The Burning of Cultural Uniform in Bor, Jonglei State, is Unconstitutional

Posted: April 16, 2019 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

Burning of cultural Uniform in Bor is unconstitutional, it violates Religious, and Indigenous Peoples’ and Cultural Rights

By John Deng D’Duot, Seattle, USA

Tuesday, April 16, 2019 (PW) — In the middle of 1980s 1990s, several Clergies in Jonglei State came up with an idea to burned traditional gods such as Mayom de Kongoor, Aleer de Nyarweng, Malual de Anyual, Mangok de Jueet, plus Lirpiou. Those Clergies claimed that traditional gods were bad they should be let go.

They also claimed that they were liberating their people from jong raac “Bad gods”. However, they did not know that destroying those traditional gods was a bad idea. It’s ideas because the main goal was to promote Christianity.

In addition, they did not actually know that banning of those traditional gods was simply a distraction to their indigenous and traditional cultural practices, history, intellectual property and it was also a violation of human Rights Instrument such as: 

  • Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
  • The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
  • The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child 
  • Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (ILO 169)
  • The Declaration on the Right to Development 
  • The Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities 
  • The Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion

They also did not know that they were violating international law on indigenous people’s rights: Article 12 part 1) that indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains: 

Article 13: that Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literature, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places, and persons. It also violated Article 18 of the Civil and Political Covenant which is widely believed to be one of the most important—if not the most important—articles on freedom of religion or belief. That said

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

The same clergies who had the same idea in the 1980’s -90s, came together to burnt uniforms with cultural pictures printed on them. They alleged that those cultural uniforms worn by women during marriages were causing division within the communities. Such claims are weak and it lacks a legal argument due to the fact that we have a bishop of kongoor, Anyuak Lith, Duk Agok and Athok. 

Bishop Akurdit de Angok, publicly announced that women who are in the leadership in the church should either bring their uniforms to be burned or relinquished their leadership position within the church. According to the law, this is total and systemic discrimination within the church.

It discrimination because the main people targeted here are “women to lose their leadership position within the church” This is systemic discrimination against women as mentioned in 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief: Article 1

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right shall include freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice. Article 2: part (1). No one shall be subject to discrimination by any State, institution, group of persons, or person on the grounds of religion or other belief.

2. For the purposes of the present Declaration, the expression “intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief” means any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on religion or belief and having as its purpose or as its effect nullification or impairment of the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis.

Not only is this a discrimination against women, that burning of traditional, and cultural uniforms violated the United Nation declaration of human documents on Civil and political right, Indigenous people’s rights and freedom of worship and cultural practices: Article 18 of UDHR, that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right shall include freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of his [her] choice.” Similar necessities can be found in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Civil and Political Covenant), as well as other regional and specialized human rights instrument.

Any discrimination is condemned as it also mentioned under UDHR Article 3, and it also linked to discrimination: that discrimination based on religion or belief constitutes an affront to human dignity and a disavowal of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. Such discrimination shall accordingly be condemned as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enunciated in detail in both the Civil and Political Covenant, the international convention on economic, social and cultural rights.

The burning women uniform in Bor also violated the constitution of South Sudan: Article 23. Religious Rights that allow everyone

 a) the right to worship or assemble in connection with any religion or belief and to establish and maintain places for these purposes;

b) the right to establish and maintain appropriate faith-based, charitable or humanitarian institutions;

c) the right to acquire, possess and own movable and/or immovable property and make, acquire and use the necessary articles and materials related to the rites or customs of religion or belief;

d) the right to write, issue and disseminate religious publications;

e) the right to teach religion or beliefs in places suitable for these purposes;

Our clergies in Jonglei state thinks that those traditional cultural practices and beliefs as ungodly or to be creating division within the community. Nevertheless, they are failed to understand those printing on those printing on those uniforms are parts of our tradition as the cross symbol is to the Christians or Romans and are protected by the constitution of South Sudan.

If the church administration is against those cultural practices of clothing wearing them during marriages’ celebration or other occasions, why didn’t they come up with the policy that only discourages wearing them within the churches premises then publicly burning them? Why did they are to store in storage for the future generation who might be benefiting from them for culturally, intellectually and economically? 

According to a Polish lawyer, Rafael Lemkin who writes on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide mentioned cultural genocide is one of the eight dimensions of genocide: political, social, cultural, economic, biological, physical, religious, and moral. He said “each always targets a different aspect of a group’s existence” like women’s uniform in this case and as to what happened in the Jonglei States in 1980-90s burning of traditional gods.

Actions as such burning of cultural practices are also condemned under the 1977 Protocols I and II, in addition to the 1949 Geneva Conventions protect cultural property in Article 53 of Protocol I; which prohibits the reprisals against such property Traditional practices. These concepts are also applied to civilian objects, in general, and not only to cultural practices and property. With that, burning of cultural uniforms violated Article 23 of the South Sudan constitution: Religious and cultural practices.

Such actions are not only just criminal acts, but they also contributed to the distraction of knowledge which Lemkin, called it as an “acts against the law of nations” because national law allows cultures practice as mentioned in the constitution of South Sudan.

Freedom of religion allows people to wear and practice their culture by wearing or printing whatever they want. This is protected under freedom of Speech whether you are a Christian, Muslims or animist. Our clergies have gone beyond their limit in burning those uniforms in Bor. Watching those cloth being burned, one cannot imagine how much money has been spent on those uniforms? Is this also not an economic distraction?

Furthermore, our clergies have gone beyond not only violating the constitution of South Sudan article 23 but they have also created a system of intimidation forcing women to give up their cloth to be burned or lost their leadership title in the church. Collecting those uniforms to be burning has not only to violate the Constitution South Sudan but it is also violating minorities’ rights. This is putting Christianity above other traditional believes in the country.

South Sudan is a secular county that allows people to manage and practice their religion without any limitation. However, allowing such practices of burning traditional cultural uniform violate indigenous and minorities ’communities rights. Such actions are wrong, and they should not be allowed. They should be questioned and condemned in the court of law.

Our clergies, should categorically explain to us how has those Uniforms caused division within the church, or within the community in Jonglei State? If there is a misunderstanding concerning and between people wearing those uniforms within their church, why was that misunderstanding solved by the church administration then burning community properties? 

Claiming those uniform promoting division. This is totally a baseless claim. Nonetheless, the church administration should explain to us why has been lack of development within Jonglei diocese since the 1980s? Lack of development brought by the church is creating more division than those uniforms. Why isn’t there a single hospital, University or High school build by the church leaders in Jonglei State?

Many communities have worked hard to buy those uniforms, built school and hospital but you have not built any school or school since we got the so-called Jonglei Diocese administration. Yet, you can to have the audacity to burn those uniforms. What makes Diocese of Yambio, Rumbek, Torit different from Dioceses in Jonglei state?

Claiming that those uniforms caused division, is also baseless and it a weak argument. Don’t we have bishops representing their territories and communities currently in Jonglei State? Such a claim by our churches’ leaders lacks a legal argument. It should be condemned for too much overreached by the church administration into community affairs, and It should also be condemned because it is unconstitutional.

The author, John Deng D’Duot, has BA in Law and political science and Master of Law in International Criminal Law: Petroleum, and Mineral Law and Policy. He can be reached via his email: John deng <>

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.

  1. kailoor says:

    I hope John, the country in which you are might have trained you to relate things properly, you have used word condemn as if you never heard of South Sudanese crisis that are largely related to divisive factors and always fallen short of your condemnation. Are you still supporting marks on peoples foreheads which were meant for ethnic identification by colonialist, when did clothing become our culture and when burn estrange our culture. yes money are lost in that action but not culture. You can wear any cloth but still hold on to your if any. Read your article once again and reflect the relationship between the above quoted instruments and burning of those clothes that serve nothing but unnecessary grouping.
    We are better off as South Sudanese and nothing else. I guest your being in USA was due to our collective effort as South Sudanese that you may not understand.
    Concentrate on important issues since you have that ability to transform on crucial agendas.


  2. Man of UT. says:

    They are cleaning the outer part of a very dirty dish, leaving the dirty inside as it is.
    Well done.
    Thank you.
    Man of UT.


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