Kewa - Sociopolitical Organization

The Kewa area is divided into census divisions. Certain parish districts are identified for the census. The same groups elect village leaders, one of whom, as councillor, represents the people to the Local Government Council. The council attempts to set and collect taxes, to assume some responsibility for roads, aid posts, health centers, and schools, to give agricultural assistance, and the like. Provincial and national representatives are elected on the basis of population distribution to the local assembly and the national parliament.

Social Organization. A clan or ruru includes any patriarchai lineages of more than two generations. Subclans with sufficient population suffix the form -repaa to the name of the progenitor. Clans reside in a parish, which includes all of the persons associated with a particular tract of land. In time of war or large ceremonies, clan alliances are common.

Political Organization. Traditionally, the big-men were responsible for their clan groups. They become prominent through competition in exchange ceremonies, warfare, and the possession of goods, including wives. Each clan has at least one big-man who is expected to represent the clan. There is no broad-based concept of tribal or group leadership that extends beyond the parish, although influential men are known over a wide area by virtue of their trade relationships and fighting alliances. Both the government and the churches have their appointed big-men.

Social Control. Traditionally, large peace feasts were held, where gifts of pork were presented. Important men, who were rich by virtue of the pigs and pearl shells that they owned and the number of their wives, would distribute wealth to foster alliances and relationships throughout their areas. Local Village magistrates serve the government and arbitrate lesser cases but anything that cannot be settled or that is considered major is referred to the government court. Courts are located at the provincial, district, or subdistrict headquarters: Mendi, Kagua, Ialibu, or Erave. Severe matters, such as murder, are dealt with by supreme court judges on their tours through the highlands.

Conflict. Most fighting was due to "payback," which could always be traced back to a couple of brothers who fought and then separated. It was always important to keep the number of deaths the same on the two sides, otherwise a further payback would be imminent. This is still the case. Other conflicts are domestic and settled within the clans and parishes. In the case of tribal warfare the district police are called in to maintain law and order. For local disputes the village magistrate is the first court of appeal. Most conflict is resolved only by prolonged negotiation and compensation. Suicide is not uncommon.

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