National archive dream comes true over 50 years later

National archive dream comes true over 50 years later

South Sudan’s history and heritage will now have a safe haven in the form of a National Archive, from where the present and future generations will get documented history of Africa’s youngest nation.

On Friday, the Vice President for Gender and Youth Cluster Rebecca Nyandeng led Norwegian envoy to Juba and Unesco officials in launching the foundation stone for its construction.

Tens of thousands of official documents from the governments of Sudan and Southern Sudan will be included in the collection, which spans from the early 1900s through Sudan’s independence in 1956, the First (1955–1972) and Second (1983–2005) civil wars.

This is an idea that was conceived 46 years ago by Enoch Mading de Garang, then Regional Minister of Information, Culture, Youth, and Sports in the Sudan. He wanted something that would archive the South Sudanese political movements.

National archives repositories have an important role to play in the economic, social and political development of a country. These may include the use of archives for historical accounting, archives and justice, democracy and good governance, archives and human rights, archives and settlement of disputes among countries such as territorial disputes.

Building the national archive side is a milestone accomplishment that will be permanently etched in the  history of the country, according to Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng, despite the lengthy timeline and numerous obstacles encountered.

“I am beyond excited to see that we are closer than ever to achieving our goal. As I stand here today, I see more than just an empty field. I see schoolchildren walking through hallways guided by their ancestors and feeling proud of their history. I see my grandchildren and great-grandchildren interacting with liberators and cultures that may have been forgotten,” she said.

“This land is so powerful because it will tell the story of all of us.” I hope that all who visit this site will remember that the struggles of today are connected to those of our past. I hope that we always remember the sacrifices of all those who came before us,” said Nyandeng.

To bring unity

The construction of the National Archive will be financed by the Norwegian government. Siv Kaspersen, the ambassador of Norway to South Sudan said. The archives will be instrumental in uniting the people of South Sudan by connecting them with history to learn lessons from that history.

Artistic illustration of the national archives.

She underscored the importance of containing archive documents of importance for the public to consider the archive the primary source of information about history, national heritage, and memory.

Since independence in 2011, through implementing partners UNESCO and the Rift valley and UNOPs, Norway’s support has focused on collecting and digitalising historical documents as well as on facilitating access to these historical materials, said Amb. Kaspersen.

 “This material is currently housed in a rental building, which is not commercialized without purpose.” “As a remainder of Norway’s historical support and commitment to the people of South Sudan, the Norwegian Support Group for Sudan and South Sudan, this may handle a huge number of historical pictures and films relating to Norway’s engagement in the country since 1972,” she said.

She continued, “The opening of the national archives is a new beginning for the people of South Sudan to release a national archive they can be proud of.”

She emphasised that a construction project of this magnitude requires government commitment and ownership to ensure that the building is completed on schedule and fully operational, and a model of archives based on good record keeping. “Government records belong to the people and must be collected for generations to come. Public archives should be a tool for facilitating transparence, accountability and good governance” Amb. Siv asserted.

UNESCO country representative Julius Banda emphasized the critical role of history in detailing the progress (or lack of it) of a nation and her people.

“So, documenting history is very important because our young need to know where the nation is coming from.” The young people when there is new idea they need to know what history is teaching and that they can chat a path for peaceful co-existence in this nation” Banda stated.