And the Girl's Family Took Your Uncle?

Tukols (traditional huts) in Dolieb, a village south of Malakal

‘I had very much on my mind yesterday.’

‘Oh?’ I said. I was busy and I did not looked up from the computer screen.

‘Yes,’ said the Finance Officer. ‘My uncle was taken yesterday.’

‘Taken like kidnapped?’

‘Yes, he was taken by the parents of the girl I am going to marry,’ he said.

I looked up from the computer screen.

‘How’s that now?’ I said.

‘I am in a competition for her,’ he explained. ‘There are three of us. One lives in Australia or UK or America. The other is a student. And there is me. The parents do not like me but the girl she likes me and she wants to marry me.’

‘This is back in your village?’


I closed my computer screen.

‘We are now seeing who has the most cows to pay. The parents like the one from Australia. They were going to pick him. So I called my friends in the village and they stole the girl away.’

‘Your friends kidnapped the girl?’

He smiled.


‘And then the girl’s family took your uncle?’


‘And now?’

‘Yesterday there was a negotiation. They gave back my uncle and my friends gave back the girl,’ he said. ‘Now the parents will consider my cows for their daughter. They know if they do something I will have my friends steal the girl again.’

‘Couldn’t this start trouble if you keep stealing the girl from her parents?’

He was still smiling and he did not answer.

‘Now the one from Australia or wherever has 15 cows and 70,000 pounds. I have called my family - I have family in other countries. You know the whole family has to give cows or money for the marriage. Now I have 30 cows or 40 may-it-be but I don’t have as much money. When we have offered all that we can, the parents will make the decision.’

‘But you will steal the girl again if they don’t pick you.’

‘Yes,’ he said.

‘It seems you have an advantage.’

He did not understand me. He thought I was speaking of the bride prices being offered.

‘We care more about cows and I have more. But now, you know, people want money because they go to town to buy things. So we shall see.’

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