” said Otieno Oloo.

Ericko bara posted, “Must you put your picture on them ,,this is hypocrisy of the highest order.”

Maigua Steve commented, “Lazima ungeeka picha yako hapo @EstherPassaris. Huezi kufa, billionaire @JackMa hakubrand mask na hakukufa. It’s your job to do what you did, not a favor. May you see this and probably block me. Smh!”

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