Elections of Chiefs

Wednesday, June 13
As part of the effort to reduce conflict between tribes, the Jonglei state government has called for election of the chiefs. Following results of a census, they determined how many people were in each chief’s area. From that information, they consolidated some areas and reduced the number of chiefs and the number of sub chiefs. In the past, chiefs have been born to the spot. The elections are to determine who remains in their post and gave the opportunity for others to run for the position. As far as I’m aware, no women ran.

I probably could have watched the process, but I didn’t know about it until it was underway. Each voter stands behind the chief of their choice and they are counted by head. Most elections were decided the first day, but one was carried over for a couple days to allow the constituents time to travel for the vote. Most are satisfied with the result, though there is some grumbling among the losers.

As part of the voting process, a group of women went dancing and singing through the community. As they approached our compound, I was told they would pass us by, but they came toward the fence, and we opened the gate. I stood in the middle with my camera and the women rushed past me on both sides. Leek Sam, one of our teachers, had the video camera, so we captured this.

They formed a circle, running, jumping, carrying long sticks or umbrellas and thrusting them up and down. They chanted and some ululated. Someone encouraged me to join them, so I did. Daruka, our matron, was very impressed, that I, a kawaja, would join in, and the women were thrilled. Then the speeches. The head woman spoke and welcomed me and talked of their happiness about the ASAH School. I thanked them and talked about the importance of educating women and protecting girls from forced marriage which elicited cheers.
Later, I learned from Manyok that this visit was a type of entertainment and the women’s group would like a contribution. So ASAH and each primary staff person will contribute. The women will typically use the money for something to benefit a large group of women, or to buy goats or a bull and then share a meal with all who contributed. JDF, the election group, and others also add to the kitty.

Thursday, June 15 Solar panels and batteries. Fred, the clinic electrician and technical guy, showed me around their new solar power system. Four panels, four batteries, and all the breakers and systems required to manage the power. The panels are installed on the roof of their new nutrition center, and they have a small mechanical room for the other components. A full system such as theirs runs about $6800 in Nairobi.

When we build our kitchen and dining/classroom compound, we will be getting a solar power system along this line. Our program director, Manyok, would like to have it now to reduce our reliance on the generator and diesel fuel, and allow us to run the lights later into the evening so the girls can study or read. It isn’t in the cards today, but I hope we can afford it too.

Eventually we will need our own generator as well. We are relying on the generator at the abandoned compound near us. The NGO that was there until April lost their grant and their is no one to take over management of the site, so the government has taken charge of the assets. The assets are supposed to go to JDF clinic, as the NGO’s charge was to provide support to them, but they are currently in dispute. A few of those assets have been given to us, but we are unsure whether we will be allowed to keep them or not: a refrigerator and a television.

As I write this, Chill, our gazelle, is nibbling at the gum boots outside my door. When I called his name he looked up and stared me down. When I looked away he resumed, so I called his name again more sharply. He looked up, then urinated right outside my doorway. Returned to the boots. I called his name, he released his little pellets. I found this disrespectful, so when he bent down again to nibble the boots I got up and walked toward the door. He doesn’t let me pet him, so he sidled away. He allows only Daruka, our matron, and Abul, our youngest girl to stroke him. With Daruka he acts like she is an antelope and jumps up slamming his chest against her thigh. It’s very funny. He’s so tiny he couldn’t hurt her. She responds by gently boxing the top of his head and he braces to lock antlers.

3 responses to “Elections of Chiefs

  1. He used to come close to me to pee because he felt comfortable; he would back toward the tukul if he was far off. Maybe it was more a sign of comfort than disrespect.

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