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The Death of Komorakora

Komorakora, who died on 21 January 2012, was the komoru (politico-ritual leader) of the northern Mursi for most of the last fifty years.
The Death of Komorakora

Komorakora in 2004, wearing the 'gal' necklace which symbolises his priestly office (Ben Dome)

A member of the Benna age set, his family name was Konyonomora and his personal name Ulikoro. He became Komoru unexpectedly and at a relatively young age in the early 1960s, following the death of his older brother, Ulibala (Komorabala). But although initially unprepared for the office, the calm and measured way in which he responded to a succession of crises, which began soon after his installation, gained him the respect and support of the community.

It happened that his period as Komoru was also a period during which three successive Ethiopian governments made concerted efforts to extend their political control over the Lower Omo Valley, an area which had been only nominally incorporated into the Ethiopian state at the end of the nineteenth century. The creation of the Omo National Park in 1966, soon after his installation, represented the most significant incursion of state power into the Lower Omo since the military campaigns of the Emperor Menelik II in the 1890s. The Omo and later the Mago National Park (established in 1975) permanently deprived the Mursi and their neighbours of valuable pastoral, agricultural and hunting resources and made their subsistence economies more vulnerable to drought and famine. In the early 1970s three years of poor rainfall led to a period of hunger in which death by starvation occurred in Mursiland for the first time in living memory. At the end of the decade, Komorakora led a successful migration of Mursi to higher, better watered land in the Mago Valley where a large population subsequently settled and a protestant missionary organisation, SIM, established a clinic (in 1987) and later a school.

The extension of state power into the southwest accelerated under the system of ethnic federalism introduced by the EPRDF in 1995. The increasingly beleaguered position which the Mursi now saw themselves occupying was summed up as follows by Komorakora in a public meeting at Gorobura in 2001.

Ba te nguchui

Our land has shrunk.

Ko huli nyu bwe eleheni ninge

If we wanted to run, there would be nowhere for us to go.

Ba tanunu lom kuchumba kip!

On that side, the land is full of kuchumba [highlanders]

Tana lo kuchumba kip!

On this side the land is full of kuchumba.

Na age kel bwe tini gure ko nganga.

All we are left with is this tiny bit of land here.

Koi ori?

Where shall we go?

He lived long enough to see the beginnings of the final stage in this process of state incorporation and land alienation. Under plans now being implemented by the government, in conjunction with the Ethiopian Sugar Corporation, the Mursi will be expected to give up their land and herds, move into resettlement villages, take up sedentary irrigated agriculture and work as wage labourers on commercial sugar cane plantations.

Komorakora died in the SIM clinic at Makki, in the Mago Valley, on 22 January 2012. He was buried at Kolai in the Elma Valley and nineteen oxen were sacrificed at his funeral. His successor, Ulijeholi Konyonomora (Komorajehola), a member of the Geleba age set, was installed shortly afterwards by popular consent.

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