8 Aug 2020


Why Being a Dinka or a Nuer is a Double Edged Sword?

"Tribalism is a huge problem for our young nation. Does the wrongdoing of few spoils the entire Dinka or Nuer tribe? Not explicitly so."

By Ring Mayar*

While some South Sudanese are not nationalist, somehow tribal cleavages are seen undoubtedly to have serious implications for the young nation. The question in this critical times is: “which of the norms/values of the people of this young nation will you/us be supporting and identifying with? The one that reinforce tribalism and keep advocating for endless wars in among one people or the one of relentless peace seeking and the healing of the ethnic divide in order to secure a very fragile peace we have today in South Sudan? I know my answer.

I decided to answer one question on this mini narrative: Why being a Dinka or a Nuer is a double edged sword?

There is overwhelming evidence which indicates that tribal fragility between Dinka and Nuer is real problem for South Sudan. What is happening now, is not new, in fact many people from these two tribes are ramping up their tribal rhetoric on social media and at the institutional level, albeit either in the SPLM-IG or SPLM-IO today.

Talking about these two matriarchal tribes does not translate to their goodness or badness per se. I am here to highlight the frictions that exists between them. The problem is that tribal affiliation make things harder to be debated openly without being criticise at tribal level or sometime people internalise issues which matter to the entire nation as their own.

When one criticises political elites about insecurity, corruption, rebellion, tribalism, nepotism, unprofessionalism, health care, education, hunger and starvation inflicted on people as a consequences of tribal war. Some people immediately rattle with rant, others do not want to hear it or even think about it.

Let’s use fighting corruption for example: South Sudan president fires cabinet members suspected of looting $4 billion dollars. While such move was applauded by ordinary citizens as noble thing to do in order for the president to form more new capable and robust team for the new cabinet. Political crises erupted in Juba before December 2013. It’s basically ignited political struggle among political elites within the ruling party (SPLM) which later morphed into a full blown tribal conflict.

What does it say to you as a nationalist South Sudanese?

For observers who investigate these unfortunate tribal implications, they automatically reach conclusion that current conflict in South Sudan is directly link to tribal cleavages and historical rivalries. For example, hard core tribal minded individuals from either (Dinka or Nuer) consider the rise of either tribe as a threat to their political survival, rather supporting each other for better South Sudan. And always remember Dinka and Nuer are going/will here to stay in South Sudan forever.

Tribalism is a huge problem for our young nation. Does the wrongdoing of few spoils the entire Dinka or Nuer tribe? Not explicitly so. They might have tribal biases, just like all other 62 South Sudanese tribes. Then, how do we get out of this mess? To rectify or fix tribal rivalries is even more complicated, including allocating significant amount of money toward reconciliation, and compensation of those who lost their love ones during two Sudan’s wars including recent conflict and million other things.

So let check in your feelings:

A) Are you pro tribal conflict headed by a leader who want to maintain power by iron fist or are you pro a warlord who want to acquire power by force?

B) Do you want peaceful reform or do you count on tribal prophecies to change South Sudan politic dynamic?

C) Would you like both leaders Riek Machar and Kiir Mayardit to relinquish their political interest for interest for citizens’ good or would you like them to work together for better or worse for the sake of South Sudan?        

D) Or are you mad at me for raising these issues that had plagued our country since independence in 2011?

If you Choose D)!

Please resist the urge to stop reading, instead keep reading. You might have notice, “Nowhere in this narrative have I singled out Dinka or Nuer tribe”; that’s because tribalism is bigger than all of us. It’s going to take all of us to advocate for nationalism, instead of tribal affiliation. So next time you apply tribalism sentiment to South Sudan problems, please auto correct yourself, neither Dinka nor Nuer does hate other tribe.

We South Sudanese people (Silence voices) hate those who exploit their tribes to advance their tribal interests at the expense of the entire population. Yes, some historical rivalries between Dinka and Nuer has contributed to today’s conflict. A situation which allow individuals with tribal mentality to systematically set two brotherly tribes against each other.

It’s clear that people who get mad about discussions of tribalism are not actually listening to voices of the helpless, they are not looking for facts or examining the dire number of people who are suffering from tribal conflict. By refusing to engage with the actual acute tribal problems in the country, the people who shout absurd accusation of “Dinka domination or Nuer want disfranchise Dinka people”, are really attempting to shut down the dialogue and reconciliation between Dinka and Nuer people. The call for these brotherly tribe must heeded by all leaders from sides, Dinka and Nuer alike.

Imagine if Dinka and Nuer people are able to talk about their tribalism problems, instead of picking arms to resolves tribal grievances? What if you are angry about death instead of wanting to kill each other’s because he’/she comes from different tribe? How about discussing policies which could repel our country forward for a peaceful and prosperous country? Or How about uniting behind our leaders and urge them to use peaceful means to resolve conflict instead of a gun? These are question all ought, as citizen of South Sudan, to answer.              

*Ring Mayar is a National Security Policy student at the Australian National University. He can be reached via the following email: naydiet@yahoo.com.au   

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