Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 21 November 2019

Identity issue in South Sudan



By Kim Gai Ruot

One Nation is defined as people with one ethnicity, language and common origin. South Sudanese do not have common descent, language and ethnicity. We became one people by colonial making and not a creation. The original position of consent is an amalgam of ethnicity and descend. Original consent is always happening tacitly through cultural intuition of one people. As such we are indeed different peoples and different nations. We were united as one people by a post-colonial political geographical location. The geographical location has never been an identity. Being South Sudanese is not an identity as we use to think. South Sudanism is not identity by itself rather than a direction of geography. Always political structure and direction are not enough to make different people one or to be one nation. For one to think reasonably or rationally, one has to ask who are we before colonial powers came into Sudan in the 18th century? Before Turkish came to what was known as Bilat El-Suud or Sudan, we were indeed living as separate independent nationalities each with its own social-political structure. Each nation before 1821 was ruling itself as a nation.

Why did we become nationalities?
Humans are nations and identities that applied to us as well. We became nationalities by creating something a politics cannot remove away from us. Talking against tribalism or nationalism cannot take it away rather it will be unthoughtful speeches. Benedict Anderson defined the nation as imagined communities in which members are loyal to themselves even if they do not know each other faces. An example is a 2013 incident in which Nuer’s white army responded to rescue people they do not know their faces but simply because they were Nuer.

We became South Sudanese by a process which was known as Sudanization by Turkish in 1821 and Egyptian-British in 1899-1956. These stages of social-political restructuring of native people into a new society made them Sudanized politically. That had reshaped people’s way of thinking about themselves. This way of thinking led to the wrong formation of a state by intellectuals of the colonial state in both Sudan and South Sudan simultaneously. Different nations thought of themselves as one nation because of colonial teaching or Terbia El Wathonie or national education and discipline by colonized intellectuals generations. With the same assumption, Arabs were Arabized Sudan, ignoring different nationalities that’s why the problem of Sudan repeated itself in South Sudan. Sudan went civil war before independent for one year while South Sudan went to civil war after two years of independent. Many African post-colonial states never think well in that direction. So, there is a need to exit the colonial cycle of thinking about the state.

The question will be why South Sudan separated from Sudan? The answer is one national imposition to other nations in the state. That means the problem of Sudan is a crisis of the state’s formation where Arabs national imposed themselves on others. Right now, we have faced the same identity’s crisis and one ethnic-national imposition as it was in Sudan. Without a special view on this issue of identity imposition in South Sudan, our Country will early disintegrate in the near future. What I mean here is that if one nation in South Sudan imposed itself on others that will be dangerous for the state’s unity. One ethnic-national like imposed itself for example like Nuer, Shilluk or Dinka that can be risky to unity. National uniqueness is always inevitable and every nation is proud to be themselves. I mean those we calling tribes now are nations by themselves. The political process by colonial powers made them think of themselves as inferior and one people presumingly.

Then, why did we became one political identity? The answer is because of colonial powers.

Look at these chain of reasoning

1. If we are one nation and one people why do we need an official language like English? The reason why we adopted the English language as an official is to create a sense of unity or to understand each other because we are not from one descend or one nation. One people from one national always spoke one language. By choosing the English language we are trying to create a sense of nationhood.
2. If we are one people why did we rejected six languages selected to be official languages in South Sudan? They were rejected because each national wants to see its language.
3. Racism Issue-small nationalities versus majority. If we are one people as many people assumed why do we have discriminate small nationalities in South Sudan. There should have no problem with such issues. One people do not discriminate themselves.
4. Dialogue. One people do not have dialogue they are already one. Example of dialogue is a religious dialogue because always dialogue is done for two different groups of beliefs or historical. Our National Dialogue is just a recognition of our national differences.
5. Land dispute, why do we have land dispute if we are one people. One nation one people always do not fight over land because their boundaries are unified. Our issue should have been a dispute between us and other Country’s Boundaries.

With these chain of reasoning above one can ask what are the factors that united us?

These are the factors that unite us:
1. We are united by post-colonial political geographical location.
2. We were united by war with foreign invaders (Nationalism)

What are things that do not unite us?

1. Ethnicity
2. Language
3. Land
4. Descend
5. stories
6. Myth and narratives
7. History
You can see the factors that separate us are many than factors of uniting us. That means you have two choices either to continue the colonial concept of state or accommodate the native concept of the state.

Reviewed the right use of terms

From the word nation comes the word National and therefore came the word nationalism. Using nationalism for South Sudan is wrong because South Sudan is not a nation. South Sudan is a state consisted of nations that were forced to live together by colonial powers. Nationalism means loyalty and fidelity to one owns nation. In South Sudan, we called Nationals (tribes) that’s very primitive use of concept about people of South Sudan. It is also an insult to our people when you are calling a nation a tribe.
The word tribe here does not apply to South Sudanese because we are nationalities, not tribes. We are nations within the state of South Sudan as Scottish or English are within the state of Great Britain.

What’s the solution?
The solution to South Sudan’s crisis is union or separation of those who want themselves together by themselves. To avoid this problem of Sudan and South Sudan to happen again in South Sudan, we have to consider these points.
1. We have to accept first that we are not one nation but nationalities, recognizing this will lead to a right definition of ourselves at the constitutional conference.
2. Recognition of nationalities in South Sudan will lead to a solution to the issue of identity.
3. We will be able to know what type of governance to best suit with our diversity of nations.

Cases and Examples

To create a stable state one has to look at similar examples of states that are related to us. The best way to rule different nations in the same state is the union.
Example of nations in the same state that ruling themselves through the Union is united Kingdoms of Great Britain. The first thing they did in 1706 for them to live in unity was a development of article of Union in which they derived their laws and rules in which they rule themselves. The second example is the United States, the first thing Fathers of the United States did was to developed Federalist paper which was indeed an article of Union before to write the constitution of the United States. United States’ constitution is a brief paper derived from Federalist paper.

South Sudan by nature is similar to the UK and US. We are a combination of nations. To create a stable state in South Sudan. We need to calm our nerves to think realistically. We to define ourselves and to find our who are we first before writing any constitution or fight each other. We need to develop an article of Union between nations of South Sudan to create consent. Forming a state is not a joke but it requires a serious thinker.

We need to look at the cases similar to our situation. The hypocrisy that we are one nation one people will not help us out of the situation. We are one people in speeches and tribal at home in the evening.
Lack of recognition of this reality will divide us more than to unite us.

A union is the best solution

Let’s call constitutional conference because Resolution of South Sudan crisis is not a resolution of South Sudan’s crisis a resolution of South Sudan’s political elites.

People must agree on the creation of a state, then we should form a union and define the system of governance, which in our case the majority are calling for a federation. Once in principle we accepted the idea of a United state, we must convene a national founding conference to bless the principles we agreed upon looking back to the history of our relations with the north to correct the past mistakes.

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