By: Rev. James Bol Obwonyo

 Malakal Town - Upper Nile



Development is a fundamental right of every human being in particular and all creatures in general. Every human being needs to develop physically, mentally, economically, culturally, educationally, politically and socially. Nevertheless, a way to development is full of barriers that need to be removed and make a way out to brighter future.


Among these barriers, social barrier is almost ignored in developmental process in the Upper Nile State. It has not been seriously taken as the most challenging element that could hinder development in our State. Instead, people solely think of political barrier.  

In this paper, we would like to address social barriers that hindering development in our state. More focus would be on some challenging social phenomena that some of us might not think of their effect on development. We would discuss the phenomenon of dependency in our community, flourish of alcohol in towns and rural areas, negative intellect that occupies minds of many people, cell camps at market places, inferiority complex that constrains life of many leaders and gang threat.  

These social phenomena would be precisely discussed within the context of Malakal community. Eventually, some constructive suggestions and recommendations would be proposed to enable us how to make our development possible. 



Dependency simply means to have needs that you cannot meet yourself, through your own actions[1]. It has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage part is that:

-        People are entirely dependant on their ecosystem, culture and social for food, water, shelter and other basic needs.

-        Safety in number. People who band together for their common defense are frequently safe than those who do not.

-        People who belong to social and family groups have to be healthier and happier than those who do not. For example: children and parents, elderly and sick individuals rely on caregivers to care for them etc.

This advantage one of dependency is normal; however the problematic type is "basic needs" dependency. Our family i.e. an African family has been described as extended family; a family that comprises parents, children, cousins, in-laws and friends. This structure obviously is cultural. Thus we find the head of family usually proud of keeping his/her relative close together. This perception bases on our social understanding. Its give ever member in a family right to live and talk on family affairs. Because of that structure we get an approximate of 4 to10 dependent adult people in one family. Whether they are employed or not, we find most of them expect their basic needs from the head of family. What shall then the head of family do in order to meet their needs? If he/she is a government employee or politician, would definitely embezzle public properties that would have benefited the state. Likewise his/her family members shall fall into the same track and become irresponsible for development of the state.  

Dependency therefore is one of the challenging social phenomena in our state that hindering development. It is devastative and makes people irresponsible. It teaches people neither to think of developing others nor of promoting a quality live in the community.  

To remove dependence barrier out of our way, we need to tell truth to our relatives that dependency creates enslavement and destroys our reputation. People need to be taught of independency and self reliant in families, schools and society. They need to be told that our families and community develop through cooperation and individual contribution not by the head of a family. This teaching should begin from childhood, we need to make our children and relatives feel independents and contributors not consumers in our families.  


It was reported in Sudan Tribune news paper on Wed 19 Oct 2005 through its website that 20 Sudanese (probably the majority are southerners) died and 6 were blinded after drinking a strong batch of alcohol in March 2004 at displace camps in the North[2]. Can we imagine if 20 people died and 6 got blind in one month in one place, how many people would die in on month all over the south, especially at this peace time where every Corner is full of bars?  

Alcohol is a gate to death, not only in Upper Nile State but also in many other States. The CPA that signed on the 9th January 2005 has brought life to the southern Sudanese people. Every survivor of the war dreams greater expectation. To them, CPA was an opportunity for better and productive live. Some people chose to go to schools, find good jobs, joint political scenes and others have chosen to build bars and spends nights overwhelmed by an alcohol.  

It is often obvious that the owners of big colorful bars are today and future leaders of this nation. So why do they prefer bars from restaurants or supper markets? It is simply because alcohol is marketable and profitable. But does alcohol constructs or devastates? Who are its clients? Are they not our brothers and sisters; wives and husbands; children and friends? How many families had fallen apart of alcohol? How many freedom fighters, intellectuals, leaders, women and children were victimized by alcohol? Should we promote or demote alcohol in malakal?  

Sisters and brothers, the time has come to think of how to remove this barrier out of development process. But, how could we remove alcohol? In order to eradicate it, the following possible steps could be taken.

-        The ministry of Social development (MSD) should form a committee to assess the number of bars' owners and local brew producers in towns and rural areas.

-        The MSD in collaboration with respective humanitarian Organizations that operating in the state should organize a workshop for alcohol traders and local brew producers. Those traders should be invited to come together, discuss and share ideas of how to get rid of alcohol and come up with alternatives.

These suggestions could easily help us to convince those traders without reluctant.

Negative intellect

Our people mostly do not know how to recognize or appreciate others. Although peace is prevailing yet people are traumatize. They see people and things negatively. Their minds are totally occupied by war's memories. Therefore whenever they see a new leader coming into power, even before he or she could begins his or her functions, they fire him or her right away. Also when people see or hear about financial corruption, rape of children, shooting in town etc, they despair, loss hopes in their land and immediately think of leaving for Khartoum or abroad.

It is our responsibility as stake holders to take possible steps towards healing this negative intellect that controls the minds of our people in the State. We need to teach them how to recognize and appreciate others regardless of their political, cultural, tribal or racial sentiment and love their land. In that manner we would be able to break this barrier and see others and our land positively. But how could we achieve that?  

We need to set a framework for healing seminars at the level of basic and secondary schools (beginning with teachers), Upper Nile University and government employees. In those seminars we could be able to teach our youth and leaders that recognition and appreciate are the keys to success and transformation in people's life. When we love our land, see others and their works positively and correct their weaknesses constructively, we shall see development taking place in our state.

Cell camps

Cell camps in this paper means grouping phenomenon in towns whereby we find our youth and elderly people seating under trees and branders at market places enjoying hot and soft drinks, smoking "shisha" and talking politics throughout the day.  

These cell camps could have been good if people gathered for development and construction of social live. Unfortunately, people are seating in parallel political lines and no interaction between these cell camps. Our people of malakal are really living in political xenophobia as they are from different countries. People dislike themselves, therefore those who have common interest come together under one camp.  

We need to Orient our people that politics is not evil as many thought of, it means to rule the affairs of people not individuals.

Cell camps have created social barriers among our people which made development difficult in the State. Something must be done that could bring our youth together under one colorful camp. We have to:

-        Conduct social awareness workshops for all cell camps. These workshops could be arranged by neutral people e.g. religious leaders or foreigners who are working with humanitarian organizations. Why do we propose these two groups? Because our people in malakal are politically discredit. Therefore they need new acceptable characters to all of them to facilitate these workshops.

-        We call upon the Minister of Youth and Sport in collaboration with respective humanitarian organizations to build youth centers at the open spaces in town. These centers surely could eradicate cell camps and create a common understanding among the youth.

When our youth come and work together, eventually the cell camps barrier shall fall and they shall see the brighter future on their way together for development.

Inferiority Complex

It means someone never believe on him/herself or never have confidence.

Our social setup has a great impact on our upbringing. You hear parents abusing their children saying for example: you are dark like a charcoal or you are lazy or useless person and so on. Therefore today, you find many ladies coloring their skins and the youth are imitating western lifestyle of dressing and eating. They do not believe or have confidence in themselves. They see the beauty and meaning of live on other people according to what they see in the media. Thus they dream of leaving their country to live in Europe or America.  

Also we find some government and community leaders are socially constrained. They do not believe in their respective powers. You find some top leaders in their departments, units or sections living an inferiority complex. Whenever there is a decision needed to be taken, they hesitate and sometime suspend functions unreasonably. They do not feel responsibly, they think that if they act, some superior person will sack them. That is why we usually hear a language of I can not do it now, come tomorrow, come tomorrow ... until tomorrows never come.  People are living in fear of accountability from no where.  

Inferiority complex needs to be cure, we need to encourage our ladies, youth and leaders who are living this trauma that they are able, responsible for constructive change and competent in decision making. This encouragement could be done through seminar(s) under this theme: "curing inferiority complex" in our State. A target group could be fixes through an organizing committee.



Gang according to police definition is a group of individuals, juvenile and or adult, who associate on a continuous basis, form an allegiance for a common purpose, and are involved in delinquent or criminal activities[3].  Gang may range from a loose knit group of individual to a formal organization with leader or ruling council.

Gangs have a structure composes of:

1-     Original gangster: is a permanent one.

2-     Hardcore. Comprises of 5-10 of gangs. This group is a die hard gangster; its members are the leaders who without them the gang may fall apart.

3-     Regular members: comprise 14-17 years old. Their function is to rob and steal. They are back-up to hardcore members.

4-     Wanna-be's: they are usually 11-13 years old. They hung around with gangs under training.

5-     Could-be's: usually under age of 10 years old.

Gangs are made-up of different groups which differ from one another. They have many names e.g. blood, lords etc. Their attires have different colors and writings on them. They wear red, black and white colors with names e.g. Chicago bulls or North Carolina.  

Many of us might think that gangs are in developed countries and we do not have them in Southern Sudan. They are there in our State. They appeared in the Sudanese community in Egypt probably shortly after the signing of CPA. They call them selves Out-laws,"Nigas?" or lost boys.  

On 22nd  December this year 2008 in Egypt, gangs chopped one man head in Maadi area and smashed more than 12 Egyptian cars in Abbasiya streets.[4]

Those gangs are now in Malakal. They are recruiting more gangs underground. And surely they will drop many children and youth out of schools, their families, culture and teach them criminal behaviors.  

Today you could identify gangs from tiding a piece of cloth on their head, carrying rings on their ears and wearing long and short trousers down to the bottom. They carry knives inside their cloths and sometimes bottles that could easily broken and attack people with on the streets. We find them at market places, sitting at cross roads. They walk in 3-7 members in a group.  

Surprisingly, those gangs have no private residents; they stay with their relatives like any ordinary person. Most of their relatives are not aware of their activities on the streets. Therefore when you arrest or accuse a gang on the street, their relatives denied his crime and even defense him seriously. Families could never suspect them at all.  

Gangs are barrier to development in our state, because they loot, bit, chop, kill and rape. They are scaring especially at evening and night times; they can loot your money, gold, mobile or whatever in your possession by force and bit you up or kill you.  

Therefore we recommend that:

-        The police patrolling must be intensified from even till down.

-        If gangs are captured they should not end up in slashes at criminal court. Instead, they should be kept in a reformatory.

-        The State government should build a reformatory for those gangs, where they can enjoy their educational rights.



Our people in malakal are lacking social awareness. They are more engage in political schism. We need to make our children, youth, women and leaders aware of social barriers that hindering development in our State and come-up with a collective decision of how to remove these barriers. This collective decision would never realize unless the government, respective humanitarian organizations and community leaders intensify social seminars, workshops and rallies in schools, Upper Nile University and communities.


[1] Mark Dombeck and Jolyn Wells. http://www.mentalhelp.net, 16 June 2008.

[2] http://www.sudantribune.com . 16 June 2008.

[3] http://www.geocities.com . 16 June 2008.

[4] http://sudantribune.com. 4 June 2008


Additional Resources by American Addiction Centers:


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