OpEd, Politics

The Imperative of Unifying Languages in South Sudan’s Public Offices

By Gama Hassan Oscas

Language is an essential tool for effective communication, especially in a diverse and multicultural country like South Sudan. The use of a common language, such as English or Arabic, in all public offices and institutions is crucial for fostering inclusivity, fairness, and trust. However, the prevalent practice of using local dialects instead of the official working language, particularly in regions where one tribe dominates, has created a detrimental environment that undermines the credibility of these institutions and perpetuates biased and tribalistic tendencies.

South Sudan, with its sixty-four nationalities, is a nation that prides itself on its diversity. To ensure equal access to public services, it is imperative that a language widely understood by the majority is adopted as the official language in public offices. English, being a globally recognized language of communication, serves as a unifying force and allows for effective interaction between citizens from different regions. It provides a level playing field and eliminates the potential for favoritism or discrimination based on linguistic preferences.

When officials in public offices choose to use their local dialects instead of the official working language, it creates a significant barrier for visitors and clients who are not familiar with those dialects. The neglect of visitors in favor of hosting friends or family members in these offices undermines the primary purpose of these institutions—to serve the public. This disregard for visitors’ needs and the wasting of their time waiting for unnecessary conversations sends a message of disrespect and exclusion. It erodes trust in these institutions and fuels suspicion and skepticism about the impartiality and professionalism of the officials.

Moreover, the use of local dialects in public offices not only creates biased and tribalistic tendencies but also perpetuates a divisive and fragmented society. Language, when used as a means of exclusion, fosters an “us versus them” mentality, further deepening divisions and mistrust among different tribes and communities. South Sudan is a nation striving for unity and peaceful coexistence, and the use of a common language in public offices is an essential step toward promoting national harmony and integration.

While local Arabic can be tolerated to some extent due to its widespread usage and its adoption as a common language by many South Sudanese, it should not supersede the importance of the official working language. Arabic may be more familiar to some individuals due to their educational background, but it is crucial to prioritize the official language, which ensures equal access to services for all citizens, irrespective of their linguistic background.

To address this issue, the government must take decisive action. Clear policies and regulations should be established mandating the use of the official working language, such as English, in all public offices and institutions. Adequate training programs should be provided to officials to enhance their language skills and promote cultural sensitivity. Additionally, strict protocols must be implemented to ensure that visitors and clients are promptly attended to and treated with respect and professionalism.

In conclusion, South Sudan’s public offices and institutions must adopt a unifying language, such as English, as the official working language to promote inclusivity, fairness, and trust. The use of local dialects in these spaces creates a divisive atmosphere, undermines the credibility of institutions, and perpetuates biased and tribalistic tendencies. By prioritizing a common language, South Sudan can foster national unity, enhance public trust, and ensure that every citizen receives equal access to services. It is through this unified approach that South Sudan can build a prosperous and harmonious nation for all its citizens.

The writer can be reached on the email: oscasgama@gmail.com

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