Predicament Of Common National Identity In South Sudan

By Reath Maluth Deng,

May 06, 2017 (Nyamilepedia) —— Common national identity is the sense of a nation as a cohesive whole, represented by distinctive traditions, cultures, language and politics.  Its collective elements include national symbols, traditions, and memories of national experiences and achievements rooted in a nation’s history. With availability of various idiosyncratic diverse cultures and lack of incorporation course of action to create the one whole out of sundry; this very essential focus is in ethno-national conflicts in South Sudan. Considering such sagacity is overriding because it allows people to fit in with certain groups and cultures in a polity.

According to the defunct South Sudan Transitional Constitution, article 1(4); South Sudan is governed on the basis of a decentralized democratic system and is an all-embracing south-sudan-confederate-arrangementhomeland for its people. It is a multi-ethnic, multicultural, multilingual, multi-religious and multi-racial entity where such diversities peacefully co-exist. By such descriptions, unity in diversity has not been consistently applied to create a viable society that lives in a peaceful way of life centered on the definition. A nation is correctly elucidated by its national identity that stems unity of purpose in establishing the true image of national unity. “Nation and state are two opposite sides of the same coin.” As the state subsists, nation does.

South Sudanese unity before the breakaway from the Sudan has historically been fashioned in reactions to threats manoeuvred by successive Khartoum administrations, for instance, the marginalization, Arabization and Islamization patterns. That short-lived unity has been ostensibly like a proper national identity that would bring about, the sensible national unity. Immediately, after the country achieved her independence; it became difficult to concoct a common identity that unites the nation away from conflicting tribal allegiances employed by the elites in the ruling ring.  Because of the absence of North Sudan – the common enemy of South Sudanese; tribal loyalty had subjugated the socio-political arena in lieu of the nation. Thus, the deficit of common enemy or something to generally be pitted against has made it difficult to develop a strong nationwide identity. The bygone temporary common national unity forged in fighting the Northern aggressive regimes faded away, being bump into, using some deliberate anti-establishment tactics rummage-sale by the ruling cliques.

“To take along various diverse cultures that have distinct norms is only attainable in democratic environs according to the nature of the state; so as to construct a common national identity that aids in nurturing the proper unity by meaning, divergent to ethnic identity.” As posited, a comprehensive characterization of South Sudan as a nation may perhaps take its foundation in a practical and meaningful modus. This would have one at a time, with no qualm, comfortably promote the nation side by side along with the state, and service nation-state building at ease.

Nonetheless, the unprincipled assertion second handed by the infamous Jieng Council of Elders, that they merits full proprietorship of the country, had peak negative role in distorting the proper image of the nation. Having Dr. John Garang de Mabior as the first Chairman and the founder of SPLM/A, and president of Southern Sudan, succeeded by Salva Kiir after his tragic death, does not endorse the entitlement. The history and legacy of South Sudan as a country, is limited to its diverse ethnic groups being 64 tribes or added, to have collectively fought for the creation of this very state tracing back to the colonial period until today.  The question that would linger in someone’s mind is: were 98.8 percent that overwhelmingly voted in favor of separation in July 2011, in an internationally supervised referendum, to lawfully create the Republic of South Sudan, the Dinka (Jieng), as per the JCE claim?

In addition, the sentiment of delightedness brought about by the independence from the Sudan that rely only on South Sudan’s compact geographical makeup, a low-grade member of IGAD, African Union and indeed the United Nations, is not only absurd but also impractical in the context of nation.

2011 had caught the SPLM leaders spur-of-the-moment on the secession of South Sudan and thereafter, contracted nothing to present in the extent of nation-building dogma. That was why during the interim and transitional periods, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) has used the liberation struggle of 1983-2005, as the source of national unity which also has exclusionary paraphernalia with regard to the giant rich history before 1983 that was left unrecognized and the large portion of South Sudanese who were not SPLMers by political affiliation. This design, stood preparedly thinkable by the soi-disant misleaders whom opportune the state power.  To support such narrative, the commemoration of SPLM/A has been used as a unifying factor in reference to common identity. This was made possible on tenacity to SPLMized the nation substituting the desirable common national identity in question. Henceforth, from 2005 – 2013, being an SPLM member was accorded much respect than the existing South Sudanese identity.  This was calculatedly made on purpose to impose the devious guerrilla movement (SPLM/A) above the state and nation.

Furthermore, to venom the nation-building agenda, the SPLM culture of malpractices has been spread over the country to represent common national identity and replace “the true nationalism,” Pro tem; however, this is an apparition of a policy that has no sense of state subsistence.

On this perspective, this blistering experiment that had successfully nosedived the country and its people needs a careful sentry from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in opposition (SPLM-io) leadership. One may sometimes postulate that the presence of opposition forces across the country notably: in three greater regions of Upper Nile, Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal; particularly Western Bahr el Ghazal (Wau and Raga) devour connection with nation’s unity. In my view, South Sudanese opposed Juba based regime on ethnic dissimilar grievances. However, there seem to be no common political ground to shape the future image of our beloved country as a nation. These varying grievances ought to be collectively capitalized and inclined with care to form one exclusive national cohesive spitting image, prioritizing the main interest of all in bunch for latest version in re-defining South Sudan.

The federalism school of thought, theorized in April 2014 during Nasir Conference by the SPLM in opposition, as the unifying common ideology that is whispered to be the popular call across the country and the answer to nation’s problematic questions, will probably face practical challenges comes time, because it has not been imparted in a knowledge matter. It does only exist in constituent units’ structure, which is the form, not the meaning.  The only unifying factor honestly shared against Salva Kiir is that, “he is the common enemy.” Alike the undertone applied during the struggle against the Northern regimes before the birth of South Sudan. In future, what supervene after Salva Kiir is quiet unpredictable.

In did, the Nuer are fighting because of December 2013 extermination, Shilluk are pursing land rows with their neighboring Apadang Dinka, Fertit of Western Bahr el Ghazal are at war due to historical rivalry with the Dinka that hard-pressed for the split of Warrap from Western Bahr el Ghazal as a separate state in 1994, but did not fixed the ethnic feud. The marginalization of people of Western Bahr el Ghazal and occupation of Wau by Dinka persisted. At this juncture, Luo (Jur Chol) are repelling assimilation scheme whereas Equatoria region has a stretched account of land grabbing concerns and Dinka occupation of Juba, Yei, Nimule, Torit, Kapeota and some parts in Western Equatoria, and the list goes. On top of these, the massacres of Shilluk in 2010, Murle in 2012, Fertit on 20 – 21, December 2012, the Nuer in December 2013 and Equatorian in 2016 up to presence by Juba based regime stood as a conjoint shared grieves by the ethnic groups making up the SPLM in opposition. That is to say, the true caller is; a group defensive stratagem against the serial exterminator regime.  Consequently, with veneration and scrupulousness, we may not be unique in this fiasco unless a workable clear program is dogmatized to sway a viable nation-building discourse.

The known fact is that, the current leaders of the existing opposition forces were part and parcel of the Government of Southern Sudan that was captivated unprepared during the independence of this great nation in 2011. There is nothing peculiar to roughcast similar embarrassment when plans are not placed to deal with common national identity experiment. We may be excessively abstracted with the departure of Salva Kiir’s regime and only resort to retaining bush culture ( commemoration of the struggle) as the unifying factor similar to the situation of the SPLMers before and after the separation. An intense guiding doctrine in relevant to this precise topic defines, a clear way forwards for South Sudan that belongs to South Sudanese visa vise the men in command and their ethnic groups.

In summation, there is nothing erroneous with ethnic identity; nonetheless, it should remain merely within one’s tribal periphery. The history of national identity that bank on tribalism, regionalism, racism, commemoration of struggles and you name them, endured by most African nations; bear a duty to serve as an experience for South Sudan to be an honored nation. And would succor in transforming our diversities into a national pride, and be a proud member state in regional and international physiques.

On the other hand, the recent JCE’s secretive lobbying to reunite the two Sudans is an indicator of the exodus of Salva kiir from the helm of power in South Sudan.

The Author is reachable at reathdeng2015@gmail.com


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