Monday, 12 December 2011
By Ariik Atekdit,
Akoi Madol, an eighteen year-old girl from Kolnyang District of Jonglei State became the victim of love when she decided to marry her long termed boyfriend in her Dinka community of South Sudan. She was beaten with her sister, Agot Ngong who survived brutal torture with bruises.
“I got a call when I was about to eat. They forced me to move where Akoi was and ordered us to remove all clothes and lay us flat on the ground with face down,” Ngong said. “Four people two with each of us came with ropes, one each side and begin to beat us,” Ngong explained to Sudan Tribune.
According to the article published on Sudan Tribune website Ms Madol was beaten to death on February 28, 2011 after she escaped with her groom who was not of their parents’ choice. Madol died for her love in heart, leaving behind her sister, Agot Ngong suffering from bruises and pain and mourning for her deceased sister. “I tried to escape but they caught me after some minutes. They continued beating us till we were unconscious. I recovered but Akoi died the following morning,” said Ngong attending treatment in Bor Private Clinic.
An eye witness in Malual Agorbaar, ten miles away from Bor town on Bor-Juba road where incident happened said, “The late Akoi escaped with her husband on 19 February. She was accompanied by her sister Agot Ngong and spent one week hiding before they were traced on 25 February. Although warned against it, Akoi returned to the man she wanted to marry. The marriage was rejected and Akoi was brought home by group of man including her brother. The father to the dead girl, Madol Alier beat his daughter for violating his orders and ordered his sons and cousins to continue punishing her,” which in result caused death.
The father to the victim survivor with injuries said that his daughter was cruelly beaten against his will, saying the people responsible must be arrested to face justice.
In South Sudan and especially among communities that keep cattle, girls are understood to be sources of wealth to their families and believed to be forced to marry any men that may afford them without considering love relation between the two couples. Girls are said to have no rights of choosing their future husbands or reject husbands arranged for them by their parents. They are believed to be married without a choice, to deliver children and as well as being confined to kitchen.
Doctors in Bor Civil Hospital said that the death was caused by neck fracture. Her case is not the only dowry related case practiced in South Sudan. Some similar cases are said to have occurred in states like Warrap and Lakes and many other cases occur anywhere and remained untold in various states of South Sudan.
In this way parents or relatives to girls never care so much about the lives of their girls as human beings but they have the mentality of getting bride wealth from grooms once their daughters are married. Once they lose that chance they tend to act violently.
According to South Sudan Transitional Constitution; “every person of marriageable age shall have the right to marry a person of the opposite sex and to found a family according to their respective family laws, and no marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the man and woman intending to marry” as stated in Article 15.
However, the written law remains unimplemented and not observed by the concerned authorities in the nation. As the result there continues to be related crimes committed against the interest of young girls & boys and later tried to be solved by customary law as an excuse of avoiding what the constitution says about them. They do so to suit the interests of parents over their daughters’.
Though, the constitution gives right to youth of different sex to found a family of their own choice, nonetheless, the problem of dowry (bride price) remains unanswered. There is no law that regulates bride prices in some communities. The Transitional constitution never tells how much wealth should be paid to the parents of the girl before she becomes a legal wife to the boy. And there are no written customary laws for better referral as well.
A special report from United States Institute of Peace in the research which was conducted between April and May 2011 in some states in South Sudan cited that; “the increasing inability to meet dowry (bride price) demands was the main research finding. Unable to meet this demands many male youths enlist militias, join cattle raids or seek wives from different ethnic groups or countries.” “The skyrocketing dowry demands have alarmingly and negatively affected the female youth,” the report said.
Though every person is entitled to marry a wife/husband of their choice, this has not been the case of the recent years for the reason that parents keep their demands higher and higher on their daughters and rich people also are ever capable to continue marrying wives as many as possible leaving poor men getting married to only one or none at times. The high inflation in dowry (bride price) has kept young men unable to marry and therefore get scared or frustrated by the situation.
The report said that in pastoralist South Sudan, dowries are measured in cattle: “you cannot marry without cows,” one youth explained, “and you cannot be called a man without cows.” In agricultural areas payments can combine money with cattle or other livestock. There were steady descriptions of a difficult situation getting much worse. “The number of cattle in Unity state is declining,” a male youth in Bentiu explained, “while the price of dowry is going up.” “Dowry is the biggest challenge in South Sudan,” an urban male youth stated simply in the report.
Emmanuel Gambiri in his article said that an educated wife in cattle herding Mundari tribe in South Sudan costs 50 cows, 60 goats and 300, 000 Sudanese pounds ($12, 000) in cash. According to Gambiri some boys who cannot afford a bride price turn stealing livestock in order to buy a wife and gain status. In the past in Emmanuel’s village of Terekeka of Central Equatoria wives cost as little as 12 cows and tribal chiefs wielded enough power to call the parents and set an affordable bride price.
An unpublished UN report states that dowry prices have grown up by 44 percent since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Southern Sudan. Some of those interviewed reported that, instead of negotiating a dowry price down, wealth men want to meet the exorbitant demands. The reason given was simple: it provides high public status. “It becomes an ego issue,” a Juba businessperson explained. “The more you pay higher the status of the husband and his new wife received.” Many claimed that Government officials flush with cash were the main cause of dowry inflation. “People who work for GoSS they have money,” a twenty one year old male youth in Juba stated, “So when they want to marry a girl they pay a lot. This makes it more expensive for everyone.”
In South Sudan years before CPA experienced a lot of difficulties with no source of income almost for every south Sudanese because everyone was not employed even the learned former SPLA soldiers. Unlike today some people have got employed as a result of the semi-autonomous government and subsequently with the independence. This has created employment so some people are able to pay more cows or any possible wealth wanted by the girls’ parents.
Some government officials because of no active accountability are involved into corruption, so they can pay high dowry of their wives or wives of their sons using government money.
Now that dowry (bride price) has become so high for an ordinary man strong youths who do not want to die unmarried have decided to join militias to rob or loot people’s properties so that they get wealth for their wives. This has resulted into death of so many people across the country and especially in case of Jonglei state and other states of South Sudan in which cattle rustling is practiced. In view of that Jonglei state’s Governor Kuol Manyang in the 7th Governors’ Forum held in 2009 in Juba, he proposed the reduction or totally abolition of the dowry (bride price) in hope to curb cattle rustling in South Sudan. According to Kuol he said, “We are losing many lives because of the cows and I am telling the house of South Sudan that it is the right time we look into this issue of dowry payment seriously.”
Many lives have been lost as bride price surged. On the other hand girls and women are being denied their basic human rights because of cows. The best example is the story above.