Many of the tribes of the remote Omo Valley in Southwest Ethiopia live a peaceful and pastoral lifestyle. However, fear and superstition still exist in the valley. Some of the tribes believe evil spirits or a “curse” will bring ill fortune (drought, famine, disease and death) to their villages if Mingi children are not killed.
Because tribal elders believe Mingi children’s presence on the land curses the tribe, they have mandated the killing of all Mingi children. The practice was recently ended in the Kara tribe, due in large part to the efforts of Lale Labuko and OMO CHILD. Unfortunately, Mingi is still practiced by the Hamer tribe.
A child can be declared Mingi for the following reasons — Teeth Mingi, Girl Mingi, Woman Mingi and Twin Mingi. Being declared Mingi almost always means death of the child. The tribe will leave the child alone in the bush without food and water or will drown the child in the river.
One of our goals at Omo Child is to stop the tribal practice of Mingi. We believe that we can achieve this by providing education and humanitarian support to the rescued children and their tribes.
Babies born out of wedlock are labeled Mingi by tribal elders. Expensive dowries are required to marry which leaves many couples unable to afford marriage. Once their babies are born, they may be declared Mingi.
When couples are married but do not have their marriage or pregnancy approved, their babies could be declared Mingi.
The birth of twins is perceived as a curse and both babies may be declared Mingi.
Children that get their top teeth before their bottom teeth, or if they have chipped a baby tooth, may be declared Mingi by tribal elders.
We estimate at least 200-300 infants and children are killed every year due to the Mingi practice. Up until recently, three Omo Valley tribes practiced Mingi – the Kara, the Banna and the Hamer tribes. However, the Kara and Banna tribes have now committed to ending the practice. In fact, the efforts of Lale Labuko and OMO CHILD were instrumental in ending Mingi in Lale’s native Kara tribe last summer.
Unfortunately, the Hamer tribe, with an estimated population of 50,000 and more decentralized tribal governance, continues to practice Mingi. OMO CHILD continues talking to Hamer elders, mothers, young adults and government officials, educating and advocating for the end of Mingi.
Kara Tribe Ends Mingi
Lale Labuko was invited to attend the official Kara tribal ceremony in Dus village (deep in the Omo Valley), ending the practice of Mingi on July 14, 2012. There, Lale spoke with people in the tribes who have been directly affected by Mingi. They heard many heart-wrenching stories and saw first-hand the joy and relief that ending Mingi brought to the people of the Kara tribe.
This was indeed confirmation that the Kara tribal culture had changed and finally ended the long tradition of infanticide. OMO CHILD was also honored by the Ethiopian Government with a special certificate for its work with the Kara tribe, and helping to end the practice of Mingi.