I I. Functions of a Nationality Leaders'
Forum for cultural diversity: Sudan’s
greatest wealth is in its cultures. In creating space for
Southern Sudan’s cultural diversity, the forum will
be instrumental in shaping Sudan’s nation-building process,
which has to be based on cultural diversity and political
unity. The forum should not only preserve culture, but also
facilitate change in traditions and customs. Preservation
of culture goes hand in hand with its smooth transformation.
Forum for conflict prevention and conflict resolution:
Conflict prevention and conflict resolution build on the legitimacy
of traditional structures. Intra- and inter-tribal conflicts
have already in the past been settled most efficiently by
traditional leaders. Regular meetings among them would not
only help to resolve but contribute to prevent violent conflicts.
In their capacity as mediators traditional leaders contribute
in a effective and efficient manner to good governance.
Forum for linking central government to rural communities:
The lack of communications infrastructure in South Sudan poses
the challenge for the government to reach out to communities
in remote areas. A forum for traditional leaders offers the
opportunity to link rural areas to government structures by
taking advantage of existing communication channels. As a
consequence, rural societies will be able to participate in
Forum for customary law: Customary law constitutes
a form of justice that is accessible and understandable for
most people in rural areas. A traditional leaders’ forum
will have to take stock of the diversity of customary laws
in the South Sudan, and to identify areas for reform. The
forum should be able to address and tackle gender discrimination
and harmful practices (such as the removal of teeth). The
harmonisation and codification of certain aspects of customary
law is another important issue such a forum could address.
Forum for the judiciary: Most chiefs already
act de facto as final judicial instances. This is often the
only form of justice people in rural areas can access. It
remains to be seen to what extent different judiciaries can
co-exist and the sort of jurisdictions they should have. In
countries such as Botswana and South Africa the judicial competences
of the traditional leaders have proven to be most effective
as over 80% of all court cases are handled by traditional
leaders. A forum could also act as a court of appeal for cases
dealt with on the basis of customary law.
Forum for developing policy on local languages:The
Peace Agreement acknowledges all local languages. However,
with ostensibly so many languages in South Sudan, how can
such recognition be made reality? There is a certain need
to address the issue, for instance by exploring possibilities
as to how the many different languages could be harmonised.
Other related issues on language policy in the South Sudan
could as well be examined by the forum.
Forum for advice on political issues: The
forum could act as a body to be consulted by the government
of the South Sudan on all issues affecting traditional communities.
Any matter the forum considers relevant - whether it concerns
local and regional development, peace-building, land policies
or any other issue affecting traditional communities - should
be reviewed, discussed and debated.
I I I . Operational Principles of a Forum
In the South Sudan, the forum would primarily be established
at state and national level. The current administrative structure
of the South Sudan is changing rapidly. Due to various local
and regional factors, one can observe a constant shift in
administrative borders, in particular at county level. While
the lower administrative levels have always been variable,
the regional level has been relatively constant. The peace
agreement stipulates that the three regions of the South Sudan
will be subdivided into ten states. It can be assumed that
the state level as well as the national level will be central
to the political and administrative life of the South Sudan,
and it is on these two levels that the role of the traditional
leaders is most absent.
Linking state and national level
Since the number of nationalities within the individual states
in the South Sudan varies between five and fifteen, the number
of delegations for the forums at state level will vary accordingly.
Given that nationality forms the basis for representation
in the forums at state and national levels, the forum at national
level is the sum of the forums at state level. Therefore,
and according to the lists established so far, the nationality
forum will have between 90 and 100 members.
Decisions in the forum shall be taken by consensus. The “one
person one vote” principle is only one amongst several
democratic ways of decision-making. Consensus-oriented decision-making
procedures have a long tradition in Africa’s culture
and have generally been greatly inclusive and process-oriented.
The nationality is the basis of representation in the forum,
and accreditation will be based on equal representation of
each nationality. It is up to the communities to find their
own ways of designating a legitimate representative to the
The traditional leaders’ forum will change its location
and meeting place on a rotational basis. The number of meetings
per year remains to be determined. However, the frequency
of meetings at state level will be denser than at national
level where one to two meetings per year seem reasonable.
The forum at the national level could also be hosted each
year by a different nationality.
Women and Youth
The forum shall establish an institutionalised dialogue between
the traditional leaders on the one side, and women and youth
on the other side. Thus women and youth will be given a voice
during the deliberations of the forum to allow them to raise
issues they would like to be taken up and dealt with by the
forum. The main focus of this dialogue could be the reform
of customary law in the South Sudan.
The forum shall be financed by the corresponding level of
government in the South Sudan. However, the members of the
forum shall not be government employees, and in order to guarantee
the forum’s independence financial contributions from
the government shall be endorsed by parliament.
The participants in the conference in Neuchâtel thanked
the Swiss government for organizing this conference on the
challenges of tradition and modernity in Africa, as well as
Professor Kwesi K. Prah and Dr. Willy Mutunga for moderating
it. The participants encouraged the international community
to support this process further, and assist the traditional
leaders from the South Sudan in establishing a nationality
leaders’ forum. In this respect they welcomed the idea
to link traditional leaders from the South Sudan with their
counterparts in other African countries such as Botswana,
South Africa, Ghana and Somaliland where nationality leaders’
forums exist already.