Several tribes in this area are fighting heavily over cattle, so now the chiefs must get together to try and work things out. This is part of their tradition and culture since anyone can remember. So many things are intertwined with the stealing of another tribe's cattle that it’s hard to imagine it ever changing- although over time and with greater development and access to education I hope that it can.
Cattle here is the source of wealth, only more important because it determines who you can marry. Each woman is given a dowry of a certain number of cattle when she is married and the number of cattle that she is worth depends on many factors. Marrying off your daughter is a way of gaining wealth for your family. This means that the women don’t have much choice in who they marry- it depends on the man who can provide the largest dowry regardless of what the woman wants. Because of being a source of wealth daughters are treated as precious and are second in importance only to the cattle. The way a local told me, the household is ranked- first in importance is the man, then the cattle, then the wife- because she will bring you the children to get more cattle, then the daughter- because she will bring more cattle when she is married, and last the son who is only there to protect his sisters but has no real means to bring more wealth into the family (unless he steals some cattle of course).
During the war in
But at least we are speaking about peace, even if it only a short term fix to the problem of cattle rustling. The chiefs in the area come together to discuss how many cattle were raided from each side and what the way forward is from here. The Toposa chiefs come with their own mobile chairs that they carry with them at all times. The arrangement of seating is based on hierarchy with the elders also playing an important role in the discussions. Arguments arise on both sides, but hopefully through dialogue stolen cattle will be returned and an agreement not to steal each other’s cattle will be reached. As you can see, there were no women at this meeting as this kind of role is seen as “men’s talk”. I’m encouraging them to send some female representatives, but changing that role will not happen overnight… Sadly the women are all out doing all the work- collecting the water, the firewood, preparing the food, taking care of the children, etc…