Southern Sudan boats vast cultural and ethnic differences, not just diversity. The tribal differences are clear and visible as the Southern tribes (rumored to be 64 tribes but this figure is uncertain and perhaps a little exaggerated) clump into three groups:
– Nile tribes; which include Luo, Chollo, Dinka and Nuer.
– The Nile tribes: which include for example Bari, Lotuca and Acholi.
– The Sudanese groups: which include for example, Zandi, Krish, Moro and other tribes.
All these tribes are example of tribes which are distributed along the Upper Nile, Bahr el Ghazal and Equatorial regions. It is historically and anthropologically uncertain when most of the tribes came to the present South. There is, however, one prevailing theory that is taken by those interested in history, namely that most tribes such as the Bari, Dinka, Nuer and Anyuak (Anyuaa) were introduced from Ethiopia at different periods, the oldest of which dates back to the fifteenth century AD as a result of the Oromo expedition. Some groups came looking for a better place, while some of the Luo tribe migrated to Kenya and are still there today, some of them are also in Tanzania. Zandi is one of the most widespread tribes in the continent, with the largest population being in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the birthplace of Zandi; others are in the Central African Republic, Nigeria and South Sudan, of course. There is a theory that says the Chollo returned from the North where they resided on the modern day island of Tuti!
The current communities that make up the tribal fabric of South Sudan have come from different places and settled in various parts of the South for centuries. From the pastoral tribes that rely entirely on livestock and did not know stability until the beginning of the twentieth century; to the agriculturalist tribes, which were more stable because of their connection to the land and mostly found in the Equatorial states.
Roots of Violence
Violence has many different definitions and has evolved with the development of linguistics in recent periods, where it means all that can cause harm to the human being whether physical or verbal (moral) although most people affected by violence women and children, but it can still affect all kinds of people.
The violence that has been most prevalent among most tribes in the South is physical violence, which continues, although the reasons in the past were different. We can divide the motives of violence here into two types: violence with social dimensions and violence with political dimensions.
- Violence with social dimensions:
In South Sudan, it is difficult to pinpoint the similarities of various tribes. Most of the extant groups continue to live in their own units, whether in cities or rural areas. Tribal loyalty and the individual life serve the group as a whole, which is a continuous source of pride and strength. The shift from the idea of groups to society- that is to say, people live on the basis of belonging to the society at large without ethnic emphasis, but instead emphasis on actions and qualifications – is possible although difficult to achieve.
Tribes that share borders with each other were not in harmony, they remained in a state of permanent conflict. The reasons were the livestock that were looted by a group and then returned again and so on. Every time a number of individuals are killed during looting or cattle recovery, most of which were cows.
Fighting was also rampant among members of the same tribe because of a girl who is kidnapped or a woman who is taken from her home, which are seen as insults to the clan if done by an individual of the same tribe or a different tribe. Many have fallen victims as a result of such feuds, and although this practice has recently been reduced, it is still occurring on a small scale.
- Violence with political dimensions:
In the past ten years, politics has played a role in fueling conflict and fighting between various components of the Southern society since 2005. Politicians have goals that they want to reach and achieve, which can be done by mobilizing an ethnic group against the other. The proliferation of small arms and the acquisition of ammunition with the least effort contributed to the increase in violence. This became evident after the events of December 2013, especially since the conflict was purely political and later turned into a primarily ethnic conflict. This is not new on the continent as most leaders use their ethnicity to stir up racial strife among people to eliminate the other side, which is usually their rival. The long history of conflict between Southern ethnic groups has played a role in widening the gap, and this phenomenon has not been seriously addressed or discussed in order to produce results that would end the indiscriminate and reprisal killings among these groups.
How to Create More Tolerant Cultures?
The creation of a more open and tolerant culture is urgent now more than ever, because acceptance of the other as harmless to one’s existence is urgent. Entering into a relationship that brings together different viewpoints is necessary to prevent tragedies in the future. In order to achieve this, certain methods must be followed to help in achieving the goal as soon as possible:
- Creating youth dialogue programs centered on culture and acceptance of the other. These programs should include discussing all possible views, especially those that are different, to find a way to address them.
- Drama productions to discuss issues of intolerance among different ethnic groups. These productions can achieve the desired goal quickly, given the spread of radio stations and the high demand for them. The development of programs involving all society factions will encourage dialogue and thus promote openness and tolerance.
- Developing a media program to confront the discourse of hatred and incitement to violence. Media, whether television, newspaper and online media, can play a positive role in the face of rampant violence through the design and implementation of programs aimed at the public, which can change the concepts of many on how to view each other.
- To work to find a common ground among cultures and put them in the form of a collective container to serve the purposes of respecting others and achieving development. This is important especially as culture is a factor in achieving sustainable development in human societies, particularly in Africa in this third millennium.
As mentioned above, the implementation of such ideas will contribute to the process of building society, counteracting violence which plays a role in destroying the social fabric and undermining development and progress. Cultural intolerance is prevalent in a society where illiteracy is rampant, such as the South Sudanese society, and is a deadly weapon. This scourge has broken up and continues to ravage our society on a daily basis. However, working to make South Sudanese cultures more humane and open is the only key to progress and achieving the harmony desired without us having to be identical, because the respect and appreciation for the culture of others is a noble human act that must be instilled and celebrated.
This post is also available in: Arabic