Accepted Paper:

Making borders and identities in South Sudan  


Ole Frahm (Humboldt-University Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

The nascent nation-state of South Sudan is shaped by direct linkages between the establishment of boundaries and the development of (political) communities both on the national and on the local level.

Paper long abstract:

South Sudan as a late-comer to independence and statehood provides a fascinating contrast and intriguing comparison to other African countries' trajectory after decolonization. While secession and the contentious ongoing border demarcation efforts with Sudan help shape national identity, the question of border demarcation, including the current debate over a demilitarized zone, also influence group identities on both sides of the Sudan-South Sudan border (Ngok Dinka, Misseriya, Abyei). At the same time, the establishment of an international border and a defined territory have enabled /freed up sub-national communities (ethnic groups) to establish their own claims against the government of the new territorial entity. The emergence of alternative collective identities is facilitated by the lack of government penetration beyond the few towns, partly explainable by terrible infrastructure, lack of non-military spending, the brutalization of society, mass presence of small arms and vast numbers of returnees that often bring new values, customs and ideas with them. In addition, even during the long war against the North, Southern Sudanese were not united and fought each other - continuing today with inter-tribal raiding and marauding. Curiously, however, almost all sides equally call for an end to 'tribalism' and a common South Sudanese identity as a panacea for the current ills; though sorely lacking in credible solutions to attain it.

Panel P027
Territory and community: the scalar dimensions of political authority, identity and conflict in contemporary Africa