By Christopher Sebit
Jubek State is ethnically and linguistically diverse. It is inhabited by five ethnic groups, namely Bari, Nyangwara, Pojulu, Lulubo and Lokoya. The Nyangwara and Pojulu speak Bari language, whereas the Lokoya speak their own mother tongue and so do the Lulubo speak their own mother tongue. Though these ethnic groups have common cultural practices and have coexisted for decades, the adoption of the name “Jubek” as a state’s identity creates dissatisfaction among other four groups that are under obligation to assimilate to the chosen state’s identity. Why? The personality of “Jubek” and his contributions to the historical struggle against external colonial forces is not known to the Lokoya, Lulubo, Nyangwara and Pojulu. Perhaps the Bari, as the owners of the identity, are well informed about the historical achievements of Jubek. What is now clear is that the state’s identity is being questioned and contested by other groups.
Whether there is reliable evidence that warranted the adoption of Jubek as the identity of the state, it is an issue of less significance as far as the other ethnic groups can equally offer competitive identities. To avoid dissatisfactions and tensions arising from the imposed state’s identity, the concerned authorities, be they in the state or national government, should have given themselves enough time to conduct a feasibility study on the culture and historical experiences of the five ethnic communities constituting Jubek State. This is the correct and surest way to manage ethnic diversity in the state. Lack of appropriate management of ethnicity breeds debilitating tensions and conflicts in multi-ethnic states around the world.
The manner in which the state defines itself is linked to the management of ethnic diversity. The state that imposes the identity of a majority group on the minority groups is likely to deny claims made by these minority groups. The identity of the state is a “symbolic code” that should take into account the practices, preferences and values of different groups making up the state, i.e. the applicable symbolic codes of the state should reflect the cultures, histories and identities of all the constituent groups. In short, the state should practice “inclusive symbolism” to a greater extent possible in order to secure equality, peace, justice, solidarity and unity across ethnic lines. If a state has already introduced the symbolic code that recognizes the identity of a majority group as it is the case with Jubek State, then there is need to redesign the symbolic code with a view to taking into consideration the practices, preferences, cultures, languages, histories and identities of a broader range of diverse groups constituting Jubek State.
Strong unity and solidarity cannot be expected to emerge in a situation where the other ethnic groups feel alienated. Even if the word, “Juba” is believed to have been derived from the word, “Jubek”, the fact that they are not synonymous when it comes to effective management of ethnic diversity cannot be ignored. The name, “Juba” is preferable. It is neutral. It helps make peace, solidarity and unity in the state. The name, “Juba” as a distortion or derivative of the name, “Jubek” is appealing and attractive to all the ethnic groups in the country, and therefore it makes these groups stand on equal footing—it does not places the Bari, the owners of Juba on a more advantageous position in relation to other groups. Let us go for Juba.
The name, “Jubek” could have served as a symbol of unity if the other ethnic groups do not have the feeling of alienation. To bring the case to the point, other ethnic groups in the state have no access to Jubek ground—a facility located near Juba Central Prison. This facility signifies the symbol of the state. It is worth sharing by all groups. To ensure the spirit of love, solidarity and unity among the five ethnic groups in the state, they should be given opportunity to use the facility for multi-purposes such as meeting, rallies, dancing, celebrations etc. This is how to build the spirit of togetherness that will transcend above ethnic divisions in the state. Indeed, sharing of facilities by ethnic groups is the best way to strengthen social, political, economic and cultural ties.
Can we not see how Torit and Kapoeta states came into existence? Imatong State has become Torit State and Namorunyang State has been transformed into Kapoeta State. The simple reason is that these two names, Imatong and Namorunyang are not neutral. They are seen as exclusive. They lack uniting power. Contrarily, the names, Kapoeta and Torit are neutral historical names acceptable, not only to ethnic groups in Eastern Equatoria, but also to all the people of South Sudan. With this fact in mind, the author is of opinion the ethnic groups in Jubek State should follow the footsteps of their brothers and sisters in Torit and Kapoeta. They should make the state inclusive and attractive by replacing Jubek with Juba. Many intellectuals of the five ethnic groups are in favour of changing the state name to Juba. The word “Juba” has a sense of inclusivity and neutrality. Let the State Council of Ministers or the State Legislative Assembly initiate a legislation to amend the name of the state to read, “Juba State”. God bless this proposal to bring strong peace and unity among the five ethnic groups in Jubek State! God bless all those who will support the proposal! Amen.