Thursday, May 1, 2014

Interview with the man who cut off the ears of some Atuot girls in order to start a war. He has now repented of this action and works as a police office. Interesting story in my original notes form.

Interview with Akec Bilal (Gabrial)
Akec was born in Akot. He is not certain of his age. When we asked when he got the marks (scars of manhood ritual), he replied that it was in 1973. In the area of Akot, most youth get their marks at age 15. We believe, therefore, that he was 20 years old when the incident described here occurred. He said that for as long as he can recall, there has been tensions between the Atuot and Agar. He and several other interviewees, however, recall only 4 incidences between 1975 and the present (2005).
In 1975 "a man went to fish at the lake where the Atuot also fish. The Atuot beat the man, but did not kill him.
Why did they beat him?
“The Atuot were fishermen and the Agaar man went to fish.”
The man was Akec's brother. It “annoyed” him. He looked for some Atuot on which he could take revenge, the the Atuot would not come out of their territories where they could be attacked. Three years after the events that took place on the lake, Akec found 5 girls in the forest. He caught one of them and cut off her ear. He denies doing anything else to this girl or to the others.
 When the girl returned home, the Atuot “were annoyed and blew the whistle and beat the drums to call the people to war.” They organized themselves to attack the Agaar with spears, sheilds, clubs, and bows and arrows. The Agaar were similarly armed except that the Agaar had no bows and arrows. Neither side possessed firearms. The Atuot came to the Agaar town of Akot with their warriors. Many people were displaced at that time from their ancestral lands near the border, including the translator (Mayam- Gordon). His family has never returned to their lands and now live nearer Akot.
The Agaar knew the Atuot were coming and prepared for them.
How did you know they were coming?
“Because I cut off the girl's ear.”
Did you know cutting off the girl's ear would start a war?
“Yes, but my brother was beaten. That is why I did it. I wanted to generate a war.”
According to Akec, 32 Agaar and 32 Atuot were killed in the war of 1978. Another 12 on each side were wounded. The exact equal distribution of the casualties raised unanswerable questions regarding the accuracy of the data.
The war stopped when the government troops and police intervened. They arrested all the people who had killed anyone (34 total) and put them in prison. Akec was among those imprisoned. They all spent 5  years in prison (1978-1983). Alec was released when he was taken before a court and made to pay a fine of 9 cows. His uncle paid the fine. Normally, the fine for murder is 31 cows, but that only applies to Atuot-on Atuot killing or Agaar on Agaar killing. Akec says that “prison was bad. Bad food. That is why I am still so skinny.”
Akec knew of another incident in 2003 where Majur Mayam (Atuot) was killed by an unkown person. The Atuot blamed the Agar and took revenge.
Presently, Akec works as a police officer in Akot. He has a wife and 5 children. He converted to Christianity in 1991 after encountering a Kawaja[1] missionary from the ECS (Episocopalian Church of Sudan). He now attends a small Baptist congregation in Akot. He says what he did was very wrong. He would not do it now because he is now a policeman.
Also, the Atuat “are our brothers as there is no river between us.”
The phrase “there is no river between us” was also used by Martin Majok in during his interview. It appears the phrase has both a geographic usage (there literally is no river or natural boundary between the Agaar and the Atuot territory) and a metaphorical meaning. In using it, the speaker appears to mean that there exists no tangible reason that the Agaar and the Atuot cannot consider themselves one people. In fact, there was a referendum in 2004 on just such a move. The referendum was to politically consolidate the Atuot and Agaar as one county. The referendum failed by a large margin.

[1] Traditionally a term for Europeans, the label Kawaja is often used for any non-Dinka and non-Arab. Most often, it is translated “White Man,” but the author has seen the term used of other black Africans (Kenyans and Ugandans) who are usually of lighter skin color.