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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

South Sudan: The Chiefs Speak

Decades of war in South Sudan have had a damaging effect on the position of chiefs and other traditional leaders. But their influence remains strong. Today they confront a crisis in communal life: an increase in violent conflict within and between ethnic groups, the collapse of the national judicial system, the uncontrolled spread of firearms and—since December 2013—a new civil war.

Executive chiefs in South Sudan, wearing red sash of office

On 18 July the RVI Nairobi Forum brought four chiefs from different states of South Sudan together to discuss the current crisis—and the role that they and other traditional leaders could play in bringing peace. They were joined by a panel of leading South Sudanese intellectuals.

Traditional leaders and South Sudanese intellectuals at the meeting included the following:

Nyuong Danhier Gatluak,  Paramount Chief, Nyuong Nuer, Unity State
Wilson Peni Rikito, Paramount Chief, Zande, Western Equatoria
Simon Lokuji Wani, Chief, Bari, Central Equatoria
Jacob Madhel Lang Juk, Paramount Chief, Tuic Dinka, Warrab State

Alfred Lokuji, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Juba
Jok Madut Jok, Chair, Sudd Institute
David Deng, Research Director, South Sudan Law Society
Priscilla Nyagoah, Sudan and South Sudan Campaigner, Amnesty International

The event was chaired by Joanna Oyediran, Sudan and South Sudan Program Manager of the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa.

The event was organised by the Nairobi Forum programme of the Rift Valley Institute, with the South Sudan Law Society, the Sudd Institute, the Gurtong Trust, the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa and support from the Swiss Agency for Development.

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