By Abdulkareem Haruna
In South Sudan, there exists a tribe called the Mundari. They are peculiar because of their known emotional attachment to their cows.
The Mundaris are nomads who still live their lives almost in their organic state of being. Just like the Fulanis of Nigeria, the Mundaris are known only for cattle breeding.
This friendship between a Mundari man and his cow is linked to selfish economic interest and male pride.
Having tens and hundreds of herds means being able to live above the poverty line. In the Mundari tribe when marriage is conducted several cows are given out as the asking price for a bride depends on whether the man is ready to enrich his inlaws or not. When families deliver a baby girl, she is seen as a source of wealth to her family.
The cow and its number represent the manhood of the owner, as such, they don’t toy or mess around with cows. The Mundari herds were always armed with weapons like spears, arrows and knives. These weapons are not meant for self-protection but for protecting their cow. They are ready to shed blood or kill for the sake of their cows. In modern days spears and knives are now replaced by automatic rifles.
A CNN photographer Tariq Zaida who was amazed by the kind of love existing between a Mundari man and his herd of cows once wrote that “their guns are not to kill anyone but to protect their herd”.
But Jn just like the Fulani herders of Nigeria the access to firearms has over the years turned them into a violent tribe known for persistent fights and rancour – and that gradually constituted an existential threat to the Mundari tribe. Yet to the female Mundari, the fights and acts of bravery shown by a young male over their cows attract more than being physically handsome
The most spectacular aspect of the cow love story of the Mundari is their use of cow urine to wash their face and body in the belief that it serves as an antiseptic, while the ammonia from the urine is used in dyeing their hair for beauty.
The Mundari man goes further to demonstrate how valuable a cow is by burning the cow dung until the ash becomes orange coloured then using its powder as face makeup or sunscreen to protect their body from the heat of the sun while herding their cows.
The Mundaris are farmers and pastoralists. And the latter way of life brings them both happiness and sorrow. The major causes of their communal clash are their cows.