The Other Sudan
Wednesday, June 09, 2010Author:
Micah is an independent photojournalist and writer represented by Redux Pictures, who has documented and brought attention to major world issues throughout Africa, the Middle East and the US. He has spent the last five years focusing on human rights, the global food crisis, refugee’s, the internally displaced and issues of migration, gender-based violence, public health and insecurity.
KOLMEREK, Sudan -- Every morning, 18-year-old Paul Maluk wakes up under a cow-skin he uses as a blanket. He is surrounded by thousands of towering horns, mounds of burning cow dung and the overwhelming sound of cattle. At 7 a.m. the temperature is already 97 degrees; the air is filled with hot, suffocating ash. Maluk and 80 other boys at a cattle camp in southern Sudan near the Ethiopian border begin the day's routine by collecting, spreading and burning cow dung.
Before the cows are taken out to graze, the boys rub the powdery ash on themselves and the cows for protection from the unrelenting sun, 125-degree heat and the incessant tsetse flies. By 8:30 a.m. the sea of cattle begins flowing out of camp.
Maluk and five others in the Dinka tribe shoulder their AK-47s as they head out in search of grass for the cattle to graze on. As the temperature continues to climb, they stay on alert for anyone who might steal the cows. Three weeks ago three other boys were killed trying to protect the cattle from thieves.
After walking for miles and guarding the cattle, Maluk and the others head back to the camp. There was no trouble this day. The cows pour into the dirt camp by sunset and systematically make their way back to the same spot, a wooden peg in the ground where they are tethered for the night.
Maluk and the others are greeted by the boys at the camp who spent their day caring for calves or taking milk to families in neighboring villages. Maluk finally lets his guard down and hangs up his AK-47. As he heads to a water hole to cool off, Maluk and the others are followed by half a dozen younger boys who admire them for their courage. After a dinner of milk, rice and beans, the best part of the day begins for those in the camp. Under the stars, the sound of laughter, drums and music is everywhere.
The cattle camp, like dozens of others in southern Sudan, is the most important aspect in the culture of the Dinka, the largest tribe in the country, numbering several million. They are a pastoral people with cattle representing their monetary system. The camps are the hubs of Dinka society, a place to reinforce cultural traits and pass down traditions from one generation to the next. For the Dinka, the cattle camps are a very positive place.
But laughter and music have not always been an aspect of the camps. When the last civil war broke out in 1984, the camps became a safe haven for children fleeing the war. The children disappeared among the thousands of cattle, surviving for months, even years. The camps of boys and cattle became targets of the northern government of Sudan. Many camps were destroyed and thousands of children were killed in the 21 years of civil war that ended in 2005. More than 2 million people were killed and 4 million displaced in what the United Nations described as "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world."
Even though war continues to rage in the Darfur province in the north, the southern Sudanese refugees are beginning to make their way back to their homeland after a peace agreement in January 2005, albeit a tentative agreement. But two years after the peace agreement, recovery from the war in southern Sudan is slow. There is a lack of infrastructure, medical facilities and clean water, and gas is $8 a gallon.
Recently, Empowering Lives International, an NGO based in California, is helping youth like Maluk and the others. The organization is providing education to more than 120 children and supporting more than 24 orphans.
The war has left an educational void two generations deep in the Dinka tribe. Relief aid has focused on supplying basic needs for survival, but there has been no opportunity for children to get an education. And the children are hungry for knowledge. They practice math by smoothing out the dirt and performing math equations with their fingers on the ground. Maluk says he "hopes to one day go to school."
But for now, Maluk will rise each morning and begin his daily routine at the camp, as he has for years. He and other Dinka exhibit a resiliency forged from hard life, a resiliency that spans generations and a resiliency that inspires others. The Dinka are excited about living without war, and this gives them hope. There is a confidence that despite the enormous challenges the Dinka face, Maluk and other Sudanese like him will move forward with certainty in a new era of Sudan.
CATTLE PROTECTION / KOLMEREK
The cattle are the biggest asset to the Dinka culture in Southern Sudan and protection from rebel groups or wild animals is a must. A week before this was photographed, 3 boy herdsmen were killed trying to protect their families cattle from a rebel group.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.1
LANDING / PADAK
The rainy season in South Sudan, May - October, makes it very challenging if not impossible to land or drive in South Sudan.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.2
SPREADING COW DUNG / KOLMEREK
The daily process of collecting, spreading and flattening the dung in the hot dry sun and then making it into neat piles is cultural trait past down from generation to generation. This process fills the air with smoke and dust as they rub this powdery ash both on themselves and the cows. In doing this, it will help keep away the ever biting tsetse flies, protection from the sun and keep the cows from getting disease from other biting insects. Tending to over 50 cows, 18 year old John says he, “has much respect from others because of his cows.”
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.3
THE ROAD INTO SUDAN / SUDAN/KENYA BORDER
Roads are long and empty between villages.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.4
LIFE IN THE CAMPS / KOLMEREK
Living his whole life in the cattle camps, Mading Kuay, survived years of Northern bombing raids and famine, living on nothing more than cattle milk and blood.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.5
CATTLE DRINKING / KOLMEREK
With the heat above 122 degrees the cows must drink daily, the fate of those that did not are scattered throughout the grass land and near the water hole with huge horn skeletons as a reminder.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.6
LATE AFTERNOON WALK / SUDAN
For countless generations, cattle have played a central role in the life of many African peoples, such as the Dinka of South Sudan. In the absence of banks, cattle are used as a store of wealth. Some Dinkas will be rich in cattle terms - with hundreds of animals – eating mostly milk as their daily sustenance. Cattle camps are where Dinka culture is passed down to the next generation. 18 year old Paul Maluk starts another routine day with his families cattle.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.7
CATTLE GUARD / KOLMEREK
Taking the cattle out for the day, away from the cattle camp, to find grazing and food for the cattle is the every important task. Taking shifts throughout the week, the boys will take shifts acting as both herdsmen and guards. 6 foot 3, 18 year old, John, with a loaded AK-47 ( left) is worthy at both of his duties and takes an extra share of shifts as guard. Protection is necessary, as rebel groups threaten the cattle camps and stolen cattle is common. As John cocks his AK-47 revealing a bullet in the chamber he tells me that, “being a guard is his favorite job in the camp.”
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.8
BURNING BRUSH / KOLMEREK
There are only two seasons in Southern Sudan, hot or rainy. Because the culture is so reliant on cows, they will burn the fields a month before the rain comes so that the grass will release seeds providing extra grass for the cattle. This one is larger than normal and occasionally can threaten village areas.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.9
SURVIVOR / KOLMEREK
65 year old Martha Amaal, left her village and friends to sell milk from the cattle camp only to return to find her village destroyed by bombs and her friends dead. Refusing to leave her Sudan, she survived years hiding out in cattle camps while Northern Arab troops occupied the remaining livable huts in her village. Risking her life daily to sneak into occupied villages to bring back any food she could find, she was able to save countless lives.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.10
NEW WELL / KOLMEREK
In 128 degree's these Southern Sudanese kids take their first drink of water in a new well drilled in an area 100 square miles. The existing wells were poisoned from the Northern Sudanese Army in an attempt to 'cleanse' the Southern region.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.11
MATH IN DIRT / KOLMEREK
With the peace agreement in effect, the Southern government, or G.O.S.S (Government of Sothern Sudan), is starting to establish a long road ahead of them, public education. This school, the first of its kind in its region is a school started by Empowering Lives International, now has over 120 kids. However, private or not, with 21 years of civil war, the infrastructure is almost non-existent, so getting basic supplies is a challenge. In this case, the kids practice their math in the dirt because they don’t yet have access to paper and pencils.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.12
MIG 23 / SUDAN
Survivor of the Sudanese 21 year civil war, Peter stands on a MIG 23 which was shot down by the rebel resistance, SPLA. Shooting down 2 others in this area of Southern Sudan, the SPLA pulled out Chinese pilots in each.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.13
SUNSET / SUDAN
Walking home over 6 miles from the cattle camp alone, Benjamin hurries as the treat of hyenas are at this time of day high.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.14
COOLING OFF / KOLMEREK
Cooling off from the 128 plus degree heat, these southern Sudanesse boys take a swim from a long day of cow hearding in the regions' cattle camps. In early 2005, Sudan's government and rebels from the south officially ended Africa's longest-running war. The 21-year civil conflict killed 2 million people and forced more than 4 million from their homes, according to U.N. estimates. Under international pressure, the country's ruling party agreed to split Sudan's massive oil revenues with a southern government led by the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the main rebel group in the south. But some analysts say the agreement is fraught with problems, and getting the south back on its feet is likely to take years, as well as billions of aid dollars. Meanwhile, one of the world's most overlooked humanitarian emergencies continues to fester.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.15
SPLA / SUDAN
Even though war was officially declared over in 2005 with a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, there are still ambushes on SPLA convoys. Requiring them to move with caution. Sitting on the back of a convoy, the troops share a smoke.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.16
SPLA / SUDAN
Even thought war was officially declared over in 2005 with a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, there are still ambushes on SPLA convoys. Requiring them to move with caution. Sitting on the back of a convoy, the troops share a smoke.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.17
ASH / SUDAN
The Sudanese rub this powdery ash both on themselves and the cows. In doing this, it will help keep away the ever biting tsetse flies, protection from the sun and keep the cows from getting disease from other biting insects.
Photograph by Micah Albert / © Micah Albert. All Rights Reserved.18
Displaying 0 Comments
Added Fri, Jul 30, 2010 - 12:04 am by TL Bradley
Congrats on the feature. This is wonderful.1
Added Fri, Jul 16, 2010 - 09:28 am by Victor Acquah
One of the goals of African Lens is to serve as a platform of advocacy - for stories that need to be told. This is one of them. Hopefully, this story will generate enough interest to spur more action / help towards the street kids here.2
Added Fri, Jul 02, 2010 - 04:17 am by Thomas
What a beautiful report story !! Congratulation for your job.3
Added Tue, Jun 15, 2010 - 01:02 pm by Marcello
This is an awesome Photo story! Thanks for sharing it, currently only watched the photos, but definitely wanna read it!4