THE ACTIVITIES of the Yuri Alaiku Kuikane Association are aimed at reconciling, reuniting, rebuilding and restoring the Yuri tribe in Papua New Guinea’s highlands. These are the 4Rs.
All Yuris are members of YAKA, which exists as a vehicle to promote 4Rs and other socio-economic and political developments for the common good of members.
YAKA is run by an executive team comprising a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer with a number of board members.
A prerequisite for achieving the 4Rs is the commitment and creativity of executives and board in engaging with tribal communities.
The Yuri people have been known for their notorious inter-tribal and clan warfare. The destruction from tribal wars as well as the rugged terrain isolated the Yuri from the basic services enjoyed by other communities.
As a result, for almost four decades, many Yuri people left their tribal land in search of a better life. These people are now referred to as ‘Yuris of the diaspora’.
YAKA does not provide all the answers for the people’s miseries. It understands that, through participation, people will learn to value their lives and improve relationships with others.
A major challenge for YAKA is that not all Yuri people embrace its ideals. There are some who disparage it and use their knowledge and wealth to promote parochial clan interests. These people lack foresight and a true understanding of the benefits of community mobilisation.
Members of YAKA have a deep conviction and are not going to be deterred. They will stand tall like Mt Digine with a vision and mission as crystal clear as the rivers Mon and Maril.
YAKA is turning four at the end of this year and members will meet at Iri-maule village to celebrate.
This is the time of the year when people living along the gorges and valleys of the rivers Mon and Maril and on the ridges of Pildimna, Dia, Yoya, Dekawi, Pui-yawi, Mol-gime and Ol-dale come together to sing tribal anthem.
It is also a time to celebrate and reflect on the commitment of every Yuri to the cause of 4Rs - arresting social problems that could trigger inter-clan warfare and condemning illegal alcohol brewing, sorcery accusations and torture.
The people enjoy travelling in cars on roads they built with their own hands and take pride in a new community resource centre, built at a cost of more than K45,000.
So YAKA represents the Yuri dreams and ideals of the past, present and future. This is evident in the wisdom inherent in the kui-kane (renewed) citizens of Yuri who show a greater responsibility and commitment to live for the 4Rs and pass a legacy to children and grandchildren.
This call compels the unity of Yuri people across space and time and cultures. It is a call from Alaimbia, the founder, from whom Yuri heritage is passed on. YAKA pays homage to Alaimbia.
YAKA initiates workshops, tribal youth camps, inter-church gathering and worship and cultural shows to promote the 4Rs. In doing so, we appreciate the support of the Community Development Agency and Oxfam for extending assistance to the people.
‘’I live at home because of my clan,” a man expressed at a recent meeting. “The unity of clan during good and bad times is important. My clan has been humiliated by other clans and the pressure to take revenge is immense. However, our commitment to YAKA takes precedent over destructive habits.”
This is the attitude we are seeking to engender.
At this same meeting, everyone shared similar sentiments. This was evident in the way they responded to a tragic car accident on the first Saturday of this month.
The Beri-gale and Ela-kane clans of Yuri had gathered at Iri-maule to host a bride-price ceremony. In Yuri bride-price ceremonies is a time where joy and publicly expressed through exchange of money, food, pigs, cuscuses, cassowaries, goats and other material gifts.
The material gifts from the groom are symbolic of his family’s appreciation for raising the bride and the speeches are to support and strengthen relationship between the bridegroom’s clan and encourage bride and groom to start a strong family and nourish it with tribal and modern values.
Tribal people who could afford beer drank on Friday afternoon and continued until Saturday, the day the bride-price ceremony took place.
Among the drunkards was the driver of a car that ran off the road that killed two people and injured many more.
The driver’s drunkenness seemed to disappear at the time of the accident and he attempted to take cover. His attempt failed and he found himself in the hands of relatives of the dead and injured.
They were surrounded by the dying and the injured, there was much blood, and these relatives were going to decide the driver’s life.
The Beri-gale and Wamil-gama clansmen could not accept the injury of their members by an Ela-kane man under the influence of liquor. According to an eyewitness account, the family members of those who received serious injuries held bush knives, axes and stones and were ready to murder the driver.
People fled the scene fearing revenge and it was a difficult moment for the Yuri people, who are known for taking to the battlefield for even minor disputes or incidents.
Now many people were injured and two men were dead. This was a dramatic test of the Beri-gale, Wamil-gauma and Ela-kane’s unity and commitment to YAKA and the 4Rs.
According to clan members, the men who had armed themselves to take revenge waited for their leaders to declare revenge. But the leaders of the Beri-gale and Wamil-gauma clans decided against revenge. They handed the drunken driver to his clan members and asked them to hand him to police.
They then pooled resources to take the dead and injured to Sir Joseph Nombri Memorial Hospital in Kundiawa. The nearby health centres of Gomgale and Dirima were closed due to lack of government funding.
The scene of the accident was many kilometres from Kundiawa and the injured were carried on stretchers for five kilometres to link up with an ambulance.
YAKA called a meeting last Saturday in Kundiawa, a week after the accident, to seek views from the clans involved and to thank them for dealing with the accident in a peaceful way.
The Wamil-gauma spokesmen representing the family of the deceased told the meeting that they respected YAKA and its ideals. They asked the Ela-kane clan to hand the driver to the police and said the law should take its course. The Beri-gale clan shared the same sentiment.
After the meeting, members of the Beri-Ela and Wamil gauma clans hugged and shed tears to express their sorrow and continuing relationship and unity.
YAKA will continue to initiate activities to unite Yuris and use this case as a learning curve in its educational and awareness programs.