Articles and Analysies
Differentiate Between Tribe and the Application of Tribalism in South Sudan BY: Nhial K. Wicleek, CANADA
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Oct 20, 2009 - 8:45:36 AM

Differentiate Between Tribe and the Application of Tribalism in South Sudan

BY: Nhial K. Wicleek, CANADA


As articulated by Mr. George Thon Gai in his recent article that “the main problem lies with the allegiance to the tribe than the central government system of our “tribe affiliations”, could possibly be true.   But tribe and tribalism are totally different and have different explanation since before the introduced system that we all leaned for up to date.  

To this day, each and every one of us have different theoretical understanding as well as beliefs to what it actually mean by this two terms, tribe & tribalism. In simple definition I found for tribe is that, tribe refers to a small social group with common ancestor, or immediate family member that has social attachment and can distinguish themselves from any other group close by to them because of their relatively simple structure. A Tribe is “viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.” Whereas tribalism refers to “the possession of a strong cultural or ethnic identity that separates oneself as a member of one group from the members of another.”  

Even though tribalism (the sub-set of the tribe) shares relatively simple patterns with the term tribe, the existence is not something to be simply traced back to just one or two generation.   One typical example that remind us of the existence of tribalism is to read this quote, “the distinction between these two definitions for tribalism is an important one because, while tribal society no longer strictly exists in the western world, tribalism, by this second definition, is arguably undiminished,” meaning no one has control over the existence and its prevalence in the American society.  

If that is so, what would be our imagination to that? The same is true with our society; a young one that has just emerged out of uncivilized era can still do the same with the term tribalism.   It is of course true that tribalism should be eliminated on the basis of the fact that the system of government in southern Sudan should be strengthened and rise to sharper edge and not resort to a blunt action such as--loose laws and order prevailing uncontrollably in our area.  

Given these definitions, some of the readers may agree to them or may not agree depending on their subtle understanding, and social mindset they have incorporated long before coming to understanding the social aspect of these worries in these terms.   To me, if we know that the existence of tribes is not to be considered a subjective debate because it is an objective reality long before the emergence of state, our intellectual arguments should be pointed to finding ways of eliminating such thing as tribalism.   It is duty and responsibility of every individuals desiring elimination of this term, but with strict and precise form because it is something difficult to deal with.   

On the other hand, bringing up this topic unfolds the realm of social argument as to why we regard ourselves tribally. If need be, our states are built after our tribal existence.   It is in no way it should be said that tribes do not or would not exist.   Our social structure exists even beyond our imagination because it did not just develop out of nowhere but has been part of our daily life, distinguishing between social fragmentations and our societies.   It is to this end that we still remember our social or sub-social groups or what group we belong to.

In Western World, it is realistic that social paradigms practically still exercise this simple structure of tribes.   Although not openly, it is still a western wide phenomenon, and not strictly limited to other people from different part of the world.   Along the way, can be restaurants with Yap Sen saying “Irish restaurant, Italian convenience, Scottish store, English street, and so forth,” and these important differences exist long before we came to western world, Europe, and other country we have come to.  

If we think the existence of tribes is not good for unity because it preaches different mindset or sub-conscious thinking is bold and baselessly impartial in this regard. For example, in Kenya there is Lou, Maasai, Kilengin, and you name it.   There is also in Ethiopia Oromia, Amhara, Walaita, Gimmira, Benshungol, Tigray, and the list goes on. Jewish and their tribes is significantly an issue to know.   Yet, South Africa can be part of the example given because they still practice tribalism only because of tribal political ignorance and lack of understanding the need in the level of government. If we don’t resort in mere system that challenges our human capital such as appointing someone incapable of doing the job than the one that can, is our shame and weakness although leaning to regard it as tribal affiliation.  

As a matter of fact, your point of view could be right because something that contributes in incurring inconsistent behaviour could be isolated if it is the only thing that ruin living. I can agree to your illustration only if you identify the important of tribal existence and differentiate with the tribalism that is daily practiced unhealthy by us home and in Diaspora. I would not urge anyone to leave tribal life for the above explanations. But one thing important to avoid is that our application of tribalism must come to minimization simply because our tribal existence does not provoke humility against another group or tribe.  

If we know that a person cannot live without the other, we should refrain from walking a lonely walk for the sake of unity so that we can have common objective than to say I am not walking with you because you did such and such. To get rid of tribalism, not tribe, is to maintain rule of law where practice of tribalism could be slowed so that we can enjoy living while preaching the valuable goal that recognize our political uniqueness without X from this tribe doing the wrong because he/she is from this tribe, but by his/her own deeds given the fact that he/she lacks that capability.    

To link the prevailing chaos with the interest of some leaders because of their tribal background shows how tribalistic you are because it has nothing to attribute but hatred against the persons you finger point for no course of action they have contributed to Lou Nuer-Dinka Bor skirmishes.   If it is the case that you think Dr. Machar contributes in the cause of Lou-Nuer vs Dinka Bor war, what about Bor Dinka vs Mundre war or Murle vs Dinka Bor, or Mundre vs Murle raiding that have long been archiving on the internet for couple of days, who are you blaming now? I don’t like seeing these innocents die all days, but I cannot point finger on President Kiir alone or Gov. Kuol MangJiok for this failure because they are not the ones alone in the government.  

To look at it this way, security failure in the south Sudan , cannot trigger one’s anger that it is Mr. X that does that. There are things to be pointed at someone that most would realize that it true to finger point at such a person. Such things are causing a trouble in the community, deliberate killing of people, and lack of considering the need from the people such as our outcry every day about lack of improvement to security situation in the south are the ones that could specifically applies to single individual.   

To me, we can blame our leaders because they are the ones controlling our affairs and our security all in all then some of them. If they are not protecting our lives, it is where we can raise our voice to cry for our save living regardless what voices we voiced out. It could be an insult to them for lack of maintaining the security of the country. But let us not forget that the enemy is still pursuing instability in the south not wanting us to establish good governance in the other hand.  

Moreover, I would assure that nowhere on this planet that is tribalism-free state or community or society without those discrepancies. The only thing most countries do is that laws are imposed on anyone thinking differently against the other. Their political aspect of playing politics is mere thing because they are the front liners and cannot in a destructive debate that would devalue them to public.

Also, make sure we are fine as individuals with mental capacity that can judge between right and wrong.   We can be called a good tribe because we are normal in every aspect of our social life. But what about other people who have mental problem and think of human as animals in term of psychological application? You can call them that they are insane, but it is not because they have unified objective against the ones normally acting not in their way of living.  

It is to be noted that they are mentally institutionalized because of their being a threat to people around them. Even a brother or sister you share blood with remain a threat to normal individual and once he/she is taken to mental institution and joined up with inmates, would share their tribal life without threat to each other because their mental function is fashioned to their likes and dislikes of their surrounding environment. Why would they remain a threat to us and not to their inmates? That is the question I cannot answer for us myself!!

In conclusion, let us join hands in fight against “tribalism” mentality because it is the one that has strong application. I know that it is very tough to do so, but those that have mental capacity of envisioning the futurity southern Sudanese can live is good and time is now for them to start downplaying tribalism.

But for the existence of tribe is something we would not waste time to debate on since it would require us substantial amount of time to do. Also, it is not even the cause of tribalism, but our political application and the nationwide hatred we built for hundred of years are the one to blame.  

I can urge the government of south Sudan to refrain from tribalism and begin to plant a good and prosperous thinking for the benefit of our next generation to come

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