Roles of Traditional Authority Leaders (TALs)

To Achieve South Sudan National Dialogue Goals

Foster and Nurturing Cultural Dialogue for Peaceful Coexistence in South Sudan

By Acuil Malith Banggol

I cherish the declared goals of the South Sudan National Dialogue as came and perceived and means to include:

  1. To end all forms of conflict in South Sudan: restitution, mutual recognition, rule of law, sustainable retirement support and sustainable DDR and adherence to article 37 of SSTC 2011…
  2. To redefine and reestablish stronger unity in diversity: mutuality, collaborative existence, shared values, a routinized consultative forum for listening and harmonization….
  3. To strengthen social contract between citizen and the nation-state: rights and dues and inclusivity…

To address the issue of unity in diversity: articles 33, 35, 36(4) and 166(6)(c) of SSTC 2011 and federation as mandated under ACRISS 2015 V article 1.1 on Supremacy of Peoples of South Sudan and 1.2 to articulate federation and affirmative action on gender and cultural inclusivity….

    1. To agree on the mechanism of allocating and sharing national resources: Enforcement of article 36(4), article 37, article 166, 167, 168 and 179 of SSTC 2011 and adopting the iSDG model for South Sudan….
    2. To settle historical and current disputes amongst the communities: Community-to-Community….
    3. To set the stage for an integrated and inclusive national development strategy and economic recovery: adopt iSDG Model for South Sudan….

To agree on steps and measure to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections and post-transition in 2018: Build on ongoing Trio-Leadership, Rotational leadership within the three Greater Regions built around the ongoing apportioning of powers among nationalities and communities in federal states, Cultural Affirmative Action and Twin Federal Model, Routinized Consultative Forums that include COTAL, Gender and Culture Inclusivity Affirmative Action….

  1. To agree on speedier and sustainable resettlement return of Internally displaced peoples and refugees from the diaspora to their homelands in South Sudan: iSDG, DDR, Sustainable Cash Grants Relief, Recovery, and Resettlement System, Microfinance and Students Support Grant….
  2. To further national healing, social cohesion, mutuality, peaceful coexistence, and reconciliation: Traditional Arbitration, Restitution and Compensation and forgiveness….

To sustainably achieve these noble goals and hope to have operational inclusive, just and good governance through the now declared federation. Any successful system of federation should recognize the Traditional Communal Federal Systems (TCFS) that exist now in form of in rural homelands each considered here as a TCFS –wut in Dinka, Ringara in Azande, Cheng in Nuer, Kal in Chollo and Dhok Hot in Acholi just to mention but a few. Each TCFS is perceived within distinct cultural existence identified with a living language and social, political and economic pattern and vales. In South Sudan, each TCFS could be administratively viewed as distinct prototype noticeable in thousands of TCFS, popularly known as chiefdoms of several communities or kingdoms of a People or a nationality amongst Anyuak and Chollo. My apology to those who might assume that unity in diversity could start from the upper echelons of society. Self-actualization and interdependency should be founded of mutuality that holds every unit accountable and responsible to promote commonality starting from oneself, the family, relatives and beyond to community of minute or large commonality. Let us not just pretend to be a union without caring for each and all the minute units collectively and collaboratively. There is no chance of egoistic selfishness and it could be utopian to think of collectiveness without units. In that individual safety is attained when an entity could equally care for the totality and vice-versa.

The National Dialogue Steering committee has excelled in the ratios envisioned allocation of delegates by constituency at Greater County Dialogue Forum (GCDF/grassroots level):

ü  Women                                                                                    25%

ü  Youth                                                                                       25%

ü  Political Parties (MPs/Counselor                                      12%

ü  Traditional Authority Leaders (COTAL)              05%

ü  Organized Forces                                                                   05%

ü  Business Community                                                            05%

ü  Farmers and Pastoralists                                                     05%

ü  Teachers                                                                                  05%

ü  Faith Based Organizations                                                   05%

ü  Community Based Organizations                                       06%

ü  Persons with Special Needs                                                  02%

 However, to consolidation of achieving the declared goals an to ensure implementation of these noble goals, there is need of only Traditional Authority Leaders consultative forum at national level and down during the implementation.

Background and Problem Statement

Since 2013, in South Sudan, today, which is likely to range with intensity if not checked, cushioned and loosened through inclusive cultural dialogue. The causes of ongoing instability and civil strive are these noticeable increasing rise political, militarist and elitist oligarchy and warlords. Similar instabilities and civil strive are also noticeable without exception to be tainting most of the African democracies now. Much of these instabilities and civil strives are fomented through attempts to gain popularity in elections. Contestants with mimic political, ideological divide associated with poor proficiency in public administration are assumed to engineer much of these calamities purposely to acquire more votes through manipulation. Instead of striving for unity in diversity through healthy dialogue and campaign agenda to improve quality of life, economic prosperity, just and inclusive good governance and sound economic policies there is an emerging threat of civil strives and insurgencies. Despite clear egoistic and selfish agenda that does not extend to benefits communities of origin, majority of former freedom fighters, militarists and politicians turned oligarchs manipulate linguistic and cultural identity for their narrow ends. The bad practice is to create instability, civil unrest through incitement and violent political campaign to divide voters in the name of cultural and linguistic identity. However, there is hope in horizon with widespread use of social media and education now. This if well expounded could promote unity in diversity by empowering the much larger sections of society identified. These are identified as conscious youth proving to be over 70% and women who are naturally above 50% of the population. These new trends to engage learners of higher learning institutions, research and scholastic practices veer towards correct direction. While previous attempts considered anthropological, cultural and ideological roles by Traditional Authority Leaders, which should be supported and encouraged. The move by the Rift Valley Institute to create the mosaic of intellectual and mix forums of youthhood learners and traditional authority leaders is positive. In South Sudan the Korun All Chiefs Dialogue initiated by Bishop Parade Taban, supported by the Rift Valley and Government of Switzerland proved valuable. This new trend of coming of faith-based to recognize the roles of Traditional Authority Leaders should be held and cherished. The famous Gurtong Peace and Cultural Project should be appreciated and should be increased to enhance the mission on cultural dialogue considering the added values of media. Much earlier the Government Switzerland in 2003 supported similar cultural dialogue. This endeavor gave raise that greatly influenced the legislation in 2005/6 with South Sudan Constitution giving way mandating the roles of Traditional Authority Council known as Council of Traditional Authority Leaders (COTAL). During the liberation war the enhancing roles played by Traditional Authority Leaders was noticeable and documented. The government in Southern Sudan in 2009 saw justification to organize an All Chief Conference in Bentieu. Customarily respected and considered as the mainstay of arbitration, conflict resolutions, reckoning the Judiciary of South Sudan incorporated the Traditional Authority Leaders. These developments necessitate a research and publications accessible rough this link: Efforts are underway to make this publication on shelves in libraries in public, universities, and offices and in legislative assemblies.

British colonial administration (1885-1955), in old Sudan, misjudged Nuer and Dinka, Azande including other 72 nationalities, residing in South Sudan, as the acephalous people. Moreover some researchers mistakenly concluded that the British, in their endeavor to gain control over the local population, created ‘chiefs’. The kernel, origin and hierarchy of paramount chiefs, executive chiefs, sub-chiefs, headmen and elders besides some religious authority are not artificial as misleadingly proclaimed by Hoehne (2008:19) that colonizers created TALs institutions. Hoehne contradicted himself in his (Hoehne 2008:14)quoting Johnson 1986:63-76) who found that: “… in the late 19th century, first the Turku-Egyptian and then Anglo-Egyptian administrations set out to establish control over southern Sudanese territories… initially the British tried to simply take over and co-opt traditional authorities and customary law… Soon, however, they realized that effective administration was impossible in this way… when they used force to extract tributes and control, the colonizers faced rebellion from side of Nuer…

The essence of colonization was exploitation, domination and demonization of colonized communities intended to eliminate efficacy and self-worthiness for a purpose of satisfying their greed. Conceptual reflections on South Sudan National Dialogue, especially put at its best, absorbed, Francis (2017: 13) in his conceptual reflection of the South Sudan National Dialogue writes that any envisioned success of the South Sudan National Dialogue to achieve “…its purpose- requires designing a system of governance that is based on the indigenous cultural values and institutions of South Sudan…” Banggol (2014) established that complex legacy of colonization, is this foul institutionalized demonization of Traditional Authority Leaders (TALs) and its associated Traditional Communal Federal Systems (TCFS) authority, rules of law, ethos, integrity and ideals of collaborative existence and mutuality. Worst still is this vain attempt to praise the exploitative federalism in all western world that was brought about through spill of blood, loss of many souls and through use of sword and gun through civil strives. Banggol noted that in South Sudan intellectuals with acute lack of ideological perception tend to instinctively copy their former colonial masters. They blindly recite colonial misconception though in South Sudan Traditional Communal Federal Systems (TCFS) –wut in Dinka,Cheng in Nuer, Kal in Chollo and Dhok Hot in Acholi should be valued as just and good governance. Expertly advanced by Francis South Sudanese would prefer endogenous governance of TCFS at a Boma twining with the modern nation state- popularly referred to as statuary adopted from colonization. In essence, each TCFS is perceived within distinct cultural existence and mutuality identified with a living language. Each TCFS is a prototype of others, noticeable, in thousands of TCFS, popularly known as chiefdoms of several communities or kingdoms of a People or a nationality amongst Anyuak and Chollo. TCFS is societal and high-class peaceful coexistence and mutuality compared to individualistic and exclusive western federalism that tends to destroy social fabrics through conflict.

TCFS headed by TALs, should be valued as a cultural federalism that values mutuality, interdependency and collaborative peaceful coexistence founded on virtues of justice for all, inclusivity and unity in diversity. If this is the possible challenge then the process of National Dialogue should allow inclusive views by TALs themselves rather than the ongoing three-phased quick fix. Committees sent from Juba might be welcome with a hope of bringing studied solutions. This could gravely undermined the call by President Kiir that: “…National Dialogue is both a forum and a process through which the Peoples of South Sudan shall gather to redefine the basis of their unity in diversity…” TALs were not extensively consulted. South Sudanese elites saw it fit to define what they might assumed to be the desire of the indigenous communities. As visionary and a transformational leader President Kiir historic address to the occasion of Oath of the Justice of the Supreme Court, on June 3, 2006, alerted that: The Judiciary of Southern Sudan and the legal fraternity in Southern Sudan, as a whole, have the monumental task of developing our legal system, based on common law and our traditional legal heritage, which has to be researched into, ascertained, harnessed and made available for the purposes of sourcing our legislative process, among other things. Our governance must be well grounded in our traditional laws and customs. It must be borne in mind by all that this has been one of underlying causes in quest for freedom and human dignity. Our culture identification and development in all its forms must be unchained and facilitated to reach the same heights, as is the case elsewhere in our continent or the rest of the globe for that matter…” With accuracy Francis (2017: 10) reminds everyone that: African governance must rest on autonomy, dialogue, persuasion and consensus building. These principles should be incorporated. Hence, TALs views and numbers should not be just an added up without giving them a forum to share their views.

Hazy and misconception by international partners about TALs evident in JMEC/ACRISS 2015 programs identified with shaky views on TCFS/TALs as was reported by the International Crises Group in their report: South Sudan: Keeping Faith with the IGAD Peace Process: July 27th, 2015 that quoted Troika support staffer: “…we have no idea which chiefs are here; we went with ones we could get on a plane at last minute…” Satisfactorily, the JMEC Chair, Festus Mogae, on November 28, 2016, is quoted as saying: ‘…Traditional Leaders in South Sudan play a vital leadership role in building a lasting peace and reconciliation among warring communities… Traditional Leaders have been effective as mediators and adjudicators in implementing peace and conflict resolution… We can all agree that traditional leaders have historically been effective mediators and adjudicators in their communities by implementing positive traditional forms of peacekeeping, conflict resolution, and intervention on behalf of victims of injustice… Traditional leaders and institutions play a key role in facilitating the process by which hostilities can be brought to an end...”

In 1986 SPLM/A liberation strategy abolished the Old Sudan Administrative Structures and replaced it with Independent Area Command each supported by several TCFS under TALs as Public Administration. With Chukudum 1992 SPLM/A Convention there was Zonal Commands, Civil Military Administration (CMA) and TCFS/TALs. In Rumbek 2005 the Constitution recognized TALs and their COTAL now mandated under articles 166, 167, 1678 of SSTC 2001 and LGA 2009. Kings, Queens and Chiefs meeting with SPLMA in New Kush-Heimann called for mutual collaboration and an annual coming together of all the TALs for mutual listening, resolve channelings and agree on a path to unity in diversity and mutual coexistence. Kings, Queens, and Chiefs meeting with President Kiir in Bentieu 2014 call for the formation of Council of Traditional Authority Leaders (COTAL) in each Federal State and at a National COTAL for annual routinized Consultative Forum for peace and prosperity. Despite challenges of instability, there are evident of vital roles played by TALs’ roles in administration Customary Laws amongst South Sudanese in urban areas throughout South Sudan, IDP, POCs and ongoing Several COTALs Conference since 2008.

(Kuol: 2008) in his research provided pieces of evidence suggestive of supportive and leadership roles by institutions of TALs that enhanced the liberation process in 1955-1972 and 1983-2004. Peace and Reconciliation Conferences since 2006 to our present days in search of peaceful coexistence and social harmony have highlighted the roles of TALs in sustainable peacemaking. The famous 2016 Korun TALs’ Meeting organized by Bishop Parade Taban for TALs call for roles of TALs in enhancing peaceful coexistence amongst South Sudan nationalities in rural and urban areas. TALs called for Seasonal/Annual Come-Together of TALs at National, State, Counties and Community-to-Community Dialogue.

The strategic roadmap of the ongoing South Sudan National Dialogue (SSND) incorporated membership of Traditional Authority Leaders (TALs) Regional and Greater Counties Forums. In that the National Steering Committee of SSND include membership of His Majesty King Wilson Peni Gbudue representing the voices of TALs.

Challenges observed to hinder the traditional and constitutional roles are caused amongst others by lack of forums that could sustainably and regularly allow cultural dialogue through frequent come-together of TALs. This is made acute due to poor physical infrastructure. Particularly, the recent violence ravaging South Sudan has had a tremendous impact on traditional authorities. Traditional authorities were humiliated, abused by the state and those who took up arms. However, it is noticeable that with every opportunity Traditional authorities acted as intermediaries and translators between external powers and local populations. Other factors undermining traditional authority were, first, war-induced displacement and the forced mass exodus of the population. This reduced the contact between chiefs and the constituents, and thus, leads to the waning of chief’s influence and popularity. Secondly, the proliferation of chiefs and their courts, in particular, undermined their authority. Third, the increase in criminality and insecurity, combined with the destruction of local subsistence economies during the violence undermined traditional authority. Yet it appears that the traditional authority lacks the power and knowledge to prevent and adequately respond to violence. Conflicts have become a common feature in our South Sudan. Many development projects have suffered stagnation or complete failure due to conflict resulting mostly from internal disputes.

Weak traditional authority is blamed on enormous symptoms. i.e. poor communication, infrequent forums poor governance, ignorance, poverty and lack of awareness about others cultural values, vulnerability to hate speeches and negative media and incitement hence lack of consensus on needed mutual recognition, collaborative interdependent to achieve widely owned and sustainable peaceful coexistence and prosperity could be enhanced by TALs.

Therefore, this proposal seeks to create a forum that allows cultural dialogue where it could be possible to share values of peaceful coexistence, mutuality, good neighborliness, interdependency, examine the role of traditional authority in conflict transformation and peacebuilding in the Republic of South Sudan. The consultative forum envisages examining the extent to which traditional leaders stand by their traditional roles and duties in resolving conflicts in their constituents using their language, norms, and values. The ultimate objective is to come up with specific recommendations on how best to improve conflict resolution strategies and peacebuilding by traditional leaders so as to promote a culture of peacebuilding in the South Sudan.

Francis (2017:9) warns against attempts to take identity lightly. “…Whether it is objective or subjective, inclusive or exclusive, identity must be taken seriously…” This is akin-shared to value of an inclusive all cultural dialogue asserted in a view by Kwacakworo (2008), Advisor to Government of Switzerland that“…It was also the lack of unity in South Sudan that led to the long war. If the people of South Sudan really had wanted and respected each other and worked together, the war would have ended much earlier. But the so-call enemy in the north used this internal dissent to facilitate their own plans by arming certain tribes, to fight the SPLA. The prolonged war and suffering would not have been possible if there was unity among Southerners. One should never forget that all cultures are equal. There is no one culture better than the other. Numbers do not count in the cultural question. If you have ten people with a culture and you have one person with a culture, they are all-equal and need the same respect. If people respect each other’s values it will lead to dialogue, will lead to understanding and will lead to unity. The problems will always be there but when there is respect for values there will always be a way for dialogue to solve problems. That is the value of forming these councils of traditional leaders as means of resolving conflicts…”

The latent fear that the modern nation-state could collapse because the assumed common enemy of Arab North has waned has no carnal. The claim of tribalism and sectarianism is also baseless because the manner of plundering seems limited to cartel-ism and individualistic with no real impact amongst poor tribes in rural settings with tangible liberation returns. Through TALs and consensus South Sudanese could intelligently find their way to unity in diversity for a purpose of improved quality of life should there be creative inclusive and persuasive system of governance. The majority, over 80% population, of South Sudan lives in rural areas, which consciously voted in 2011 to found a South Sudan for all nationalities. For centuries these communities respected good neighborliness and peaceful coexistence. Their Traditional Communal Federal System (TCFS) in accordance to customary laws, is mutually identified and recognized with territorial integrity as a land owned, utilized, protected and preserved natural resources of water points, forestry, hunting, grazing, farming lands and places of worship and burial, communes of ethnocultural, political and economic coping mechanism identified with beliefs, norms, values, morals, spiritual, customary judicial and administrative jurisdictions. With correct messaging of globalization, there is a chance to build on unity in diversity for a common purpose through persuasive good governance that genuinely inclusive and with mutual respect in content and form. South Sudanese are unease of suspected unwanted demonization and oppression if some or any segment could break away to joining other neighboring countries. Communities in South Sudan share the common sense of possible recurrent exposure to invasion if they are fragmented without common identity and collaborative protection. South Sudanese are proud of their common identity as JENUBEEN. Efforts should be made to consider issues of apportioning and rotational leadership practiced in an inclusive representation that could, in essence, give hope for elimination of possible domination but may persuade enhanced collaborative governance by all to achieve integrated governance. With consistent mutual dialogue, there are more chances of common grounds being Jenuubeen who could mutually and interdependently coexist and flourished for an improved quality of life for all. Interestingly enough South Sudanese are proud of their inclusive identity and fear no domination and dictatorship by elites.


Compared to other postcolonial nation-states in Africa, South Sudan enjoys unique historical mile stones where the roles of TALs did positively contribute towards configuration of a South Sudanese nationhood as Jenuubeen, with sets of expectations, roles, fairness, commonality and collaborative existence within the ideals of unity in diversity. This is demonstrated by the 98.83% unanimous voting for the independence of South Sudan. This could largely be attributed to the initiative by President Kiir call and meeting with TALs in Bentieu 2009. Earlier to revitalize the essence of oneness and solidarity behind the liberation movement; Dr. John saw logics in calling for a national consultative forum for TALs in New Kush Heimann. Though the British Colonization robbed the TALs, during the June 1947 Juba Conference, documentation indicate the oneness and desire for collaborative existence.

The complementary and pairing roles by the envisaged TALs Consultative Forum could not be overstated. South Sudan National Dialogue Steering Committee: Document Number One, October 2017:62 perfectly recognizes the huge potentials of the Native Administration under TALs as follow: “…Colonialism had made use of tribal chiefdom and native administration as a credible agent of local administration for law and order, justice and fairness. This system, the only means of administering tribal communities has been weakened by politics and two rebellions of South Sudan since independence from the colonial rule in 1956. It was necessary for the two liberation movements of South Sudan, the Anya-Anya liberation movement and the SPLA, to have access to the resources in the hands of the local chiefs and communities for the liberation to survive and prosper. Now, the native administration needs to be revitalized, reformed, supported and encouraged. They will be especially helpful in the collection of illegal arms from those who carry these weapons and use them to cause insecurity and commit crimes against and amongst the communities. The chief knows who the strangers are within their communities; who the troublemakers are and how to deal with them. The native chiefs are a credible agent of state and should be reformed and supported…’

More importantly, roles of TALs in implementing the reconciliation amongst South Sudanese is well articulate in Document One: 2017:36 that: “…South Sudanese tradition has it that tribal war crimes do not elapse with the passage of time. Only when the family and relatives of the deceased are fully compensated according to the ethical traditional norms, do such cases finally come to an end and can then be considered as closed. The National Dialogue Steering Committee may wish and can recommend the setting up of such traditional bodies to deal with such traditional matters before it concludes its work…”

President Kiir on May 10, 2010, commented on roles of TALs in preserving peace and harmony among our communities that: “… Nevertheless, our people had never lowered their guard. Traditional leaders, law – enforcement agencies and the people at large stood firm against the fomenters of trouble. In this respect, they have shown the same resilience, which they have exhibited during the struggle to thwart all attempts to divide them or disturb the peace and disrupt tranquility in their communities… The Government of Southern Sudan shall continue to provide our traditional leaders with all the support and means they need to ensure peace in their communities. It shall guarantee that our regular forces are furnished with the best training; tools and equipment that shall enable them to carry out their sacred duty…” Also President Kiir’s call, on May 2010, that: “…Our culture identification and development in all its forms must be unchained and facilitated… through research, …to reach the same heights, as is the case elsewhere in our continent or the rest of the globe for that matter…

A Pechter Polls Results Survey of South Sudan Public Opinion, September 6-27, 2011 by International Republican Institute (IRI) on who the respondents think actually has primary responsibility for managing (Solving Local Disputes): Traditional Leaders= 42% Local Government= 26% Members of the Community=11% State Government=10%National Government=10%.

This proposal calls for an all 72 South Sudanese nationalities, cultural groups and their TALs to convene through a Consultative Forum as an integral part of the ongoing National Dialogue to timely enhance the institution, status, and role of Traditional Authority, according to customary law, are recognized under this article 166 of Constitution. In that, the Traditional Authority shall function in accordance with this Constitution, the state constitutions, and the law. The courts shall apply customary law subject to this Constitution and the law. As mandated by article 167 the national dialogue should resolve that Legislation of each of 32 federals states to provide for the role of Traditional Authority as an institution at local government level on matters affecting local communities. Above all the Legislation at the National and state levels shall provide for the establishment, composition, functions, and duties of councils for Traditional Authority leaders. Such an all South Sudan and Cultural Group Consultative Forum could enhance cultural dialogue for a social contract, inclusive peaceful coexistence. The forum could allow bridging amongst Peoples through inclusive Cultural Dialogue Forums followed by Routinized Consultative Forums on matters affecting each and all the 72 South Sudanese nationalities and communities/civics. The forum is designed guided by mutual recognition, interactive participation, collaborative existence, and unity in diversity and wider ownership. Allowing cementing unity in diversity for social harmony through institutionalized unity in diversity and inclusive good governance responsive to cultural identity and common purpose through collaborative listening and mutuality as mandated by article 36(4) of SSTC 2011 and responsive to SSND themes. The forum could be instituted as a process for consensus through routinized Consultative Forums locally, by region, national and among South Sudanese in Diaspora and inclusive, Just and Federated Good Governance by All and for All

Banggol (2014) quoted Wassara (2007:8), traditionally, preservation of culture and adherence to common laws, values, and informal economic transaction and resolving disputes arising in the implementation of such acquaintances amongst the rural communities are critical roles of TALs in South Sudan. Quoted in interview by Jacob J. Akol, Gurtong, March 2008, Pro. Alfred Lokuji lamented: First and foremost, they [TALs] are the only institution many of us in traditional localities know. The district commissioner and any government official from the towns are visitors and often have to be introduced even to the way the communities, they are visiting, think. In spite of the fifty years of independence, the government we inherited from colonialists has not penetrated our cultures and still remains strange to the vast majority of our Peoples. I believe that the majority members of our rural household could never talk to a government official without consent from their community leaders. In South Sudan today “…Chiefs play an important role in community life in the young nation of South Sudan. They provide an array of vital services, from mobilizing people for community projects to adjudicating disputes and administering customary law. Sometimes criticized as being an unelected group of old men, they will nevertheless play a vital role in South Sudan’s steps to building viable, effective, local government institutions…” (Santschi: 2010). “…The chiefs’ courts presumably will continue to be one of the major justice providers in South Sudan during the next decade. Due to the customary law’s flexibility and mutability, these courts are able to adapt to social change..) (Leonardi et al. 2011).

In South Sudan, a high percentage of court cases are solved in chiefs’ courts according to customary law (Santschi 2010). Some (mostly external) actors criticize customary law practices – for instance for their partial noncompliance with human-rights standards (Santschi 2010). A Large majority of people interviewed in Aweil East County look on customary law practices as positive. They described the chiefs’ courts as efficient, transparent, and affordable compared to higher-level statutory law courts. In addition, their practice of considering the context and circumstances of the parties in conflict and the fact that verdicts are partly negotiated between the courts’ members and the conflicting parties, seem to correspond to the litigants’ expectations (Santschi 2010).

Experience has shown that Traditional leaders play a pivotal role in settling community disputes across rural South Sudan. They are regarded as custodians of traditional law and receive the bulk of the cases dealing with violence, which might be political, domestic or antisocial behavior.  There have been calls to ascertain the effectiveness of the traditional leadership in resolving such conflicts. The typical example is the call by the government for the representation of the traditional authorities in the national dialogue.

One key factor that has been associated with successful traditional authority and good governance is culture of peace and good governance. Peacebuilding, therefore, becomes an integral part of governance and development process in any given society. Therefore, the need for a vibrant traditional leadership role in conflict resolution and peacebuilding becomes essential. The guiding objective of the traditional justice system presided over by traditional leaders in South Sudan is immensely recognized and it maintains law and order and restores peace and harmony. Ensuring that disputants and their respective supporters are reconciled does this. It has been observed that at the heart of the traditional Authority adjudication system lays the notion of reconciliation or the restoration of harmony.

Three key factors help explain why South Sudanese continue to look to traditional and informal justice forums to resolve disputes: the vast majority of South Sudanese continue to live in rural villages where access to the formal state justice is extremely limited; the type of justice offered by the formal courts may be inappropriate for the resolution of disputes between people living in rural communities; and state justice systems in the counties operate with an extremely limited infrastructure which does not have the resources to deal with minor disputes in the villages.

Agreeably, in his research: “TRIBAL LOYALTY AND ITS IMPLICATION ON SOUTH SUDAN NATIONAL SECURITY” Ajuong (2017) warned and argued that: The practice of politicizing tribal groups appeals to cultural identities for its effectiveness. Elite political leaders cooperate with cultural intermediaries such as chiefs and religious leaders in using cultural identity for political maneuvers. In this process, tribal identities are reformulated to suit their political agenda. Political opportunists proclaim themselves as representatives of the tribal group while always promoting their interests in the first instance. “They combine knowledge and power in a context where the colonial economy of predation, except in a few rare cases, has left the state as the principal source of wealth and social advancement[1]“. Politicization of tribal group’s appeals to the tribal solidarity based on ties of blood relationships. This practice takes the form of a conservative return to the grassroots of tribal identities. The appeal to group symbols is used to construct a sense of cohesion which makes it easier for them to mobilize people. Sometimes they use cultural slogans to arouse the emotions of the people and make them accept even what they do not understand”. However, in conclusion, Ajuong suggested important approaches that could make tribalism contributed positively: “…We cannot afford to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Even the efforts of introducing democratic ideals in Africa will not succeed without taking into account the issue of tribalism. Any project, be it political, economic, or religious, which involves the mobilization of people must first take into account the cultural contexts in which individuals live rather than those in which someone may think they ought to be living. The point is that the process of building democratic institutions will succeed if and only if we start with what people are and from where they are. Many studies of tribalism concentrate on justifying the idea that sociopolitical organization based on tribalism is a primitive model. And in most cases, such an approach suggests that if Africa wants to make progress it must first of all eradicate tribalism. This approach has influenced many African leaders. Consequently, many leaders think that tribalism will disappear as the process of urbanization gains momentum. They conceive the existence of tribal loyalties and affinities as “some sort of a primordial carryover, a traditional, or atavistic residue, to be cured or erased with the march of modernity”.

These challenges should be addressed scientifically, legally, by practice with the legislative measure that explicitly identifies preventive and punitive measures. In South Sudan, ideologically, political parties are expected to be non-racial, gender sensitive, and against any form of tribalism, exclusionism, or ethnic chauvinism. In that any party’s ideology should be guided by values in its mission while striving for unity in diversity for purpose and principles of a functioning federated inclusive, just and good governance. The party shall respect and be responsive to the linguistic, social, cultural and religious diversity of its members. Article 33 of SSTC 2011 mandates that “…Ethnic and cultural communities shall have the right to freely enjoy and develop their particular cultures. Members of such communities shall have the right to practice their beliefs, use their languages, observe their religions and raise their children within the context of their respective cultures and customs in accordance with this Constitution and the law…” Furthermore SSTC2011 article 46(4) mandates that: “…The composition of governments shall take into account ethnic, regional and social diversity in order to promote national unity and command national loyalty…”

Consultative Forum for All 72 Nationalities/Cultures

Ajuong recommended that: “…While tribalism cannot in itself form the basis of modern social organization, its reality and hold over African people cannot be denied. Acknowledging and providing this reality with a democratic form, however limited, that meets the demands of peace and collective prosperity in our times seems more sensible than denying its reality in the face of the numerous problems, from civil wars to [tribal] patronage today…”

As an effective mechanism and a relevant consultative forum, the proposed TALs Consultative Forum shall ensure attaining the objectives of National Dialogue especially the need for lifelong collective efforts to “… To redefine and reestablish stronger unity in diversity: mutuality, collaborative existence, shared values, routinized consultative forum for listening and harmonization …”

Originally maintains the significance of consulting with all parties and communities, Francis (2017:16) prioritize wider and specific consultation. So it could be too risky to ignore possible misconception, misinterpretation and prejudice by elites by solely rely on the reports by the grassroots consultation by team as planned, assumed to reflect the objective reality of views of the communities. It is healthier to help TALs to have their forums to guarantee that communities have been effectively consulted and have direct statement by their TALs. Explicitly Francis (2017:6) expects “… achieving the National Dialogue goals requires reinforcing and strengthening traditional authorities whose abilities to contribute to the maintenance of law and order and to security and stability of the country at the grassroots level has long been tested…) Apply the comply strict principles of justice for all, identity and inclusivity: (1) constituent representation in accordance with population size in respect to democratic rights and (2) cultural identity and inclusivity so that all tongues and voices are expressed and listened to within the values of mutuality and respect to all cultures and values:


[1]Ted T. Gurr, “People Against States: Ethno political Conflict and the Changing World System,” in International Studies Quarterly 38 (1994): 347-77, at 355.



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