Nationalism or Tribalism in South Sudan?

BY: Dhaal Mapuor Aterdit, RUMBEK, Lakes State, APR/29/2013, SSN;

It’s a no doubt that there are a total of sixty four (64) South Sudanese tribes in existence as am writing this piece. They inclusively constituted what was formally pronounced as the “193rd UN Member State” by UN General Assembly. That day, in other words, was called the “Birth of a New Nation,” it was amiably prized by all South Sudanese and the world alike. “At this moment… in this place… the world gathers to say in one voice: Welcome, South Sudan. Welcome to the community of nations,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the Assembly adopted a resolution, by acclamation, to admit Africa’s newest country.

The birth of the Republic of South Sudan was what I would herein refer to as nationalism. It was not perceived as a triumph of an individual ethnic entity. It was a work well-done by all South Sudan’s sixty four tribes. They finally voted themselves out of sweltering injustices, mass-slaughters, sufferings and under-developments……..this was the perception when secession was declared a reality.

It is without skepticism to emphasize that our independence was not attained because of a certain tribe. Although there are some other substantial historical events in the struggle for total autonomy in South Sudan which shown the lesser contribution of a few tribes, the fact remains that South Sudan was sweated for by all South Sudanese.

“I am confident that South Sudan will contribute to promote the objectives of security, peace, prosperity, friendship and cooperation between peoples as they are promoted by the United Nations, and this for the good of the people of South Sudan, for the good of the region and for the entire African continent.”—- Joseph Deiss, President of UN General Assembly said this during hoisting of South Sudan’s flag at UN Headquarters.

In this sense, I can significantly imagine that South Sudan was not allowed a break-way from the Sudan by international community to come and play politics of tribes. We didn’t opt for independence to come and mutilate ourselves. So many people in various tribes tend to talk political ills against other different tribes.

Surprisingly enough, many of our top politicians align citizens on the category of tribes. The comprehensible case in point is the incident of the Republican Order issued by President of the Republic of South Sudan and broadcast by State owned Television (SSTV).

The surface of the republican order was the withdrawal of extra-executive powers from the Vice President. But alas, it didn’t entail the depth of both the typical executive powers and reasons that led to withdrawal of these powers.

This event generated a public concern between the country’s two major tribes (Dinka, the President’s Tribe and Nuer, The Vice President’s Tribe). That was the first political episode in the new nation. It marks the start of political struggle which is opinionated along the tribal lines.

Talking about tribes, either against or in favor of a certain tribe is an eye wink in South Sudan. The tribes’ names have thoughtlessly occupied most South Sudanese’s brains. It is regrettable to have seen even the highly learned and level-headed figures in the country preaching tribalism.

Talking about tribes is not bad because they’re our identity. They’re what bind us to our ancestral beliefs and culture. What makes distinction here in South Sudan is how we have perceived ourselves as tribes.

The young nation is growing into the realm of tribes which adversely will throw the country into abyss of misery and despondency. It’s without a shred of doubt that tribes do exist in the world. The state of affairs in South Sudan makes it particular in ways that portray a false idea so as to this country might be the only spot on earth where tribes exist.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, nationalism is defined as “loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.”

Nationalism in its practical exercise in our country is adverse. The country is clinging so compactly to a tribal chauvinistic state. There is much abhorrence amongst tribes. We have not accepted ourselves as a people and as a nation.

Our nationalism is flawed by our strong belief in tribes. This ideology has been killing the progresses in many countries in the world. It has stunted South Sudanese nationalism and democratic course of action has been skyjacked by tribal political principles.

This belief is revealing an extent in which the country will promptly bump to the verge of an all-out tribal civil war.

2011 is a remarkable year in the political history of our nation. The architects of independence as they usually describe themselves would have put the issue of tribal conflicts as a primary precedence by allowing the politicians break in their duties whether at national or state levels to go to their people in the villages to talk about “loyalty and devotion to a nation.”

If the locals at grass-root echelons understand this, this will mean peace and reconciliation, and on other hand implies nationalism.

Lamentably, our politicians in Juba and State capitals are the ones exercising tribal and clannish politics. Appointment to Constitutional positions is based on tribes where a politician comes from.

I pray that South Sudan be a democratic and pluralistic state where behavior of every citizen is not primarily guessed as the deeds of is/her tribe.

I pray that all South Sudanese excel for nationhood as a common cause for all of us, together with those who cemented our national identity with their blood for autonomy of this country.

I pray that we become a free tribalism state, that we accept ourselves as one people and put forward the HOPE of becoming a democratic nation.


  1. Deng says:

    Well done, brother Dhaal, for this article. I hope our ‘politicians’ will read it! I think it is a right time to have a body that monitors hate speech across the country. We want to build a nation based on patriotism rather than to praise our tribes which is barbaric and myopic. Thumbs up bro.

  2. Dau-network says:

    Thanks you, Dhaal,
    I thinks if tribalism is dead, buried, and cremated, then we will be a strong nation. Other ways of discouraging tribalism in big institutions are banned with some words in public such as: where are you from or which tribe do you belong to?
    What is your second name and third instead of just John G or David M like other countries to prevent nepotism or tribalism.
    which party do you support? My boss is my cousin to threaten your co-workers.
    our culture is better than yours because of A A BB.
    No association of tribes in universities only one for nation students and more things which have negative effects.
    So guys, the above things which l mentioned have good impact where l have experienced them.
    Employment’s selection criteria should be based on qualification, and not member of the tribe of the applicant to conduct an interview.
    I will contribute more when am free.

  3. Akwot says:

    What about the language of communication?
    Because some of us speak their tribal language in the public places in which we supposed to speak the language most of us understand. Even we see that in what we called our national army. Our unity will come when we start putting what we preach or say or write into practice.

  4. I am impressed my brother Dhal Mapuor…it is very hopefully accepted if some few of us know the reality…we will push our country forward if we have few people like you brother#Dhaal Mapuor. Struggle continues for the benefits of beloved nation:South Sudan

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