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 – 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.
Costly brides, rampant guns –
“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.
Out of control
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.
DR Congo’s government move to reform the economy as Cobalt prices dip
DR Congo is the world’s top producer of cobalt, a key component for rechargeable batteries needed for smartphones and electric cars
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s new leadership is under mounting pressure to diversify the country’s economy from its dependence on raw materials following the plunge in the price of cobalt. Economic experts currently visiting the country have a sobering figure on which to base their work: over the past year, the price of cobalt on the London Metal Exchange has tumbled from $80,000 to $28,000.
DR Congo is the world’s top producer of cobalt, a key component for rechargeable batteries needed for smartphones and electric cars. But economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country is on the same roller coaster as the global cobalt price.
“GDP growth increased to 5.8 per cent from 3.7 per cent in 2017, driven by a sharp increase in cobalt prices,” the International Monetary Fund said earlier this month in a report of DR Congo’s economy. “GDP growth is projected to decelerate to 4.3 per cent in 2019 based on the assumption of a slowdown in mining activity in the context of lower cobalt prices,” it added.
In another sign of DR Congo’s heavy reliance on mining and metals exports, that deceleration comes amid growth more than doubling in the rest of the economy thanks to public investment and post-election optimism. Either way, DR Congo’s GDP is small when compared to the size of the country and its population.
At less than $40 billion for 81 million inhabitants in 2017, according to World Bank figures, that translates into less than $2 per day per person on average. The IMF mission “focused on policies that would lead to diversifying the economy and tackling high levels of poverty and unemployment in the context of a rapidly expanding population,” according to the report.
Diversification and transformation of the nation’s economy is also the theme of the sixth French Kinshasa week organised by the Franco-Congolese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. With 80 per cent of DR Congo’s export revenues generated by the mining sector, this “creates a vulnerability due to the volatility in the prices of its main raw material exports” noted the organisers.
Liberalisation amidst cobalt price dip
They said possibilities in numerous other sectors needed to be explored for growth opportunities: agriculture and food, textiles, tourism, communications, transportation services, forestry, energy, pharmaceuticals and recycling.
France is keen to promote an initiative recently unveiled by President Emmanuel Macron to provide 2.5 billion euros in financing to 100,000 African startups as well as small and medium-sized companies by 2022. But the best intentions in business development must confront the problems of doing business in a country still trying to fix its patchy tax revenue collection amidst corruption.
One economic analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “fifty per cent of the containers that enter the Matadi river port don’t pay customs duties”. The IMF urged the new president Felix Tshisekedi “to expedite the adoption of the proposed anti-corruption law” and the creation of an independent anti-corruption commission.
The IMF also expressed concern about low tax collection. Reforms in some areas are moving ahead, albeit slowly. The insurance sector has been liberalised with three operators licensed to take over from the former state monopoly Sonas. And mining multinationals will be meeting in Lubumbashi to discuss the plunge in cobalt prices and the impact last year’s reform of the mining code has had.
Mining expert Chantelle Kotze said the reform increased taxes and royalties paid on strategic minerals such as cobalt and coltan, an ore that is another crucial element for the production of electric car batteries.
Egypt will always support Haftar’s army forces -Sisi
According to Sisi, Egypt is supporting “the legitimacy of Libya represented in the country’s House of Representatives.”
Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said yesterday, that Egypt will always support the Libyan troops loyal to the General Khalifa Haftar.
Following his meeting with the Libyan parliament speaker Aqilah Saleh in Cairo the Egyptian capital, Sisi said, “Egypt’s position on supporting the Libyan National Army in its campaign to eliminate terrorist groups across Libya will never change.”
Saleh is currently on an indefinite visit to Cairo where he is holding meetings with Egyptian officials.
Sisi noted that his country was supporting what he described as “the legitimacy of Libya represented in the country’s House of Representatives,” stressing that the will of Libyans “must be respected.”
During a meeting in Tunisia on Wednesday, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia called for “an immediate ceasefire,” adding that there was “no military solution to the crisis in Libya.”
In April, Haftar forces launched a military campaign to capture Tripoli from the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
Haftar’s campaign has, thus far, failed to achieve its primary objective, even after several weeks of fighting on the outskirts of Tripoli. Nevertheless, Haftar’s forces remain deployed in several areas around the capital.
Libya has witnessed serious political unrest since 2011 when long-time leader, Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a bloody NATO-backed uprising after four decades in power.
Two rival seats of power have since emerged in the country, the Tripoli-based GNA, which enjoys UN recognition, and the other one on the eastern part of the country, which is affiliated to Haftar.
Africa’s top scorers ready to slug it out in Group B at the AFCON 2019
Let us run the rule over the Group B hopefuls and assess their prospects in the biennial African football showpiece
The sharpest shooters in 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying, Odion Ighalo of Nigeria and Fiston Abdul Razak of Burundi, will come face to face in Group B at the finals this month. While Ighalo and his Super Eagles team-mates are favoured to top the four-nation table and advance to the knockout stage in Egypt, Abdul Razak and the Swallows may struggle.
Burundi are the lowest ranked of the 24 sides at the June 21-July 19 tournament and the best they can be expected to hope for is third place below Nigeria and Guinea and above Madagascar. The countries finishing first and second are guaranteed round-of-16 slots while the best four of the six third-placed teams also qualify.
Let us run the rule over the Group B hopefuls and assess their prospects in the biennial African football showpiece:
The tiny central African country secured a first appearance at the expense of favoured Gabon despite drawing four of six qualifiers.
Algeria-based Abdul Razak starred with six goals at an average of one per match — a total bettered only by Ighalo, who netted seven times. But having tormented the defences of Mali, Gabon and South Sudan, can he wreak more havoc against the Nigerian and Guinean defences?
Olivier Niyungeko, who has succeeded where a string of foreign coaches failed, chose Burundians based in 13 countries and also picked one local, goalkeeper Jonathan Nahimana.
Verdict: an early exit looms
A squad coached by Paul Put hope poor dress rehearsals will be transformed into a grand opening night against Madagascar. Warm-up losses to lower-ranked opponents the Gambia and Benin in Morocco could sow self doubts and there has also been the distraction of injured midfield star Naby Keita.
He injured a thigh playing for Liverpool at Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals and admits to “not yet being fully fit”.
Put, who took outsiders Burkina Faso to the 2013 final, will expect a lot from Ibrahima Traore, a winger based in Germany whose footwork can bewilder even the tightest defences.
Verdict: Quarter-finals a realistic goal
Like Burundi, the Indian Ocean islanders who are making their Cup of Nations debut will eye third place and qualification as one of the four best teams in that position. French coach Nicolas Dupuis has worked wonders with a side that got to Egypt by finishing above Equatorial Guinea and Sudan, and he also coaches a lower-league club in his homeland.
He believes practice makes perfect, saying: “Madagascar used to play three or four matches a year and we’re going nowhere. We now make full use of every international window.” Dupuis has also convinced France-born Thomas Fontaine, Romain Metanire, Jerome Mombris and Jeremy Morel to represent a country they are linked to through parents or grandparents.
Verdict: reaching second round would complete a fairytale
The three-time champions are back at the Cup of Nations after unexpectedly lifting the trophy in 2013 and then failing to qualify for the next two editions. They should take advantage of a kind draw and cruise into the second round, but Nigerian supporters will expect much more from a team coached by experienced German Gernot Rohr.
When the Cup of Nations was last staged by Egypt in 2006, the Super Eagles finished third behind the host nation and the Ivory Coast. Apart from former Watford forward Ighalo, Spain-based Samuel Chukwueze could be a major threat having scored regularly for Villarreal in La Liga last season.
Verdict: Anything less than a semi-final place will be considered failure
Health minister issues Ebola threat alert in Tanzania
DR Congo’s government move to reform the economy as Cobalt prices dip
This startup is revolutionising Nigeria’s cash cow industry
Namibia plans to auction wild animals to raise money for conservation
Bashir to face corruption charges in court next week
Gabon’s president sacks vice president and forestry minister
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Congo’s changemakers at 22: Celebrating DRC’s icons
AFCON 2019 mascot unveiled as “Tut”
Nigeria’s economic growth cools in Q1, Pound rattled by political risk
This startup is revolutionising Nigeria’s cash cow industry
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