19 Apr 2019

 

Curse Of Weak National Identity And Social Integration In South Sudanese

"...the revitalized government must, as a matter of urgency, realize that South Sudan has come to the stage where emotion, personal and sectional interest must give way to a deep reflected critical thinking toward laying a solid foundation for a just, united and stable society."

By Jackson Surur.
 
In the devastating South Sudan conflict, identity, self and personhood as well as physical bodies are strategic targets; but in its more ugly form, it destroyed both people and morality. This form of terror is not only directed at the destruction of lives and limbs but against all sense of humanistic and moral existence.
 
The violence is far more complex, multifaceted and obliterating than the formal boundaries of war defined in military culture; it takes root in people’s lives. Self and identity constitute the hidden casualties of war.
 
South Sudan as a country is richly endowed with both natural and human resources to propel her to higher economic, social and political heights. What prevented and is still preventing this take off has been spotted by many analysts to be South Sudan’s weak national identity and lack of social integration.
 
Prior to independence, the sense of national identity was not merely a source of pride and joy, but also of strength and confidence. It made South Sudanese to go for independence with unbroken courage and voice to have all the people yarn for, ‘the Republic of South Sudan’.
 
Sadly, after achieving independence, people retreated to tribal enclaves and clasping for a localised identities and party identifications. It goes without saying that ethnocentrism and political ideologies made them kill––and kill in abundance. It made them to profile, exclude each other and descended to violence and terror.
 
Nothing is further from the truth. When the dust finally settles and the sun sets on the revitalized peace, the biggest failure will be that of national identity and cohesiveness. Collective National identity is not only built around sense of shared history, but also a feeling of common identity as a people. People identify with one another and build common identities drawing on a consciousness about their heritage and their mutual sentiments about the present and the future.
 
Retreating to tribal enclaves and clasping for a localised identity will not solve the crisis of national identity that all South Sudanese face. Doing so, means realising the South Sudan with the social capital that all relate to shall remain a distant dream; and consequently, the nation shall remain fragmented and lacking in the necessary tools that provide collective identity and common belonging.
 
National identity is important because people feel pride and affection, membership and loyalty, and a sense of patriotism towards the nation to which they belong. It is also important because emotional immersion in one's nation influences their ethos and behavioural patterns. It emphasis the belief in membership of a nation state; people don’t look at themselves as belonging to any component unit within the country but as belonging to the country.
                                                 
Consequently, lack of it, can result in inadequate government, uncertainty, intellectual arrogance, double mindedness, conflict, unimplemented decisions, economic stagnation, weak or partisan organization for community actions and inadequate negotiation of entrance terms for transnational corporations.
 
Most democratic nations promote the love of the country by providing for the welfare of the people, for it is only when the welfare of the people is guaranteed that they in turn will identify with the nation.
The salient task for the government to achieve an everlasting peace and stability can only be through the development of an integrated and coherent national identity and national consciousness in a multiethnic society in which all citizens are given fair opportunity to achieve maximum potential.
 
A country where citizens are given sense of belonging irrespective of where they come from; national integration enhances the chances of creating higher loyalties that supersede parochial loyalties to ethnic or political cleavages.
 
National integration in a multiethnic society like South Sudan is theoretically a process of building a new society and social order based on justice and fair play to all its members no matter the ethnic group, language or religion.
 
At the socio-economic level, it requires that socio-economic progress be made within the democratic framework of sharing political and economic power equitably with the minorities.
 
Among the population, that ethnicity is held so sacrosanct, even the elites whom one would ordinarily think their behaviour and attitude to national issues would be conditioned by their universalistic orientation, occasioned by their level of education and wider experience rather profess and practice it very deeply.
 
As shown in our experience, ethnic politics created a deep-rooted structural inequality in the distribution of education, employment and sharing of power. This resulted in what we may describe as individual, tribal, regional, religious and gender ethnocentrism. On individual level, a colossal dearth of fair and equal participation in national life, those who happen to be in power (political and economic) corruptly enrich themselves from the public treasury.
 
Tribal identity negatively affects an individual if society negatively stereotypes the group with which the individual identifies, even if that person has the right thing to offer; thus, the negative psychological effects of discrimination and social identity are likely to be highly interrelated. And this only breeds ethnic consciousness, which arises in inter-ethnic competition for scarce valuable resources. Thus, this has been seen to form the basis for ethnic consciousness in South Sudan.
 
It would suffice to say here that this inter-ethnic competition breeds conflicts, especially in the context of prevailing economic hard times, where scarce resources are rigorously competed for by the various ethnic groups.
 
Conflicts arising from competition become pronounced especially in a society where inequality is held uppermost in societal relations and wealth is grossly considered as an end product for attaining social respect. These incessant and uncontrolled conflicts are contingent on the fear of each ethnic group not to be confined or encapsulated within the lower limits of inter-ethnic echelon of socio-economic inequality
 
The resultant effect is of course divisive and destructive socio-economic competition with its attendant and antisocial shortcomings. The selfish drive by each group to limit competition to their advantage is expressed in the use of hostility towards each other.
 
This indifference to national affairs retards progress and drags the nation backwards. Progress and development of a strong and virile nation can only be seen when the citizens show strong love and commitment to national identity and their country. It is only when this is done that a country is sure to be moving towards a united, a strong and developing nation.
 
National identity therefore brings about progress. Any country needs the love and support of its citizenry to survive chaos. In multiethnic country like South Sudan, weakness sets in when the citizens become apathetic towards their country.
 
The executive, legislative and judiciary arms of the revitalized government must, as a matter of urgency, realize that South Sudan has come to the stage where emotion, personal and sectional interest must give way to a deep reflected critical thinking toward laying a solid foundation for a just, united and stable society. We must, therefore, reorder our thinking and begin to look inward as we embrace South Sudan as our only country.

  

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