30.07.2019 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

UNESCO supports South Sudan to undertake community consultations at Diem Zubeir Slave Route site

Tree where Slaves were executed at Diem Zubeir Slave Route site © Elfatih Atem/ Likikiri Collective

UNESCO supported the State Party of South Sudan with sending a field mission to Diem Zubeir Slave Route site to document and collect primary source data from the surviving communities and descendants of those traded to enrich the preparation of a World Heritage nomination dossier.

Following the March 2019 mission to South Sudan by a UNESCO international consultant who conducted research and documentation on Diem Zubeir Slave Route site, UNESCO supported a field mission to the site by the national non-governmental organization Likikiri Collective in June 2019 in order to engage with communities and local authorities at Diem Zubeir as part of the national consultation process in the preparation of a World Heritage nomination dossier for the site.

Diem Zubeir Slave Route site was added to South Sudan’s Tentative List of potential World Heritage sites in 2017 along with the Sudd Wetlands and Boma-Bandingilo Migratory Landscape.

Mr. Elfahit Atem, a national expert and Director of the Likikiri Collective, undertook the mission to Diem Zubeir from 10 to 28 June 2019 in order to collect material evidence, photos of the landscape and narratives of slave trade and legacy of slavery at the site as part of South Sudan’s efforts to justify its potential criteria for World Heritage listing. During his consultations, he raised awareness of the World Heritage Convention as well as the responsibilities and opportunities linked with World Heritage status. He also documented their stories, memories and experiences with the site.

Diem Zubeir Slave Route site is an historic slave and ivory trading centre, and one of the three sites included on South Sudan’s Tentative List of potential World Heritage sites alongside the Sudd Wetland and Boma-Bandingilo Migratory Landscape. The local name for Diem Zubeir was ‘Uyujuku’, but it inherited the name ‘Diem,’ which means camp in Arabic (camp/Zariba) and ‘Zubeir’ after the late 19th century Sudanese slavetrader Al-Zubayr Rahma Mansur (Zubeir Pasha), who established and used the place for slave trade activities. There were hundreds of slave camps or zaribas established during this time by traders, but Diem Zubeir was one of the largest and most significant among the slave network around Bahr- el- Ghazal region. It was located on the caravan route between the Southern Zande territories and Darfur on the route to the Nile via Wau and Rumbek, and was used as a major assembly point for slaves before dispatch to slave markets.

“The objective of this field mission is to generate primary source data by eliciting historically rich, detailed interviews and testimonies on the traces of slavery--the actual slave route, the slave trenches, and the slave experience--in the area, through qualitative and oral history interviews, story circles and associated tours of the area, to begin to build a modest oral history archive documenting people’s inherited memories of slavery in the 19th century,” said Mr. Becu Morita, National Programme Officer for Culture at the UNESCO Juba Office.

While in Deim Zubeir, Mr. Atem met with community representatives, local State authorities and a few surviving descendants of the Slave trade. He documented their memories and narratives and also took photos of the landscape, including a tree with a mark of chain where slaves were executed during the slave trade.

‘’It is important to keep connection with the indigenous stakeholders and local authorities at Deim Zubeir to inform and make communities understand the potentials of the site’’ said Mr. Atem. ‘’Awareness is needed among communities to encourage the collection of primary data and to a constructive dialogue about the vices of Slave trade and Slavery in the area’’ he added.





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