Southern Sudan II
Curse of the AK-47, March 2006
Mundari warriors, a tribe of nomadic cattle herders perform the daily dawn-to-dusk journey, from their open-air camps to pasture and back again with their cows; a journey unchanged for millennia across the red soil and scrub of their homeland in the vast expanses of southern Sudan. Unchanged, that is, except for one item. Strung across the shoulders of each cow keeper is what the Mundari call a “Perik”.
This is a weathered and worn AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle and it gets its Mundari name from the sound it makes when it looses off its lethal rounds at a rate of four bullets per second. It is a sound that has become all too familiar to the Mundari. Until a fragile peace was declared, the region was the battlefield for a 23-year civil war, which claimed two million lives. One of the herdsmen, Malual, said: “We need the Perik to protect our cows. We used to have spears and axes. But our lives have been changed by war – you must have a gun or else you will be robbed of your animals and killed like a dog. We have no choice. We must carry them.”