Civil Conflict, Bride Price, and Cattle Theft in South Sudan

Those of you who are looking for a dissertation topic and who want to do fieldwork in the world’s newest country may wish to investigate the following. From a Bloomberg article:

“Emmanuel Gambiri said an educated wife in his cattle-herding Mundari tribe in South Sudan costs 50 cows, 60 goats and 30,000 Sudanese pounds ($12,000) in cash.

At that price, some men who otherwise can’t afford a bride turn to stealing livestock in order to buy a wife and gain status, said Gambiri, citing a friend who is now a cattle rustler. A surge in ‘bride price’ has fueled cattle raids in which more than 2,000 people are killed each year.

In his village of Terekeka, in the state of Central Equatoria, Gambiri recalls a time when wives cost as little as 12 cows and tribal chiefs wielded enough power to call the parents and set an affordable bride price.

Today, he says, it’s a different story.

Even as South Sudan celebrated its independence July 9, a two-decade civil war has left scars. The war eroded traditional authority and farming practices, leaving a generation of young men who have grown up either in the army, militias or refugee camps.

‘These boys now don’t know how to cultivate. All they know how to manage well is an AK-47,’ said Gambiri, 37, a program manager for a nonprofit organization, in an interview.”

The article discusses the “causal” link between bride price and cattle theft. For a budding development researcher, I think it would be interesting to first test whether that link is indeed causal, and to then study how the bridal economy is affected by the presence of former combatants.

(HT: Mathieu Lalonde.)

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