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Ngundeng Bong, the most famous of the Nuer prophets, lived between c.1830 and 1906. His father, Bong Can, was a kuar muon ('earth-master' or 'leopard-skin chief'), originally from the Bul Nuer in the west of the Nuer area, who came to live among the Gaajok in the east, near the Ethiopian border. His mother, Nyayiel, was from the Lou Nuer. Ngundeng was initiated into the Thut age-set…

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Why is the Horn so peculiarly violent? Why is it not a normal part of Africa, like East Africa or anywhere else? To put it bluntly, what is wrong with it? In raising this question, I am very much aware that all of independent Africa has had its problems, and that East Africa–especially Uganda–has certainly not been spared. But these problems have proved relatively manageable, compared with…

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Congolese colonial subjects have vivid memories of the grotesque and spectacular violence inflicted upon them by Europeans during Leopold’s reign of the Congo Free State: ‘Soldiers made young men kill or rape their own mother and sisters.’ Witnesses of events in 1953 mention sentries ‘amusing themselves while pounding the insides of women’s vaginas with sticks.’ These colonial forms of sexual…

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Michael Woldemariam and Terrence Lyons discuss the history and future of Eritrea on the 2014 Horn of Africa Course.

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The people of Lakes State, in South Sudan–the majority Agar Dinka in particular–have the reputation among some other South Sudanese of being hot-blooded and short-tempered, a wild card in the wider Dinka confederation that constitutes South Sudan’s largest ethnolinguistic group. The Agar have been the subject of a number of anthropological and archaeological studies, but, until now, no book-…

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At the beginning of term two students turned out to be pregnant. One was a sponsored student of ours. She wouldn't tell me, though it was obvious. Later she wrote me a letter admitting it. Sister P. was the one who had asked us to sponsor her. 'She has a brain,' Sister P. said, 'and her father said there was no point in sponsoring girls. He said it was better to marry them off early and not…

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The subject of the Comprehension test in the school certificate exam this year was cattle-raiding. Cattle-raiding is a specialty round here, so it was much easier for the students than last year’s test, when the subject was the fifth and seventh Pan-African Congress. A Ministry of Education directive apparently says that no students should be present in the school at the time of the school…

Last month I drove some 1,200km around the country of the Toposa and the Nyangatom, cattle pastoralists who live in the lands north and east of Kapoeta, in Eastern Equatoria, in one of the most remote parts of the most remote of South Sudan’s ten provinces. I was travelling with George Echom, the state MP for Lotimor, whom I have known since the days of the 1983-2005 war. The aim of our trip…

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I’m back in Isoke, and writing in the dark. It’s been fifteen months since I was last here. I flew this time, from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Torit, in Eastern Equatoria. From Torit I took the road up through the hills back to the village. Surprisingly, despite the altitude, it is hotter in Isoke than Torit or Juba. It hasn’t rained here yet, but tonight there was a big dust storm.…

In the course of 2015, recruitment for certain factions of the Raia Mutomboki armed group intensified in the area of Bunyakiri, located in Kalehe territory in the province of South Kivu (Democratic Republic of the Congo). In this blog, Lebon Mulimbi suggests that the reasons for this recent upsurge in recruitment are primarily to be found in the current political context shaped by the upcoming…