The Jieng Council of Elders: A bad example to follow

By David Lawrence Lual


President Kiir flanked by members of the tribal Jieng Council of Elders (File photo)
President Kiir flanked by members of the tribal Jieng Council of Elders (File photo)

March 24th 2019 (Nyamilepedia) – Before commencing my piece of writing I would like to define these three terms that constitute the title of my article:

Jieng is the formal name of an ethnic group known worldwide merely as the Dinka. It is one of the 64 tribes that constitute the people of the Republic of South Sudan. It’s believed that Jieng is one of the largest tribes of the country numbering about 2.5 to 3 million (according to Gurtong website) and constituting of more than 25 aggregates of different sections called (Wut). The Jieng are found in Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile and Southern Kordufan regions. Each Jieng section has a separate political entity with established rights to a well-defined territory.

An elder is an older person, aged person, a leader, patriarch or senior figure in a tribe or other group. An elder is an influential member of a tribe or community, a Wise man and is often a chief or ruler; a superior.

A council is a body of people formally constituted and specially designated or selected to act in an advisory, administrative, or legislative capacity. It is an assembly of persons summoned or convened for consultation, deliberation, or advice in the community.

According to definitions above the Jieng Council of Elders is therefore; the group of elderly people from the Jieng tribe whose responsibilities as tribal council of Elders should have focus on the following;

1- Maintain traditional norms and values and preserve cultural heritage of the tribe through education and promote best practice of cultural activities.

2- Discuss on matters pertaining social and administrative issues of the whole tribe or of certain group of people within the context of the tribe or community.

3- Regulate the enforcement of the laws that govern their communities in accordance to their cultural customs i.e. marriage dowry and social fines.

4- Advocate for social coexistence and arbitrate in conflict resolutions between their tribe and other neighboring tribes/ communities.

5- Facilitate and oversee the development of the territories that lies within their Community.

Having a council of elders is not a bad thing if members of a particular tribe wished to have one. Indeed it could be a positive undertaking provided the intentions and goals are towards furthering the unity of the country. The council could lend the government a helping hand in resolving local conflicts and fostering social cohesion.

But since the creation of this body called “Jieng Council of Elders – JCE” shortly after the war broke out in South Sudan in the aftermath of December 2013 incident. The political arena in South Sudan had witnessed a number of chaos and controversies that amounted to political instability in the Country.
Although the Government denied that the war wasn’t about a tribal feud between the Dinka and Nuer claiming that it was solely a power struggling war. But the creation of this council which is composed of some self-appointed elements with self interests from the different sections of Jieng/Dinka tribe, most of them whom are veteran politicians and have served in big positions before in the national government. Their taking side and unilaterally backing certain decisions by always citing tribal remarks confirmed to the rest that the war indeed was tribal.

The #JCE has always exceeded their confined roles and responsibility within the context of their tribe/community and has had a lot of interference into the country’s national affairs. These interference ranged from numerous comments from tribal perspective on the the national issues starting from the role and position of JCE on peace talks process, warning international community against pressuring Juba regime to accept peace, rejecting the IGAD proposal on S.Sudan peace, persuading the President not to accept the IGAD-plus Proposed Compromise Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan and recently they have been accused of masterminding the creation of the 28 states in South Sudan which most of the other communities in South Sudan rejected but was praised and endorsed by the JCE as a body but not the entire community .

Their meddling into the national issues did not only had negative influence on the country’s political status and decision making but have also drawn enmity and counter tribal abhorrence towards the entire Jieng/Dinka community. Their acts had tarnished the face and the reputation of the entire community; it left every single member of a Jieng/Dinka community in a vulnerable situation to repulsion from other tribes. These self-proclaimed JCE are not representing the interest of the entire Jieng/Dinka community on any legal ground nor do their acts represent the ethics of Jieng/Dinka way of living.

Being a Jieng/Dinka now seems like being a British in the colonial era. Just by mentioning that you’re a Jieng/Dinka people will start judging you and before you even proceed talking you could clearly sense from the reaction of the face that there’s already a created perception against that community. This if it continues will worsen the relationships of the Jieng/Dinka with the rest of the tribes even with the closest communities they share boundaries with. The Jieng/Dinka would be on the verge of living in social isolation from the rest of the communities of South Sudan which for me is a bad impression because no communities could live without good relation with their neighbors and expect to live in stability and thrive in development.

As a community member am appealing to the entire Jieng/Dinka to refrain from supporting ideas of people that are tearing apart our social bonds with our brothers from the other communities, let’s stick to our cultural norms and values of social coexistence, respecting other communities and embracing cultural diversity.

Let’s make the name Jieng/Dinka be blessing and not a curse to South Sudan.

The author, David Lawrence Lual, is a concerned South Sudanese citizen and can be reached via: dave3lual@gmail.com

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