The Past and The Future
Past: South Sudan
Except for a ten-year period, 1972 – 1982, the people of South Sudan have known nothing but war until a comprehensive peace agreement was signed on January 9, 2005. South Sudan has been shattered both physically and psychologically to the extent that the people of the region are developing a new culture of hatred and distrust. This holds particularly true for those in the Diaspora who reflect and intensify any existing small conflicts back home.
The post-war South Sudanese societies at home and in the Diaspora will remain composed of largely confused and traumatised individuals for a long time to come. The traditional approach to addressing problems is largely lost to them; communication opportunities have largely broken down between the youths and their elders and between “modern” and traditionalists. Ignorance, biased information and hatred are growing. The formerly so vital notions of respect and self-respect are fading away fast.
The war appears to have left nothing but devastation in the hearts and minds of the people, as much as in the use of language in civil discourse. While the threat of the enemy in the North is slowly receding, thanks to the peace-agreement, the belligerent members of the Diaspora have already found new targets, individuals or entire groups of people. Through their war of words, accusations, slander and insults, the South Sudanese Diaspora is deepening existing or creating new divisions at a time when reconciliation and unity among all Sudanese are important conditions for developing the country after the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement.
However, it should be noted that much of the divisions and hostilities that existed among South Sudanese lessened greatly after the Government of Southern Sudan, GoSS, welcomed back into the fold in January 2006 much of the South Sudan Defence Force, SSDF, under General Paulino Matiep Nhial. Hopefully, more consolidation of unity among South Sudanese will follow this exemplary initiative by the GoSS.
Hope for the Future
The Gurtong Trust - Peace and Media has reason to be optimistic (see under "Discussion Board" below) about future unity of the people of South Sudan. When launched in 2002, Gurtong's main objective was to provide the South Sudanese in exile with a forum that would enable them to exchange news and opinions in a respectful manner, and to publish unbiased information, not only on political but also on legal, social and cultural matters.
To achieve this goal, the Internet was the obvious medium of choice, since it remains the most efficient vehicle to spread the message of peace, where by people from all continents can meet freely and join the debate on the future of South Sudan, its values and visions.
But, aware of the society it set out to serve, Gurtong did not expect miracles from a society that has gone through such traumatic periods. Having observed through other South Sudanese websites the use of the internet as a platform for spreading rumours, slander and partial views, the project deemed it important to offer a forum of a non-aggressive type to all those numerous members of the Diaspora who want to remain proud of their cultures and who show sincere interest in peace and the development of their home-country. The Gurtong website, www.gurtong.net, has therefore been making efforts, and will continue doing so, to eradicate ignorance of traditional cultures among the youths and to involve South Sudanese at home and in the Diaspora in a constructive and active manner in the process of rebuilding their country.
Now and the Future
Within the short time it has been in existence, Gurtong and its website has become very popular among South Sudanese in the Diaspora as well as among South Sudanese political elites. However, there is still considerable space for improvement. The website is, like any other website of quality, under permanent construction, in need of updating, renewal and widening of information and improvement of contents. But Gurtong now has a re-designed and to date website with all the necessary applications, including internet income generation.
These are some of planned activities of the Gurtong Trust - Peace and Media Project :
1. The Information Platform on the Website
Though already of a remarkably high standard, the information provided by Gurtong on its website will be extended to include Khartoum and marginalises areas close to the South. Gurtong intends to increase both the quantity and quality of information available on its website and in its eadio programs.
Due to lack of infrastructure, the access to information concerning authorities and administration of the region has been poor but improving all the time, particularly now that there are elections campaign underway before the general elections in April 2010. Gurtong will continue to compile a full list of constituencies and prospective candidates.
Gurtong aims to familiarise South Sudanese and international partners-in-development with important aspects of political traditions and cultures in South Sudan. One of these topics will be on the on-going formation of traditional leaders councils in all the ten states of South Sudan. It is important to note that over 90% of day-to-day criminal and civil cases are executed under customary law, a fact little known and its pivotal role rarely acknowledged. The same holds true for lack of public awareness of the pivotal role played by traditional leadership, which is of basic political relevance in today’s South Sudan. Customary law and the role and function of traditional leadership differ from group to group and Gurtong will seek to inform on these differences.
The Culture Pages will eventually be completed to provide information on traditions, customs, and languages as well as on economic, socio-political and ecological aspects of life in South Sudan. It should become a source of understanding and pride for all South Sudanese, particularly the younger generations of the Diaspora youths who are hungry for information about their cultural identity and communities.
2. International Organisations and NGOs Active in South Sudan.
With the signing of the final peace agreement the number of humanitarian organisations active in South Sudan will most likely increase in the interim period. New arrivals, individuals or organisations, seeking information about NGOs already in the field, should be able to log on to the Gurtong website for up to date information about activities, location or for those in a similar field of interest.
Above all, web-surfing South Sudanese all over the world will be better informed about the vital role being played by the local and international NGOs in providing relief, rehabilitation and development in South Sudan.
The Gurtong website will pay particular attention to the updating of the list and contact of all international organisations, local and international NGOs involved in relief, rehabilitation and development in South Sudan. Gurtong expects and appreciates co-operation with and assistance from NGOs and other organisations to accomplish this task.
3. Discussion Board
The many contributions to the discussion-forum have made it difficult to follow up all the arguments. To get a more comprehensive view on the ongoing debates and to allow random visitors to find an entry point into the discussions, the editorial team will continue to make quarterly summaries of the most important contributions and making them easily accessible to visitors for easy reading and printing.
4. On Core Groups
The Gurtong-website is providing the Diaspora with a virtual meeting-point. Funding permitting, it is the ambition of the Gurtong Trust - Peace and Media Project to re-engage and expand to places where the Diaspora population is largely located (North America and Australia) as well as the usually neglected areas (Middle East) to help organise and bring people physically together through meetings, social events or through personal contacts. At this stage, information on the Gurtong website on the lives of South Sudanese individuals, families and communities in the Diaspora is still rudimentary; and therefore practical help in providing information to those wishing to trace friends and relatives is not yet possible.
As many websites for the various South Sudanese groups in the Diaspora do exist, Gurtong can plan to link up with them, facilitate contacts and become a bridge between the different communities.