National Geographic : 2010 Mar
gave birth to 12 children before she was able to be married; she said she killed all of them. Par- ents do not necessarily want to obey, but com- munal pressure is strong. Sometimes the child is abandoned in the bush, its mouth filled with earth; sometimes it is hurled into the river. e Kara are discussing the practice with the government and with an NGO that works to save mingi babies. But Wangala has already made up his mind. Not long ago, a er heavy government lobbying, he decided to support a ban. "Now there will be no more mingi killing among the Hamar," the king tells me. "I have made it so." He says it without arrogance. Tradition, magic, and fear wiped away. Discarded like old clothes that no longer t. e solution is me. last March, in a shaded clearing high on a bank above the Omo River, some 200 Nyangatom gathered to celebrate peace with the Kara. Clay paint the color of flour streaked their bodies, rendering them ghostly, pale, skeletal. Beyond the clearing, enormous slabs of beef roasted on spits, drip- ping and popping. Beyond the re, men from both tribes had stacked their automatic ri es in a gesture of goodwill and as a simple, practical matter. Given their history, it was better to keep the guns out of reach. An old man paced before the crowd, waving his hands and shouting, the paint on his legs turning gray with dust. "You, Nyangatom people! You must want peace!" A small false beard, like that of an Egyptian pharaoh, pierced his lower lip and uttered in his excitement. He turned to another section of the audience. "You, Kara people! You must want peace! Let no one destroy your peace!" the elder shouted. "So let it be!" the crowd chanted, the men's voices a low roll of thunder, the women heaving under pounds of necklaces coiled around their bone-thin shoulders. "So let it be!" Spears of meat were thrust into the ground before us. Soon the dancing would begin, and the clearing would shake with the rhythms of feet thudding into the tired earth. At the celebration I met a young man named Ekal, who had recently become an elected leader of the Nyangatom. He was under 30 and college educated, like Dunga. He wore an oversize polo shirt, baggy slacks, and a baseball cap slightly askew. While his people danced, all of them nearly naked, Ekal lmed it with his cell phone. He looked like a hip-hop star on safari. Ekal said that the days of war were over and that the government was rmly establishing itself here. Even those who talked of upsetting the new bal- ance could be arrested, Ekal said, and he told of a Nyangatom man who had recently bragged that he would cross the river for a Kara killing spree. Ekal sent the police. e man landed in jail. e Omo region was transforming. e peace deal was part of it, and the proof was visible where we sat. is clearing on the west side of the river had once belonged to the Kara. Now, under the terms of the truce, the Nyangatom would remain on the land. e river had drawn them in and, like the Kara before them, they had decided dus, we will stay here. several days a er the cel- ebration, he told me his mind was nally clear. He wanted no part of revenge. "To me it must be the same as if a snake bit my brother in the bush. As if my father was hit by a car. Revenge is not my path." e tribal elders supported his decision. ey saw the changes sweeping the region. ey had heard of the dam being built upriver and of the programs the government had begun to control certain customs. ey saw the trap of tradition that awaited Dunga, the one that had claimed Kornan. e elders understood Dunga was now more than a man caught in a blood feud---he was an educated representative of his people, a future leader and role model. Cool yourself, they told him. You have many responsibilities, to your family, to the tribe. Do not think of vengeance. It was the answer Dunga had always hoped for: his old world acknowledging the power of his new one. In addition to courting established leaders like Wangala Bankimaro, the government It was the answer Dunga had hoped for: his old world acknowledging the power of his new one.