On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, I attended ‘Take Tea Together’ (TTT), an initiative organised by Salaam Junub (‘Peace South Sudan’) to counteract hate speech and negative tribalism.
Struggling against these tendencies is really needed in South Sudan, where warring parties in the civil war have deliberately played on and exacerbated tribal differences. Members of the Nuer group in President Salva Kiir’s administration have been labelled ‘Nuer wew’ – betrayers and sycophants. In Juba, the country’s majority tribe, the Dinka, is referred to as ‘MTN’ – a play on the slogan of the giant South African company Mobile Telephone Network: “Everywhere you go”. The Dinkas are traditionally nomads but today are also scattered around the country partly because of the persistent conflict.
Such epithets may sound harmless, but in South Sudan’s tense political atmosphere they fan the flames of conflict by inciting difference, dislike, animosity and hatred. Tribal affiliation has become key to getting a job: Dinka, Nuer or Equaotoria people can’t work in a state outside their state of origin.
The recently signed peace agreement gives some hope. Political reconciliation is the goal. The question is whether ethnic harmony will follow.
/Daniel Majack, Juba
This is the first in a series of postcards from journalists in our network, published on the Blankspot Project website.