on the concept of the ‘House of Nationalities’
(Opening Speech at the workshop organized
the Upper Nile Youth Association for Development
in Panyagor (Upper Nile), on April 1st, 2004
I think l will speak from behind the table
because l believe that you can hear me from
this distance. I am going to speak to you in
English, as a practice or exercise. First of
all: greetings to all of you!
Let me start from where the Governor of Upper
Nile region has ended because it is important,
and therefore there is need to emphasize it.
You had wanted to convene this workshop in Lokichokio.
When some of you consulted with me, I objected
but said if your Governor wants it done in Lokichogio
it’s up to you, but it is important for
you to convene your conferences where your governor
First of all, by this, you will be supporting
the structures that your region is building
and secondly you will need the support of the
administration to implement some of your resolutions.
Because, when you will be discussing, you’ll
be discussing the problems of society or region
of which he is the leader; the support of the
administration is very important.
We are coming from a conference called All
Nuer Peace Conference in Old Pangak. It is not
only the Nuer but also neighboring tribes which
are participating. All the Dinka groups neighbouring
the Nuer are there, the Murle, the Burun and
the Shilluk and also the Anyuak.
You conference cannot be done without the presence
of Governor or his representative as it is the
first youth conference on the House of Nationalities,
you cannot do it abroad. You cannot do it without
the presence of the governor or his deputies
or his representatives.
If it were not because we wanted the commissioners
to be involved in the groups’ meeting
in the Nuer conference today, they would also
attend your conference.
Most commissioners in the Upper Nile are in
that conference of Old Pangak but now the governor,
his two deputies and those who are responsible
for the army, the person responsible for the
police in the upper Nile are here. This is because
we are giving your conference emphasis and importance.
Secondly, we want to correct certain things
about the House of Nationalities, when you talk
of House of Nationalities, people begin to think
of Peter Adwok. Peter was the first to write
a small leaflet called House of Nationalities.
What he presented were his own views. Actually,
he had attended the initial conference on the
House of Nationalities and he, as you know,
is a writer, he likes writing.
So he wrote on House of Nationalities and attributed
the concept to himself. May be those who read
that leaflet and felt that his/her views did
not go with what Peter Adwok wrote, started
to agitate against the House of Nationalities.
In addition, some of the youth also misunderstood
what the House of Nationalities really is.
Some of you thought that this was another Youth-organization...
Even the acting executive director, in opening
your conference, had described you by saying
that “you are a different youth organization”.
But is it true that you are a different youth
See, there is fear of the House of Nationalities.
There is a misunderstanding of it. We must correct
this misunderstanding before we talk about the
concept of the House of Nationalities.
How many of you are members of the New Sudan
Youth Association? Lift up your hands high!
(ALL PARTICIPANTS RAISED THEIR HANDS). In your
county, you are members of the New Sudan Youth
I even think that the president of the New
Sudan Youth Association for the Upper Nile Region
is here. Is he? Gaol, stand up. (He stood up).
So actually you are members of the New Sudan
So what is happening, is that this conference
is being held for people who are members of
the New Sudan Youth Association. Am I right?
(Reply) Yes. If l am right then let me go ahead
to correct the following.
Upper Nile Youth Association for Development.
This one is an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization).
It is not a popular organization. I don’t
know if you are political activists.
When we were your age we knew the difference
between Political Organizations and NGOs. Political
organizations are totally different from NGOs.
The New Sudan Youth Association is a popular
It has political connotation because youth
of any country must have an organization where
they can meet. In times to come, it will be
called the Sudan Youth Union, and if you become
an independent state in the Southern Sudan it
will be called Southern Sudan Youth Union.
In our days when we were youth we used to compete
for the control of the membership and leadership
of the Sudan Youth Union. Some of us were either
members of the Communist Party or of the Southern
Front or SANU or of the UMMA or of the DUP.
The umbrella organization - Sudan Youth Union
is which every one - party needed to control.
During the Nimeiri’s time we had a problem
with the communists because they wanted to control
the Sudan Youth Union.
So, it is because any party that controls the
youth union, has future in political life of
the country as the youth are the future. Now
something is going to happen. Peace will come
in a month or two.
Politics will be very hard. It will not be
politics of competing over NGOs’ money.
It will be politics of winning the hearts and
minds of people. Each party wants its ideas
to be bought by the people and be voted to power.
These will be political parties, even we in
the SPLM, we will not say the New Sudan Youth
Association is ours. We will say this organization
is for everybody. The SPLM must create SPLM
Youth Branch which will compete for the control
of the leadership body of the Sudan Youth Union.
The SPLM must compete and take control because
there is going to be a very serious battle after
peace because other political parties will come
up. They will challenge us, they will first
say: is the New Sudan Youth Association really
for all, is it not a SPLM’s structure?
If it is for all, then they will say it must
be elected by all political parties. If we have
not prepared, the SPLM Youth we will be in trouble.
Because the umbrella organization called New
Sudan Youth Association is for the five regions
and all parties; the SPLM is the only party
controlling the political space now, but very
soon we will have competitors.
Our competitors are not the NGOs, it will be
the UMMA Party Youth, it will be the DUP Youth,
it will be the Communist Party Youth, it will
be the SANU Youth. All these parties and others
are our competitors.
Of course they will say, if this organization
– New Sudan Youth Association - is for
the five regions, it must not be left to the
control of the SPLM. Right now, somebody will
say I come from Equatoria, for example, “I
have a right to establish UMMA Party Youth in
Equatoria, just like the SPLM Youth in Equatoria”,
he for sure will establish it.
We are talking of democracy and multi-party.
So I hope I have made it clear that the youth
association which the SPLM recognizes today
as a political branch, is the New Sudan Youth
Association, the rest are NGOs. Have I made
myself clear?(Reply) Yes!.
If you people have a problem with the regional
structure or leadership of New Sudan Youth Association,
you can only change it in a conference of the
New Sudan Youth Association of Upper Nile Region.
If the problem is at the national level of
the New Sudan Youth Association, you will not
change it only in a conference or convention
of the New Sudan Youth Association. It is not
by a House of Nationalities workshop for youth.
The House of Nationalities is not for the youth
alone. Am I clear? (Reply) Yes.
If I am clear, then let me come to the “Concept
of House of Nationalities”. The women
held a conference in Lokichogio. The venue was
wrong, it should have been somewhere in the
Sudan if they wanted people to hear about “what
the House of Nationalities is”. Southern
Sudan is composed of tribes.
There are big tribes; there are very small
tribes. Some tribes may be composed of one thousand
people only, the small tribes are predominantly
in Western Bahr el Ghazal. They are within those
called the Fertit tribes. They are actually
twenty-six in number.
Because of different circumstances, they have
been reduced to be very small, but one time
they were big. Some - by joining other tribes
- lost their languages. Some became small because
of the slave trade.
I saw a leaflet in the plane, which said that
there are about sixty-two nationalities in the
South Sudan. The writer of this leaflet called
them Nationalities, the colonial times language
is that they are tribes but because African
do not want to be called tribes they preferred
the word “Nationalities”.
Let us revisit the issues of the conflict in
Sudan, our conflict in Sudan is based on two
issues. The people who hold power in Khartoum
see the Sudan as Arab and Islamic and the regimes
pursued the twin policy of arabization and islamization
as cornerstone for unity of the Sudan; but Sudan
is composed of many Nationalities.
How long will it take you to become Arab?
I can acquire the language, alright, like I
can speak it now but how long will my genes
take to make me an Arab? In that process we
will be fighting each other like we have been
fighting for a long time, now for over fifty
This is because somebody is saying if you are
going to be a Sudanese you must be Arab, you
must be Muslim. So we resisted, because in their
definition you can’t be President in Khartoum
if you are not an Arab. You cannot head a department
even if you have become a Muslim.
So the basis on what they want to form and
unite the Sudan is wrong and is false. It does
not reflect the Sudanese composition and character.
Our people began to ask themselves, okay if
we refuse that, what is the next concept for
forming and uniting the Sudan?
The next concept is that “we must accept
our diversity”. And that is, “that
in the Sudan, there is an Arab and there is
an African, and that “the African is also
We have Dinka, Shilluk, Nuer, etc we have all
these people, they are present in the Sudan.
We must accept that diversity because if we
don’t accept that, there will be confrontation.
This where the concept of the House of Nationalities
came to being: to avoid confrontation. If we
are not going to force ourselves to be Arabs
or Muslims, then we must accept this concept
which accommodates all in one country.
The question is, will it (the concept of House
of Nationalities) divide us? Or will it unite
us? If you recognize that somebody somewhere
in western Bahr el Ghazal or there is a tribe
If you come to know it while you come from
Boma. Will that divide you or will it bring
you together with a person who is a Kresh in
Horfer el Nahas. If it will make you know that
there is someone called Suri (Kachipo) in Upper
Does anybody know who the Shatt are? Shatt
are a Luo-speaking tribe; originally they were
Jurchol, the Luo. They separated from the Jurchol
and went west of Bahr el Ghazal with the Fertit
Their language is slightly modified because
they had an interaction with tribes of Western
Bahr el Gazal . As for the Suri, it is only
during this war we began to know the Kachipo
or Suri. In Upper Nile we used to count only
six tribes namely Dinka, Anyuak, Murle, Dinka,
The Kachipo was ignored. Do we have to wait
till Kachipo starts fighting the Anyuak and
the Murle and then we begin to ask what is happening?
Kachipo are fighting the Anyuak and the Murle!
Then we ask who are the Kachipos?
What the concept of the House Nationalities
is saying is that “let us recognize our
diversity, let us appreciate ourselves, let
us appreciate our cultures, let us appreciate
And, by the way, for each person killed, there
is a problem which we must solve. Our people
are prone to conflict, they always fight. We
have to provide a forum for them to discuss
their problems peacefully. The other systems
that have ruled the Sudan have neglected them.
Recently, here in Panyagor there was a conference
between the Dinka themselves from Duk to the
Bor South. This was to solve the problems between
these three counties here, I also know that
there is going to be a conference between the
Dinka and the Murle here.
There is also the conference in Pangak for
all the tribes of the Upper Nile although the
main problems in discussion are of the Nuer
amongst themselves. We have to provide a forum
for our people to resolve their problems through
dialogue so that they do not just kill themselves.
Where there is a problem they talk. Now, the
county-secretary can not be with us because
the two Dinka sections in this area fought last
night. Is it the failure of their chiefs or
our failure that they have to fight instead
of talking? Are we not bringing the chiefs together
Problems of last year and the expected problems
of next year could be discussed to avoid these
incidents. The paper I read in the plane is
trying to address these problems at various
levels – at the national level, the level
of the region, and the level of the county.
Now let me talk about mistakes or misunderstandings
made in other places, when they were discussing
the House of Nationalities, which you in Upper
Nile must avoid. The youth of Bahr el Ghazal
when they wanted to have a conference/workshop
on the House of Nationalities, they differed
There was resistance from the New Sudan Youth
Association and there was a misunderstanding
between the NGO which was used to propagate
or convene the meeting or the workshop for the
New Sudan Youth Association or for the youth
in general - actually there are some people
who are not members of the New Sudan Youth Association
but are youth.
Because of that misunderstanding, others got
arrested. This did not help the House of Nationalities.
The Youth of Bahr al Ghazal were denied the
opportunity to discuss the concept of the House
of Nationalities. I understand also that the
Youth of Equatoria Region created a “permanent
secretariat for the House of Nationalities.
To do what? You are not coming here to create
a New Organisation! You are only being availed
a forum to discuss new ideas. This is the whole
In the paper I read in the plane, Jur Mananger
is listed as a tribe but it is not a tribe.
It was once a tribe but they now speak Dinka,
their culture is Dinka, and some of them who
went to the Nuerland are Nuer. If you ask someone
from Jurmananger who they are, he or she will
say that he or she is a Dinka.
Actually, their ancestral mother was called
Anger who was from the Luo. As you know, our
society can be patrilineal or matrilineal. As
a clan you can be called by your mother or by
The Jurmanger are Dinka. In the Nuer tribe
you will find a section of Gajak called Cieng
Nyajangni, it is a section that lives between
the Gagwuang and Gajak They are called after
their mother. It is our role, those who did
research, to correct the mistakes in this paper.
If the idea of House of Nationalities can help
form a diversified united Sudan, that is what
we want, because it recognizes our diversity
- which is not bad - it is the strength of our
When I read through this leaflet, I noticed
that the Bari speaking tribes are written separately
and not in one place; however I know they do
not like to be referred as Bari tribe.
They speak Bari all of them but there is a
slight difference. If you start counting from
the Mundari, they speak Bari, the Nyangwara
speak Bari, the Fujulu speak Bari, the Kakwa
speak Bari, the Kuku speak Bari, but if you
tell a Nyangwara you’re a Bari he will
give a knock on the face but the language is
So these are our diversities and it doesn’t
mean when we talk about them that we are not
creating a united country. Actually you are
creating a united country in diversity.
As for we the major tribes, if we start to
complain that the House of Nationalities may
be favoring smaller tribes, then we will not
create a united country. So our problem is that
with this diversity how do we create modern
state-structures levels of counties, regions
The House of Nationalities is not being addressed
to the youth alone, it is being addressed to
women, it addresses the whole tribes and also
the political parties like us in the SPLM.
We are being challenged to get new ideas that
can unite this country, whether it is going
to be one Sudan or one southern Sudan. We are
being challenged to get new ideas that can acceptable
to most if not all of us. Because it is with
new ideas that the SPLM can continue it’s
We are experimenting with you, you are guinea
pigs, so that we can assess the reaction of
the people to these ideas contained in the concept
of House of Nationalities.
Women also need to discuss these ideas before
it reaches the SPLM as a political movement.
Is it an idea that we can sell. Can it become
the basis for a viable political programme?
We want to have it discussed by you because
you are the political barometers by which we
can judge the community. It is time for great
I hope I have made myself clear!
Before I declare the workshop opened, I wish
to introduce my daughter, Meer Teny, she is
here. She came from London to attend this seminar
or workshop, she is studying Law and will graduate
this May. (Meer got up to acknowledge the introduction).