Does South Sudan have civil society groups?

By: Abraham Daljang Maker, KAMPALA, NOV/27/2013, SSN;

I have been so puzzled about some unpredictable events which keep unfolding themselves, making me to wonder if we really have civil society groups in the country. Are they really there? And if so, why then are some of the things keep emerging every now and then without any agitation?

Do we know the roles of these groups anyway? Are we aware that such associations are crucial when it comes to issues of the public concern?

Well, whatever the answer, we ought to know what these civil society groups are and what role do they play in improving the well-being of the citizens.

These groups which we might or might not have are usually voluntary, self-organized advocacy groups whose roles are to advocate for some issues that affect the general public.

Such issues in most cases are consciously or unconsciously abandoned by the government or paid little attention to them. So it is the role of these groups to intervene and challenge the existence or the absence of certain things in a given society.

Important thing to note about the civil society groups is that, THEY ARE NOT POLITICIANS! And they are not even interested to meddle in politics. But their activities are to challenge the status quo, they advocate and enlighten the general public to be able to know about the prevailing situation so that everyone becomes vigilant and be stewards in management of the societal affairs…..

However, what remains unclear to my fellow countrymen and women is that, they believe that whoever stands up and says how things should be done this way or shouldn’t be done like that is yearning for a political seat in the government.

This fallacy has made many people who would come up with better concepts for the well-being of the society to shy away with brilliant ideas; a few individuals who dare to stand up become the victims of the circumstances and ended up threatened or killed because they are perceived to be a threat to the existing Powers.

There are varieties of issues that the civil society groups would be wailing for but such concerns remain not tackled. These include the advocacy for Human Rights, Environment, and Gender among other issues.

All these worries remain as reveries in the minds of many people in the country and whoever talks about them in conversation is seen as an outcast or a lunatic.

Human rights is being viewed by many people as an alien or an idea borrowed from the Western world; but little do they know that even during the stone age, there was Human Rights. But only that there was no one word used to describe it just like the way English puts it.

Even our great grandfathers do practice the Rights of Human beings; that was why they were able to condemn what deprived human freedom person’s liberty.

Several attempts to fight and resist the slave trade by some kingdoms in West Africa and East Africa was the unconscious act of demanding for Human Rights and freedom. Although they could not succeed, they were able to fight back, did you know that?

If this is a little bit vague, then let me cite the two decades of civil war in The Sudan, wasn’t this the demand of freedom by the South Sudanese from deprivation of social, economic, cultural and political liberty?

If this is a big YES, then Human rights is not a foreign ideology depending on the circumstances under which these rights are being claimed. Nonetheless, many abuses occur including the denial of the rights to life, to basic necessities like food, health and shelter.

Torture in prisons and military detentions camps like Lanchok in Lakes state are looming without any condemnation, the rights groups say that no evidence from someone tortured can be used to justify his or her guilt in the court of law because the victims might agree certain thing due to the pain inflicted on him or her.

To desist from unnecessary torture will pave way for fair trials hence, ushering the rights of an individuals.

Environmental degradation is at its highest peak in almost all the ten states of South Sudan. Little is done in Juba city centre but still garbage are still visible at all street corners.

But at the outskirts of the city is a huge file of garbage on Yei road with swarms of flies on it, such issues would be advocated for by the civil society groups but none is being said.

The shocking incident is in Lakes state where teak plantation in Rumbek East is being infringed on by some characters making it as a farm, this can easily bring a great setback to environment, as teak is also the best tree for timber but depleting it will make it hard for the community.

It is high time to realise the importance of ‘environmental sustainability’ which means using the environment without compromising the future chances of the future generation.

Gender is another aspect which is being terribly abused in most parts of the country, gender discrimination at work places is so enormous especially females are being abused physically and psychologically but due to gender stereotypes, women remain quiet without airing such abuses because they are socially taught to be submissive and obedient.

Cross-generational marriages, forceful marriages and child marriages are noticeable in most states but no one seems to be bothered by such scenario. There are only lip services but no action taken where such incidences occur, this task therefore would be best undertaken by the civil society if at all there is one which exists.

With sad note, I can conclude by asserting that our society will head to doom if all of us are blind to see obvious challenges happening in every corner of the country without any concern.

Not everyone is a politician but there are other sectors in which every citizen can exercise their duty to ensure the betterment of everyone.

The bitter facts about civil societies are that they are bound not to succeed especially where there are intimidations and suppressions from the interest groups. Because they are self-organised voluntary groups, everyone tends to bypass it leaving a vacuum for exploitation and discrimination.

However, the good news is that, to suffer for doing something good is better than gaining wealth in a crooked way; a good reputation is better than gaining fame in a wrong arena. May God Bless south Sudan!!!!!

The Writer is a freelance journalist. He is currently Kampala correspondent for The Author is an opinion writer whose views since 2009 were published on The Citizen Newspaper, and the Khartoum Monitor. He also contributed letters to the BBC Focus on Africa Magazine. He can be reached at

Abraham Daljang Maker is pursuing MA in Development Studies, Nkumba University, Nkumba University, PO Box 237 Entebbe Uganda.
Cell: +256774587529(Uganda)
+211955997112(South Sudan)
Skype: daljang.maker94

1 Comment

  1. Peter Adwok Nyaba says:

    I am surprised that people are not commenting on this interesting question posed by Ustaz Abraham. First, I want to tell Abraham that it is not true that civil society does not meddle in politics. They do participate in politics. The distinguishing characteristics of civil society groups is independence of the state. In this narrow definition we could count political parties out of the government as civil society groups as they struggle for change towards improving the lives of the citizens.

    There are civil society groups in South Sudan. They have not been visible due to the special context of South Sudan: shallow political culture engendered by low level of social awareness and political consciousness. It has been easy to mobilize our people for a physical fight than for organized political action. Formation of civil society groups requires a certain degree of awareness and organizational skills.

    Our history, emerging from a culture of war, works against political organisation. We had the sad experience of the SPLM resisting the establishment of Bahr el Ghazal Youth Development Association (BYDA) and the political education programme. People fought against late Mario Mour Mour because he wanted political education – civic education introduced in the SPLM administered areas. After the CPA, the BYDA cadres threw down their tools and joined the government.

    Civil society groups sprout the context of struggle for rights and freedoms. They should be differentiated from the NGOs although some NGOs participate in these struggles especially the human rights groups. In Kenya the civil society groups mushroomed during the Moi dictatorship but as soon as the regime was changed many of these groups have disappeared from the scene.

    I am sure the current politically muted and oppressive environment will trigger the emergence of groups struggling for change.
    Kind regards
    Peter Adwok Nyaba

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