By Gladys Fred Kole
Norway has increased its support to South Sudan’s national archives with an added contribution of NOK 1.96 million. Norway’s contributions to the country now amount to over NOK 24 million since 2012.
The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Juba and the Rift Valley Institute (RVI) have signed a grant agreement to support the digitalization and preservation of South Sudan’s historical records.
Norway, through its Embassy in South Sudan, had promised to support the construction of an ultramodern national archives center as a birthday present to the people of South Sudan on its 11th independence anniversary.
Speaking during the signing ceremony yesterday, Lars Petter Henie, Charge de’ Affairs of the Norwegian Embassy in Juba, said that Norway’s support for the National Archives is based on longstanding relations and friendships and reaffirmed Norway’s commitment to ensuring good governance, stability, and peace in South Sudan.
“We are pleased to continue this cooperation, which began in 2012, following our Crown Prince’s pledge of support to the National Archives on July 9, 2011 as an independence gift,” he said. “We are now moving further with a big step towards the construction of the National Archives Building.
This support, according to the Norwegian head of mission in Juba, will strengthen the effective functioning of the National Archives as an institution.
For his part, Youseff Onyalla, Director General of the National Archives, thanked the Norwegian Government for its unceasing support of the National Archives.
“With this support, together with our partner the Rift Valley Institute, we are going to ensure digitization of all the historical records, and preservation of the government records at our disposal,” said Mr. Onyalla.
Government records in South Sudan have been damaged during the 1983–2005 civil war.
Many of these records were gathered together in Juba in the 1970s and early 1980s following the first civil war in the south; during the second civil war, they were scattered, disordered, and sometimes destroyed.
Tens of thousands of documents were stored in sacks in damp basements, damaged by water, and attacked by termites. The contents of the archive range from the 1900s to the 1980s.
The South Sudan National Archives conserves historical information or records about South Sudanese identity and their struggles towards independence.
About 60% of the documents in the national archives have been digitalized with Norway’s support.
This support will enable RVI and the National Archives Directorate of the Ministry of Culture, Museums, and National Heritage to scan and preserve in electronic format the remaining 40 percent of the archival materials, including various fragile documents, manuscripts, historical maps, and other vital archival materials.
Following the establishment of the National Archives directorate, various interest groups, including researchers, academia, and the Independent Boundary Commission (IBC) of IGAD, among others, have visited the National Archives to access documents to resolve borderline disputes, inform policy, and inform various decision-makers in the country.