National Geographic : 2010 Mar
It was hot, even in the shade, and eventually he relaxed, setting his ri e aside. e conversation wandered. e Kwegu man said he had been hoping to carve a large gourd into a bowl. Would Kornan help him? Even if he was irritated with this Kwegu, Kornan was a man of action. He took the gourd and began cut- ting. e Kwegu said he needed to relieve him- self and ducked out of the shelter. It was a signal. Kornan, focused on the gourd, missed it. He didn't notice one of the Nyangatom stand and slowly walk behind him outside the shelter. e man red once into Kornan's back, then ed as he bled into the dust. ' for news of Kornan's murder to spread. Enraged Kara spilled across the river, attacking the Nyangatom. If they saw the irony---that their actions would only pro- long the revenge cycle that had claimed their friend---they ignored it. Kornan's friends ferried his body back across the river. That evening they sought out Dunga in the town of Dimeka, but the Kara do not deliver bad news directly. There's a problem, they kept saying. You must come home with us now. In darkness the group traveled toward home, Dunga fearing the worst. The next morning, as they neared Kornan's village, the men nally told Dunga his brother was dead. In that moment Dunga became responsible for everything---his family's land and its herds, the well-being of his mother and Kornan's wife and children. He became responsible for ven- geance. He couldn't sleep under the weight of it. Whenever he returned home, revenge was waiting for him, in his mother's inquiries, in all the history of his people. Killing a Nyangatom would be easy; the bush was so enormous. You might wait in ambush by the river, when the cat- tle were driven down to drink. Or in the elds of sorghum lining the bank. Or along one of the lonely trails at night, leaving the body to hyenas in the starlight. Vengeance lay one bullet away. Why, God, have you brought this upon me? Dunga thought. It is a test. It must be a test. He considered dropping out of school but decided against it. He was in college now, and a er years of education, most based on Western thought and in uenced by Christianity, Dunga had grown. In his Western clothes and sneak- ers, he appeared more like a highlander now, a member of one of the ethnic groups that control the government. His ideas had changed as well. He spoke the highlanders' language and several others, assimilating the ideas embedded within them. He'd begun learning about Western no- tions of law and justice. He'd been raised in a culture where killing was accepted, but now he lived in one that considered it immoral. When he thought of becoming a man according to Kara custom---enduring a long set of rituals---it was in the gauzy way one daydreams of the fu- ture. He thought less and less of revenge. Dunga knew he would always be a Kara, but he no lon- ger felt bound by the authority of the tribe. just inside the door of the large, mud-walled hut on a white, plastic grain sack that bears the fading seal of the U.S. Agency for International Development. It is an unlikely throne, donated by a people who do not know his highness exists and who certainly have not heard of his power to con- trol the elements, the animals, even the reach of death. He taps snu from a plastic bottle. His hair, slick with butter and brilliant with crushed minerals, is perfect. "If there is a problem, with cattle, people, the land---I resolve it," the king says. He inhales the snu . In his face is a rare and complete con - dence. "If there is a problem in my kingdom," he says, "the solution is me." From his hut high in the Buska Mountains, Wangala Bankimaro rules some 30,000 mem- bers of the Hamar tribe. e Hamar are mostly pastoralists, herding cattle and goats across a broad bushland east of the Omo River. They also work small fields of sorghum and corn. ey are neighbors and allies of the Kara. In an environment that is not forgiving, the Hamar have managed to thrive, growing into one of the region's largest tribes. For this the Hamar thank the rain, which feeds their cattle and If children are born deformed, or if their top teeth erupt before their bottom teeth, tradition dictates they must be killed.