Articles (Opinion/Analysis)

South Sudan & “Greater Syndrome”: What, Why, & More

By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, 24th April 2022

What are all the “Greater” about South Sudan or South Sudanese names, of Regions, States, Counties, etc?  Actually, why even “Greater”? To what extent could all matters “Greater” be resolved? Using available procedures and or legitimate possible avenues/ improvements? What should (if any), or can, or may constitute “Greater”? What is it? Is it all about some trying to take unfair advantage of some (others) or making themselves (look) more special than some (others)?

Here, in this article, in an attempt to provide ideas and answers to those questions, let me start by quoting excerpts from an interesting article titled “The “Greater” Syndrome” by Steven Wöndu, the South Sudan Auditor General, published on Sudan Tribune, about Eight(8) Years ago.

Wöndu writes: “My memory has failed me, again. I cannot remember how ‘Greater’ slipped in the names of our Regions, States and Counties. The practice has become so absurd that last year and the year before, the States of Western, Central and Eastern Equatoria resolved that collectively they are called Equatoria NOT Greater Equatoria. Unfortunately, this ridiculous ‘Greater’ is spreading, not diminishing. People now talk about Greater Upper Nile, Greater Bahr el Ghazal, Greater this place and Greater that place. South Sudan Television (SSTV) is even promoting South Sudan as Beled Azim (Great Country). Is it really? What happened to humility and modesty?…At this rate we are soon going to confuse our guests. The proliferation of ‘Greater’ in our naming system is taking us into the theatre of comedy…Visitors to South Sudan would not be blamed if they associated our word ‘Greater’ with bragging.”

“To be great is to be awesome, fantastic, brilliant, famous, admirable, tough or terrific. ‘Greater’ is a comparative adjective. There was Alexander the Great because there were other Alexanders but none matched his adventurous victories and exploits. If there is Greater Equatoria, there must be another Equatoria that is not great but daft, dull, inconsiderate, mean and hopeless. ‘Great’ can also mean massive, big, large, huge, or enormous. In this context, we have the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and the Great Wall of China. They are great because there are other reefs and walls in this planet which are tiny by comparison. So when we say Greater Equatoria in terms of size, we imply that the other Equatoria or all other Equatorias are tiny,” he continued.

“Greater Equatoria is meaningless unless one is talking about the Equatoria of Sir Samuel Baker which included parts of Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile, and Uganda. That Equatoria was reduced during the era of General Charles Gordon and finally dissolved during the Condominium period (1898 – 1956). The Equatoria of today is confined to the territory between ‘greater’ Tombura and ‘greater’ Kapoeta Counties. It is not great qualitatively. It is not great quantitatively. It is certainly not greater, by any measure, than other territories in the region, Africa and the world. There is no political or geographical entity called Greater Equatoria.”

For now, that’s sufficient excerpts from Wöndu’s article, also as I provide facts, my opinion, observations, and analysis in this article in this attempt to provide ideas and answers to those questions above.

While I have to declare that I am not in agreement with all views Wöndu expressed in the article, relevant  point I should mention here about Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile is among those which I mentioned in my recent article titled “Does South Sudan need a name change?”  which is that,

about the Republic of South Sudan and its Territories, the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan enshrines that the territory of the Republic of South Sudan comprises all lands and air space that constituted the three former Southern Provinces of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile in their boundaries as they stood on January 1, 1956 (See Article Article 1 (2) of the Transitional Constitution.) For clarity here also, Article Article 1 (2) also enshrines that and the Abyei Area, the territory of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred from Bahr el Ghazal Province to Kordofan Province in 1905 as defined by the Abyei  Arbitration Tribunal Award of July 2009.

History: Geographical Location (Reference)  vs. Human Identity

Under sub-headline (in the same article) “SOME HISTORY,” continued Wöndu, “Up to the mid-1970s, the three Southern Provinces of Sudan were Equatoria, Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal,” he also went on to provided facts, observations and analysis about how South Sudan “we know it today” got ten States, further adding examples of name (s) being  geographical reference, not a human identity.

“The citizens identify themselves as Equatorians. They do not want to let go of their ties with the Madi, Acholi, Toposa, Makaraka, Zande, and Moru. Similarly, the citizens of Warap and Lakes States feel at home in Wau. They do not want to loose their Bahr el Ghazal identity. That name binds the Dinka, Jur, Balanda, Ndogo, Fertit and other ethnicities into one. The history of Sudan and South Sudan is replete with references to The Upper Nile. It is an address no Shilluk, Dinka, Nuer, Murle and Anyuak would wish to forfeit. Jongolei is good but Upper Nile is better. Perhaps that is the explanation for resorting to ‘Greater Upper Nile’,” he wrote.

Here also, what I would like to mention about related current affairs and matters Geographical Location (Reference) vs. Human Identity, is what I expressed in my work and writings including on matters of systems of government/governance, Secession (Independence/Republic); Federalism, etc that they have been clear, none means separate existence, there can  be many historical, cultural and many ties that can be resolved through making systems work better for all, beyond Republics/Regions/Continents, Races, etc.

Also that about Matters ETHICS AND REVOLUTION and  basic classical political philosophy, agreeing with a favourite philosopher, is that:

“Can a revolution be justified as good, perhaps even as necessary and justified not merely in political terms i.e. justified with respect to the human conditions such as, to the potential of man in a given historical situation? This means that ethical terms such as “right” or “good” will be applied to political and social movements, with the hypothesis that the moral evaluation of such movement is (in a sense to deprived) more than just subjective, more than a matter of preference.  Under this hypothesis, “good” and “right” would mean serving to establish, to promote, or to extend human freedom and happiness in a commonwealth, regardless of the form of government. This preliminary definition combines individual and personal, private and public welfare. It tries to recapture a basic concept of classical political philosophy which has been all too often repressed namely that the end of government is not only the greatest possible freedom, but also the greatest possible happiness of man, i.e. a life without fear and misery, and a life in peace.”


About the above questions on matters: what are all the “Greater” about South Sudan or South Sudanese names, of Regions, States, Counties, etc? And actually, why even “Greater”? To what extent could all matters “Greater” be resolved? Using available procedures and or legitimate possible avenues/ improvements? What should (if any), or can, or may, constitute “Greater”? What is it? Is it all about some trying to take unfair advantage of some (others) or making themselves (look) more special than some (others)? These are all issues of concern, that sometimes relate to creation of new places  (counties, “Administrative Areas,” States, etc.) or renaming places/giving new names.

It is true that the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) which aims at resolving the Conflict enshrines a road-map, that, when implemented, shall resolve the conflict and address those issues. The Local Government Act, the Transitional Constitution, and relevant laws can also be used in all that. Those are among the points I made when I was interviewed recently on Beyond the Headlines, on Sunrise Media, about the R-ARCSS and related issues.  Other points in the interview and my related articles (editorials) are that though the R-ARCSS remains significant, possible and legitimate improvements can be made, because of delays in implementations, other related peace processes and the need for holistic approach, also as other actors, stakeholders pulled out from the process or did not sign the R-ARCSS.

Wöndu, on his part, in his conclusion in his article, wrote:

“In the historical context therefore, one can understand why there is talk about Greater Equatoria, Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bahr el Ghazal. It is an attempt to minimize the effects of the balkanization imposed by Numeiri and Beshir. Things could have been less complicated if some of the new States in Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal had not lost the original brand names. Maybe we should have had Northern, Western, Southern and Eastern Bahr el Ghazal States. Similarly we could have had Northern, Western and Southern Upper Nile States. In such a scenario, the campus prefix could be ignored when referring to the entire Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile and Equatoria Regions. Any alternative is better than the ‘Greater’ syndrome.”

Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, a South Sudanese journalist, is the author of the book Freedom of Expression and Media Laws in South Sudan.  He is also the Producer and Host of The Weekly Review: Making Sense of Relevant Topics and News. For more, keep in touch with this his website

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