Opinion | By Charles Kon Bona
August 17, 2020 (Thessherald)–One of the minority tribes of the Republic of South Sudan called Luo which is being wrongfully referred to as (Jurchol), a Jieng’s (Dinka) phrase that has controversial and disputable meanings has awakened and in the awakening, the Luo tribesmen has launched a huge advocacy on social media stating in their numerous posts that the name Jurchol has to be changed to Luo under the laws of the Republic South Sudan.
Luo tribe is one of the earlier inhabitants of Western Bahr el Ghazal State (Wau) originally, calling themselves Jo Luo and draw a reference to themselves as Jo Luoi with a classification under the Northern Luo, Western Luo, Eastern Sudanic and Nilo-Saharan. Luo people are one among the tribes gifted with the attitude of learning languages and dialects. They are familiar with English, Bongo, Thongmuonyjang, and Arabic. The Jo Luoi are commonly known for iron mining and forest agriculture unfortunately, in 1855-1956 the English rule abolished mining and some of the Jolui who still insisted with mining activities were either victims of jail terms or a resultant of death sentence.
According to Luo People, they are arguing that they have no definition for ‘Jur and Chol’ in their language Dheluo claiming that this phrase is Jieng’s. In Thongmonyjang, Jur is someone or group of individuals who don’t speak Jieng’s language, don’t know their culture or have nothing in common with Jieng people while ‘Chol’ as per the arguments some Jieng raised in response to Luo advocacy on social media, have different understandings and explanations. Some Jieng say Chol is a black color which clearly implies that Luo people when called Jur Chol in Thongmuonjang means a ‘Black Stranger’.
This explanation has even created disputing inputs among Jieng because some Jieng say Chol is not a color in reference to the name but some sort of resting. In light of this explanation, those who raised it explain that the Luo people came as stranger who were on a journey and rested in one of the Jieng’s villages and later in the even when the sun heat eased, they continued their journey. Up to now there is still no common understanding or conclusion among Jieng people themselves. In regards to a conclusive disagreement or agreement on this advocacy, Some Jieng object Luo’s advocacy of changing their tribe name from Jurchol to Luo on the ground that, the history of Sudan has known this community as Jurchol and not Luo and some Jieng also think that the rationale behind Luo people changing their tribe name is political dating it to 2010 when Dr. Lam Akol was contesting and campaigning for presidency of the Southern Sudan of which he stated something about Luo community as a whole while on the other hand, some jieng understand and gave a green light for Luo tribe advocates to follow legal procedure in documenting it as Luo. What is making matters worse is that, Joluoi are frustrated because even in their national Identity Cards and passports their tribe is written as Jurchol however, Joluoi still think that it is too earlier for them to just follow legal procedure for the documentation of their real identity as Luo tribe so they chose to advocate and making awareness to the public so that once the media is fully aware and convinced then the legal procedure shall be initiated to help create less misunderstandings later when it is changed from Jurchol to Luo. Below are the international laws and national laws that legally support the right to identity and culture and the rights of ethnic and communities which also apply to Luo tribe of Western Bahr el Ghazal to change their tribe name from Jurchol to Luo.
(1). The International Bill of Rights.
The international Bill of Rights are rights which are recognized, respected and protect by all the nations which are parties to the United Nations. These bill of rights universally apply to all persons in countries even those countries which are not parties to the United Nations. The International Bill of Rights are altogether Wrapped in the following three International legal binding instruments:
(a). Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948
Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted on the 10th Oct 1948 8 during the third session of the United Nations Assembly at the Chaillot Palace in Paris. The adoption of declaration of the human rights was envisaged as the very first item on the United Nations agenda within the program of the International Bill of Human Rights followed by the adoption of its two part (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).
The fundamental message of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights lies in the statement under paragraph 1 of its preamble that ‘recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
The Universal Declaration on Human Rights also has general principles such as, the principle of equality and non-discrimination, the principle stating the right of everyone to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration can be fully realized and spelling out a concept of the duties of everyone to the community and permissible limitations in the exercise of the human rights and freedoms and, the principle for the prohibition of activities by any State and group of persons aimed at the destruction of the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration.
The declaration also states the fundamental substantial rights contained in the Civil and Political rights and Freedoms, as well as Economic, Social and Cultural rights.
(b). International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1976.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16th Dec 1966 and entered into force on the 23rd March. It is an international covenant that protects and grants political and civil rights to all human beings and that the government should not interfere in civil matters and should not treat individual as per their distinction to color, race, gender, religion, culture, political opinion and others. As per now, the main focus of the Luo people is the cultural rights which are also recognized universally under international laws as stated by Lexy Yaya Mangok Kuot.
(3). International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1976.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16th Dec 1966 and entered into force on the 3rd Jan 1976 puts every state or all governments of both nations parties to the United Nations and those which are not under the obligation undertaking to provide improvement in the fields of economics, social and cultural activities stating under its preamble. Under this covenant, the rights to communities to practice their beliefs, culture, religion, identity and others is recognized, respect and protected by the government and as a duty of the citizen of a given nation.
The universality of the International Bill of Rights.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are universal. The universality of these rights means they are without boundaries and that these rights apply to all nations in the world whether those nations whose governments are parties or not. The universality of these rights is stated under different international laws starting with the Charter of the United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a cornerstone with its two international covenants (International covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), the 1993 Vienna Convention and others. These rights are enshrined in constitutions of nations with no contradictions of which the constitution of the Republic of South Sudan is not an exception. The Bills of Rights apply to all ethnic groups of all nations without any interference from other individuals, group of people or the governments themselves in violating of these rights.
(2). The Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan 2011
Under the constitution of The Republic of South Sudan 2011, the constitution states in its part two the ‘Bill of Rights’ which are numerous and under section 33 specifically states (the right of Ethnic and Cultural Community) that “Ethnic and cultural communities shall have the right to freely enjoy and develop their particular cultures. Members of such communities shall have the right to practice their beliefs, use their languages, observe their religions and raise their children within the context of their respective cultures and customs in accordance with this Constitution and the law”. As per the Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan part two ‘Bill of Rights’ (Right of Ethnic and Cultural Communities) Luo tribe of South Sudan have constitutional right to freely enjoy and develop their particular cultures. Luo tribe shall have the right to practice their beliefs, use their language, observe their religion if it exists and raise their children within the context of their respective culture and customs in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan.
The Statement that says “within the context of their respective culture and custom” includes even changing their identity from Jurchol to Luo because Jurchol is not within Luo context of their respective culture. Furthermore, this section states the right for the ethnic community to use their language so Luo people are asking that how comes that the Luo People are not allowed to use their own term from their own language to name their tribe and a Jieng’s term is imposed on them which is in violation of the constitution of the Republic of South Sudan and the International Bill of Rights? Luo people are also claiming that the speaker of the national assembly at the time when the phrase Jurchol was documented as Luo identity did not consult Luo tribe representatives for a concrete and a consensus agreement on how they should be called and documented and they added that in a democratic nation like South Sudan, they have every right to start the documentation of their original Identity by suing the speaker of the house who was there at that time for wrongfully allowing such a grave mistake of using Jurchol as a way of referring identity.
The writer is a concerned South Sudanese citizen and he is reachable via his email: email@example.com