By William Madouk Garang
The Norwegian government through its Royal Norwegian Embassy in South Sudan has assured to construct ultramodern national archives center as a birthday present to people of South Sudan on its 11th independence anniversary.
Since, South Sudan separated from Sudan the national archival collections of above 10,000 records dating back to 1898 and over 3,00 boxes, with over 5,000 scanned files are been kept in a temporary established tent.
The idea for a Southern Sudanese archives originated from a regional Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sport, late Mading de Garang in 1970s with an aim of preserving, and storing rich culture.
The proposed national archives building which is fully funded by government of Norway, is situated behind Freedom Hall opposite Dr John Garang Mausoleum with a land of over 26 thousand square meter with UNOPS as an implementing agent.
During a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, the Vice President for Gender and Youth Cluster, Rebecca Nyandeng congratulated South Sudanese adding that lying foundation stone is yet another milestone.
“When I visited the national archives with French ambassador last year, we were shock to see those beautiful documents lying down, in that house overcrowded with our history but we knew this day will come,” Rebecca expressed her optimism.
“It’s a beautiful gift, it will never be old and it will always be new until when we achieve [construct] the building we will appreciate what Norway has done,” she added.
VP Rebecca stated that up to now vital archives are still in Sudan and it’s time to bring them back home, asserting that those records are remembrance of rich culture, and history for upcoming generations.
“I am beyond excited to see that we are closer than ever to achieve our goal, as I am standing here today, I see more than just empty field. I see school children walking through hallways guided by the ancestor and feeling proud by their history,” said Mama Nyandeng.
Norwegian Envoy to Juba, Siv Kaspersen affirmed that the construction of the building was a national gift from Kingdom of Norway to South Sudanese assuring that archives unify nation and connect people with history.
“When you the people of South Sudan voted for independence [King Harald V] pledged to ensure that Norwegian national gifts to the people of South Sudan would be national archives – a concrete measure to enable to preserve your historical records and build common national identity,” Kaspersen revealed the gift genesis.
Ms Kaspersen underscored that the preserving archives is important for the general public because they can pursue the archives as a primary resource of information, cultural heritage and collective memory.
“South Sudanese I just want to tell them to visit archives because archives is aiming to change the culture”.
However, Youssef Fulgensio Onyalla, the Director General for Archives & Records said: “Let people of South Sudan have culture of reading because we don’t have time to read – isn’t it? even you got small notes on the gate or anywhere they don’t have time to read this and you just enter – maybe it says don’t enter it’s dangerous” he noted.
“If you don’t see anything to read one day you will feel sick and it is you now to get rid of that sickness or being lazy to read and go to archives to get information. You have to run [after it] – it’s not coming to you, it’s you to go there” he added.
National archives provide comprehensive historical resources for South Sudan dating back to 1988, this include; colonial administrative papers, maps, district reports, courts records chief personality sheets and agricultural and livestock reports among others.
From 1981 – 1983 an approximate of five thousand provincial records files were collected from the Greater Upper Nile and Equatoria regions unfortunately the collection records from Bahr el Ghazal was not collected due to civil war.
A new phase was launched by national archives and partners in 2018 focus on both physical protection of the historic archival collection as a significant testimony and digital preservation of its content to enable public access it.