The Conundrum of National Identity and Ethnicity in South Sudan

Posted: October 1, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

By Madol Chien Achieny, Juba, South Sudan

Monday, October 01, 2018 (PW) — Nationals-liens alike wonder and keep speculating on what has befallen a country that was once described by many of its own people and leaders in different ways at different times as Promised Land and with one destiny- one people, one nation. But with the beginning of independence, the oneness in people and destiny has fragmented along ethnicity and greed for power and wealth. The custodians and guardians of national identity turned vultures against it and parceled it out in exchange of power that only serves their kinsmen instead of in-group.

But first let’s look at what national identity means. “It is a sense of nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, language, and politics,” WIKIPEDIA. Political scientist Rupert Emerson defined national identity as “a body of people who feel that they are a nation.”

From the two definitions above, what constitutes to a national identity is the awareness of self to identify with a nation and its different ethnicity and to altruistically do good for them even when you may not know them in persons. Recently, national identity lost its meaning in the hands and watch of the very people who fought to unmask it from the Arabs who marginalized South Sudanese and deprived them of what rightly belonged to them in their national identity. Having betrayed the cause in which many of their colleagues perished along the ways, they turned to be the squanderers and perpetuators of, what has triggered the Sudan civil war which was long later rewarded with CPA and subsequently the referendum that splintered the Sudan, national identity.

Arms struggled ensued against the government as some of the liberators who felt isolated and curtailed out from the influence, decision making and liberation dividends rebelled to maneuver and negotiate their ways back to the government.  This time not by the diverse south Sudanese but by few politicians who manipulated sympathy of ethnicity to mobilize support from one’s tribe. The Nuers formed white army, the Zande’s SSNMC/A, the Dinka’s SSUF/A and many more other tribe- based militias in different regions of the country. These are the epitomes of a lost national identity. When one feels more secured in being a Lotuko, Shilluk or Kakwa than being a South Sudanese.

The loss of national identity is the exact reflection of what the country is undergoing today. If other tribes are isolated and discriminated by others, for instance, a Nuer or Dinka cannot rent a house of a Bari in juba, NGOs jobs are competitive on ethnic qualification, Makuei feels more a South Sudanese than Ojok. When streets lights could not work because the solar panels were plugged out by thieves who could be nationals, when Aid workers in Maban were endangered and their cars burnt by the very people whom they are helping.

Few days ago, Hon. Moses Hassan was relieved as minister for trade and commerce, instead of people of Yirol, where he hails, condemning or least receiving presidential decree relieving him with anger; they celebrated it on grounds that Hassan did not corrupt the ministry for people of Yirol. He did not employ his relathieves which many people called relatives. He locked up corruption hands to access public financial coffers.  It is the lost of national identity that looks at public office as an opportunity for a family, clan or tribe welfare in terms of money or any form of windfall. It is the lost of national identity that creates attitudes of selfishness and greed so that some people of Yirol didn’t  have moral sense of thinking that their son had a duty to serve every south Sudanese as if he was treating his own people.

Hon. Hassan should have been taken by people of Yirol as a symbol of pride because he has lived to the standards of national identity in an environment that is infested with nepotism and greed, vices of national identity. But because the system has made South Sudanese to think and believe of public office appointment as a tribal share of national cake, he became a subject of failure and a waste to his people. Throughout his tenure as a national minster, the people of Greater Lakes States felt they were not represented in the national cabinet. The feeling emanated from Hassan’s exceptional viewpoint of national ministry as that of a country that should serve its diversity indiscriminately or least serves to advance the policies of the party, depending on membership of which political party. He became a victim of a system that rewards corruption with many chances of practice and shunts patriotism and nationalism which are the core roots of altruism.

It is the lost of national identity that sparked series of articulations from our brothers from Rumbek calling on president’s attention of inclusiveness of people of ‘’Greater Lakes State’’ in his cabinet for months when in reality the cabinet has been inclusive if what they termed as ‘Greater Lakes’ would be interpreted to also mean Yirol or Eastern Lakes State. Unfortunately, from the action of the president to replace a son of Yirol with Rumbek’s Hon. Paul Mayom as a response clearly confirms every doubt that ‘’Greater Lakes’ marginalization’’ campaign meant Rumbek’s marginalization. It is regrettable of our brothers from Rumbek to arrogate them to Greater Lakes State which the President’s decree validated. It is only when an Agaar is in a cabinet otherwise Greater Lakes cannot have the same projection with Gok or Atuot.  The national identity is at stake when one begins to dance at his brother’s funeral just because he wants to inherit his wife.

 This is a country and it should be regarded as such on principles of indiscriminate access to services so that every tribe, every South Sudanese, in every corner demands for services than asking government for tribal representation in the cabinet. It wouldn’t matter who is a minister of which ministry as long it is the same Panadol with the same expiry date that is provided in a health center in Abyei as in Yei Teaching Hospital. It wouldn’t matter how many ministers are Dinka as long they hold a viewpoint that they have a mandate to create equal employment opportunities for all without considering ethnicity. The national identity is at stake!

You can reach the author via his email: madol chien achieny <>

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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