National Geographic

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.



  1. Abdalla
    January 5, 2013, 9:45 am

    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…………….

  2. Abdalla
    January 5, 2013, 9:32 am

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

  3. Ryb
    January 4, 2013, 7:26 pm

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

  4. Wrestlingroots
    January 3, 2013, 5:31 am

    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.