South Sudanese cultures at risk

By: Santino Atak Bol Maror

South Sudan is an ethnically diverse state, with over 60 unique ethnic groups living within the same boundaries.

Each tribe has a unique set of dances and songs, which many refugees try to keep alive despite displacement resulting from years of conflict.

Most of the country is made up of Christians, though African tribal practices play a large role in religious life of many South Sudanese.

Wrestling is a very popular tradition in South Sudan, with wrestling events routinely attracting people from neighboring villages to watch.

A unique feature of this kind of wrestling is that pushing or shoving is forbidden – participants can only win by knocking their opponent’s feet off the ground. After wrestling has ended, the participants and spectators come together to dance.


The First Sudanese Civil War (1955–1972) resulted in the formation of the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region within Sudan.

When the Sudanese government revoked the region’s autonomy in 1983 and declared the entirety of Sudan to be an Islamic state, the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005) began.

This conflict resulted in the deaths of one to two million people and forced four million people to flee their homes. One of these people was John Dau, who spent five years as one of South Sudan’s 27,000 “Lost Boys” – children and adolescents of all ages who were forced to make several harrowing refugee journeys by foot across over a thousand miles in search of safety and the very right to live.

Despite these troubles, the people of South Sudan have maintained the indomitable spirit of resilience for which they are well known.


The peace agreement which ended the Second Sudanese Civil War set up the framework for a future referendum among South Sudan’s population on independence. The referendum took place in January 2011, and an astounding 98.83 percent of the population voted to form a new country.

South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011 – an event which brought jubilation to the country. South Sudan would now be in command of its own destiny – not the Sudanese authorities in Khartoum.

A new government was formed in the capital city of Juba – a city of 300,000 to 400,000 – located in the southern part of the fledgling state.

Sadly, independence did not bring the peace or stability the people of South Sudan had hoped for. Civil war broke out in December 2013, resulting in the displacement of nearly two million South Sudanese. Nevertheless, the hard work of rebuilding continues and the hope of a brighter future has never waned.


The most important linguistic grouping in South Sudan is that of the Nilotes, who speak various languages of the Eastern Sudanic sub branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family.

Chief among the Nilotic peoples are the Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, Bari, and Anywa. The Zande and many other smaller ethnic groups speak various languages belonging to the Adamawa-Ubangi branch of the Niger-Congo family of languages.

Arabic, a Semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family, is spoken by the country’s small Arab population and by others.

Under the 2005 interim constitution, both Arabic and English were official working languages, although English had been acknowledged as the principal language in what is now South Sudan since 1972 and was the most common medium for government business.

The preference for English was made clear when South Sudan’s 2011 transitional constitution named it the official working language of the country and the language of instruction for all levels of education.

Cultural diversity is the quality of diverse or different cultures, as opposed to monoculture, the global monoculture, or a homogenization of cultures, akin to cultural decay.

The phrase cultural diversity can also refer to having different cultures respect each other’s differences.

The phrase “cultural diversity” is also sometimes used to mean the variety of human societies or cultures in a specific region, or in the world as a whole. Globalization is often said to have a negative effect on the world’s cultural diversity.


Diversity refers to the attributes that people use to confirm themselves with respect to others, “that person is different from me.”

These attributes include demographic factors (such as race, gender, and age) as well as values and cultural norms.
The many separate societies that emerged around the globe differ markedly from each other, and many of these differences persist to this day.

The more obvious cultural differences that exist between people are language, dress and traditions, there are also significant variations in the way societies organize themselves, such as in their shared conception of morality, religious belief, and in the ways they interact with their environment. Cultural diversity can be seen as analogous to biodiversity.


The defense of cultural diversity can take several meanings including; a balance to be achieved: thus, the idea of defense of cultural diversity through the promotion of actions in favor of “cultural minorities” said to be disadvantaged.

Preservation of “cultural minorities” thought to be endangered; “Cultural protection” or “cultural exception” defends the social vision of culture against its commercialization.

The cultural exception highlights the specificity of cultural products and services, including special recognition by the European Union in its Declaration on Cultural Diversity.

In this context, the objective is to defend against what is seen as a “commodification“—considered harmful to a “disadvantaged” culture—supporting its development through grants, promotion operations, etc., also known as “cultural protectionism”.

This defense may also refer to incorporating “cultural rights” provisions, conducted unsuccessfully in the early 1990s in Europe, into a layer of human rig.


The writer is student at the University of Juba, School of Community Studies and Rural Development of Communications and Public Relations.

He can be reached at santinoatak1@gmail.com Or contact on +211922211101/ +211911211101


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