What is the House of Nationalities?



Rationale for the HoN

A House of Nationalities in South Sudan?

The Background

The South Sudan is a war-torn society, socially and politically damaged by two decades of armed conflict. Both modern and traditional institutions figure prominently among the casualties. The destruction, as well as the previous lack of development, have led to an "institutional vacuum" inside the South Sudan.

Every country needs institutions to stabilize and govern its society, but in a society ravaged by war, this need represents a particular important challenge. The planning for peace requires therefore a special effort to rescue whatever is left of legitimate institutions, in order to rehabilitate and to adapt them to a new environment.

The problem is more than just an issue of development: As a priority, institutions to be rehabilitated are those which are relevant for bridging the divisions in society deepened by the war. In the South Sudan, these divisions tend to follow ethnic lines, and there is an obvious need for an institutionally supported healing process. The ‘House of Nationalities’ is a contribution to this end.

The Goal

As a non-partisan institution covering the whole of the South Sudan, the House of Nationalities is to provide a platform where all the ethnic communities (nationalities) can meet in mutual respect and dignity. At a regional level, such gatherings are still taking place within the South Sudan, but meetings involving all the communities have not yet been institutionalised.

The aim of the House of Nationalities is to protect the identity of all ethnic communities by promoting respect for different cultures and languages. A forum of all its communities would mirror the South Sudanese identity: a big family of over 60 members, displaying its great diversity. Strengthening the sense of identity of the South Sudanese will make an important contribution to nation-building.

Through a House of Nationalities, the government of the South Sudan can recognize and take into account the existence and the identity of all the ethnic communities in the South Sudan. In return, through the House of Nationalities all the ethnic communities in the South Sudan can provide the emerging peace-agreement and the government of the day with the best available legitimacy.

The aim is to accord equal value and respect for all nationalities. This way, the House of Nationalities puts the inter-ethnic relations in the South Sudan on a more peaceful and sustainable basis.

Equality, dignity and mutual respect allow the House of Nationalities to evolve into a mechanism for settling inter-tribal conflicts, by empowering the South Sudanese to settle their disputes in accordance with their own laws and the decisions of their own judges. This protects diversity from outside manipulation, and represents an important aspect of self-determination.

The Way Forward

The idea of establishing a House of Nationalities emanates from the South Sudanese, and all further conceptual development lies in their hands. Similar examples within Africa exist and may serve as a source of inspiration and encouragement. One such example is the "Guurti" in Somaliland, which enabled this Northern Somali region to recover from the war. Another one is the "House of Chiefs" in Botswana, an African country known for its record of good governance and stability.

The establishment of a House of Nationalities is the subject of an intensive debate among South Sudanese intellectuals from the Diaspora, traditional chiefs as well as many youth and women activists in the South Sudan.

The international community can promote this process by encouraging and assisting the South Sudanese in forging an all inclusive ethnic institution of their own.

Further information on the House of Nationalities is available on the website http://www.gurtong.com


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