Lack of unity is South Sudan's most profound crisis, one that underlies the
country's economic and political woes. It will take a long time and
sustained efforts to build one nation with common values.
South Sudan was conceived on the myth that we are one people with one common
destiny. We are now discovering that regional and tribal differences are not
dissolving and that South Sudanese think and act very differently from one
The simple fact is that people who are raised thinking of their
tribe/nationality as Pojulu, Dinka, Shuluk, Zande, Bari, Murle, Nuer, or
what have you will probably always think of themselves in that way. It may
take several generations for the concept of being Pojulu, Dinka, Shuluk,
Zande, Bari, Murle, Nuer, or what have you to become the equivalent of being
a New Yorker or Californian to an American, and those generations will be
longer than generations were in the USA in the 1800s.
It is very important that we highlight the possible challenges and the
inconsolable pains to face South Sudan beyond the passionate emotions for
independence and try to stimulate the start of thinking rationally for all
our future's sakes. Our new country will face many challenges, despite
simplistic categorizations of our war of independence as being between
Africans and Arabs/Christians versus Muslims. South Sudanese are not a
unified group; this is a profoundly and proudly multi-ethnic, multi-racial
and multi-religious lot/land.
Any sense of a common national identity that does exist was forged in the
struggle against the Mundukuru (north Sudan), something that we are all
acutely aware of.
The point is that South Sudanese must ask themselves if a 'South Sudan
Nation' is, in fact, truly what they want. A true nation of South Sudanese
will require the majority of its citizens to share common values, common
ideals, common mores and most likely a common language. If these do not
exist naturally, they must be cultivated and that leads to some very
difficult ground for debate and discussion (and the potential for many, many
problems). As part of this, South Sudanese must ask themselves why they want
a nation. Is it to compete economically with the Mundukuru (north Sudan),
East Africa and other large population economies (a really bad reason to
build a nation)? To prevent any possibility of another grand South Sudanese
civil war (South Sudan imploding)? Or why?
This lack of unity is South Sudan's most profound crisis, one that underlies
the country's economic and political woes. Most South Sudanese have little
idea what the country stands for, what binds its people together, where it
has come from in the past and where it is going to in the future. After
decades of war and a hefty (and still growing) death toll, we have succeeded
in attaining independence without gaining a nation.
Yes, but what is a South Sudanese?
Values matter because they are the glue that binds countries and peoples
together. They help define what a society stands for and against. There is
no consensus within South Sudan or among South Sudanese, not even the
beginning of a consensus, about what South Sudanese values are.
Diversity does not equal tolerance and the existence of differences does not
mean acceptance of them. A fact that has come glaringly to the fore as South
Sudan has slipped deeper into crisis and relationships have strained among
its people and tribes.
The relationship between peasant communities and pastoralists with shared
livelihoods need to be effectively managed or else violence is the natural
outcome of mismanagement.
One can of course have multiple identities. Some Europeans are Catalan and
Spanish, as well as European. But identities cannot be artificially created;
they are forged early on and never go away. We must construct common
institutions, laws and create all the symbols of a nation-state. Prosperity
for a war-torn country, freedom from tyranny and peace among our people and
tribes after decades if not centuries of bloodletting should be some of the
ideals we should aspire too.
This is not to say that a united South Sudan will never happen, but it must
be understood that it will be a long, slow process and will likely be longer
and slower than the process was in the US for example, due to a longer
legacy of conflict between our tribes and people and of all things longer
life-spans of those generations today that think of themselves as coming
from specific tribes rather than being South Sudanese.
Over the long term though, people need the solace and sense of community and
shared culture, history and custom that nationhood provides.
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Received on Fri Feb 10 2012 - 17:22:31 EST