Today is the official launch date for a website that serves both to document and display the results of efforts to name the ones who have been killed in South Sudan’s conflicts since 1955. WPF is proud to have supported the South Sudanese civil society volunteers who have spearheaded this project. The people of South Sudan have endured conflict for decades–the death tolls have unquestionably been enormous, but they are also broad estimates. No one before this group of South Sudanese attempted to capture the names of those killed. As they announce on their website:
They were fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters and children. Each of them cherished by their families and communities. They are the people killed or missing in the conflicts that have ravaged South Sudan since August 1955.
This project is designed for one purpose: to honor the memory of each person who has died or gone missing during conflict in South Sudan. You can participate by submitting the name of someone who is lost or by offering a memorial tribute.
WPF highlighted the work of this group a year ago, and today you can see for yourself how their efforts have progressed. The website displays the names, ages, and other information about the people who have died in the conflicts. Below is excerpted directly from the website, which we encourage you to visit.
What is Remembering The Ones We Lost?
Remembering The Ones We Lost is a public memorial that aims to name all victims of conflict and armed violence in South Sudan. This unified and public recognition of individual lives being lost through violence is accomplished through the collective efforts of individuals, communities and institutions to name victims. This initiative hopes to bring attention to the shared suffering, give additional meaning to cries for peace and be a tool for understanding and reconciliation amongst South Sudanese individuals and communities. As such, the website allows individuals and communities to provide the names of people killed in armed conflicts through filling of the testimonial form, email, SMS and twitter.
The project compiles the names of all people who have died in armed struggle since 1955 to-date and generalized armed violence.
What is memorialization?
Memorialization is a process through which society acknowledges violent and painful pasts and transforms them into tools for understanding both historical and contemporary injustices. Public memorials come in many forms, from museums and monuments to the collections of condolence notes, flowers, and pictures of victims at sites where they died or disappeared.
Memorialization has both private and reflective objectives and public and educational ones. On the one hand, the acknowledgment of painful legacies and past can be seen as a form of ‘symbolic reparations’ that helps survivors in their process of healing. At the same time, memorials can help societies to build a collective narrative of the past and prevent recurrences.
Remembering individuals who were lost to a conflict can be a powerful form of memorialization that brings attention to the circumstances of a person’s death or disappearance. In describing the symbolic power of publicly naming victims killed during the Syrian conflict, Lina Sergie Attar, a Syrian-American architect and writer, wrote:
“When you call someone by their name, something materializes that transcends the ephemeral utterance. The concrete syllables of one’s name represents everything that person is or was supposed to be. As we read 100,000 names, our dead gain the weight of recognition that they deserve but were never granted. Name after name, hour after hour, days through the nights, from reciting with a microphone in front of a bustling street audience to whispers alone in the dark surrounded by a slumbering world: we render each name visible and heard for a moment in time before it disappears once more.”
Vigils in which names were read out aloud have been held in Juba, South Sudan and Nairobi, Kenya in December 2014. The organizers of the project plan to continue with such memorialization initiatives, including reading of names over the radio and publishing them in newspapers.
Remembering The Ones We Lost was initiated by a small group of dedicated South Sudanese volunteers and organizations: Anyieth D’Awol (The ROOTS Project), Awak Bior, Christina Obur, Daud Gideon, David Deng (South Sudan Law Society (SSLS)), Edmund Yakani (Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO)), Priscilla Nyagoah, Pio Ben Ding and Yohanis Riek.