Some initial thoughts on the Committee for National Reconciliation’s July 2013 working paper

  • What is South Sudan reconciling from?  According to the first page of the working paper, independence was attained as “a united people”; while (finally) Southern internal divisions and fighting during the first and second civil wars is acknowledged on page 4, these are noted as “artificially created”.  If the Committee cannot recognise serious, politically- and socially-based divisions in the ‘struggle’, and cannot break out of this standardised ‘we-all-fought-together-for-independence’ dominant narrative, then how is it going to be able to let people speak on these divisions – the “community narratives of the war” that they want to uncover, on page 6?
  • Is there a robust civil society sector?  While there is definitely the international support and local organisations for this, the document elsewhere notes the lack of leadership and the hostile political situation; if the Committee is intent on digging for alternative histories of the conflict – with all that that entails – is there serious political risk here?
  • The Committee legitimately, and honestly, notes that the “former faction leaders and key supporters who hold leadership positions” will be an obstacle in full disclosure and openness in the process.  This is a mastery of understatement, both of these ‘leadership positions’ – a certain Vice-President springs to mind – and the level of blockage on the process this will entail.
  • The document keeps coming back to history (which is obviously a bit of a preoccupation on my part – there’s a lot of other extremely interesting stuff here, let alone the overall phrasing of the working paper in terms of Christianity, which is not surprising).  History is a point on the list of key components.  However, the report cannot fundamentally decide what it wants.  Does it want people to honestly discuss the divisions, infighting and differing visions – including, shock horror, people who did not want separation and independence of the South  – or does it want, as the key component is titled, “inclusive people’s history”?  While rightly noting that there is no shared collective identity or national narrative in South Sudan – other than the whole bush/CPA/vote/independence standard – the explanation given for this inclusivity does not talk about what to do when what people are saying in their reconciliation meetings does not chime with this work for ‘rewriting of South Sudan’s history’.

These are just some initial thoughts.  I’ve uploaded the whole document here:



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Filed under Africa, History, Politics, South Sudan

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