A House of Nationalities
in South Sudan?
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
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.
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
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