Oct 14 2008
The beauty pageant answer; the cliche along with rocket science and brain surgery. World Peace. Give Peace a chance. Marches and diplomats; the glib and holy grail. The fine ambitious scent of ambassador’s parties and the scandals of diplomacy. Presidents smile whitely as Arafat and Rabin shake hands.
It’s not like that on the ground. Jody sleeps under a mosquito net and has never been on television, as far as I know. It’s a maddeningly hot, humid night in the ever-sweltering lowlands of Gambella. Tomorrow morning Jody will get up and walk along mud streets to the little three-room PACT office. Gambella has a history of tribal conflict, and…
How to describe a place I don’t understand myself? She drew a little chart for me once, all of the ethnic groups and sub-groups here, all of the shifting and diffuse allegiances. Sometimes you can tell a Nuer from an Anuak by the facial scars — three thin lines across the brow for Nuers, traditionally — but often not. But it’s a small town, right? Everyone knows everyone else, or at least their families. Everyone’s on some side of some line. Or lines. To be neutral is to be without identity.
Jody’s job is “peace building.” She works for an international NGO called PACT. Check the old news on Gambella, what you can find of it — it would have been utterly buried before Google, I’m sure. In January 2004 there was a massacre, said to be Anuaks killing Nuers. The Anuaks in question were maybe retaliating against previous killings by government peacemaking troops. That in turn was retaliation against the killing of eight highlander (government) personnel in a land rover a few months prior. Maybe. I don’t know exactly what happened. Nobody knows exactly what happened. There aren’t any newspapers in Gambella, and not many people could read them if there were. So it’s all heresay, and it all depends who you ask. Two hundred people were killed. Maybe raped.