Wrestling for Peace in South Sudan


When the Republic of South Sudan broke away from its northern namesake in 2011 to become the world’s newest country after a lengthy and brutal civil war, southerners gained control of a vast territory rich in oil, forests, wildlife – and tribal discord. Over the last year and half of independence, South Sudan has seen severe outbreaks of tribal violence that have left thousands dead.

My friend Matthew LeRiche, whom I first met on a Nile River barge while writing my book The Black Nile, has spent the last decade criss-crossing South Sudan to research its 50-year struggle for freedom. LeRiche follows warfare, humanitarianism, and how opposing communities can find their way out of conflict. In this slideshow LeRiche, a fellow at the London School of Economics and co-author of South Sudan: From Revolution to Independence, narrates a series of photos by photojournalist Ally Ngethi, on a government program that uses traditional wrestling matches as a way of bringing together communities with histories of armed conflict. LeRiche writes:

“The event, in September 2012, was called ’Wrestling for Peace and Unity,’ and featured matches by two rival tribal groups, the Bor-Dinka and the Mundari. This was the first of a series of events planned in South Sudan with a focus on using the sport of wrestling to build relations between communities. Wrestling is popular among most tribal groups in South Sudan, and these matches have a long history as a customary method of resolving conflict.  The goal is to use this sport to provide a space in which to build peace. It’s also a good business opportunity, considering how popular wrestling is.


Dan Morrison is a contributor to National Geographic Voices. From 2007 to 2012 he reported for National Geographic News from South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, filing dispatches on climate change, conflict, the environment, and antiquities. Dan is author of The Black Nile , a nonfiction account of his 3,600-mile journey down the length of the White Nile through Uganda, Sudan, and Egypt. The Daily Beast called The Black Nile "a masterful narrative of investigative reportage, travel writing, and contemporary history," and The Village Voice named it one of the Ten Best of 2010. Dan was a 2013 United Nations Foundation Global Health Fellow. Currently at work on a book about the Ganges River, Dan also contributes to the New York Times, POLITICO Magazine, Slate, The Arabist Network and the Dhaka Tribune. To contact Dan please see his website.
  • Wrestlingroots

    Thank you very much for this photo essay. We too have been trying to record many of the traditional forms of wrestling across the globe. Your photos are stunning.


  • Ryb

    A perfect story about s sudan. Struggle wrestling for freedom a genetic instinct

  • Abdalla

    Nice culutral photos.
    but as for thier struggle for freedom…..??? i hope you are getting the news….

  • Abdalla

    Nice culutral photos.
    but as for thier struggle for freedom…..??? i hope you are getting the news….
    reversed emigration.
    talks to export oil .
    Silva meets Bashir.
    South needs North.
    North cannot live without south.
    America & the west dumped the South.
    whats wrong with you guys
    we can also read between lines…………….

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