24.04.2019 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

UNESCO supports South Sudan to undertake research and documentation of Diem Zubeir Slave Route site

Researchers at Diem Zubeir Slave Route site © Elfatih Atem

Following the inclusion of the Diem Zubeir Slave Route site on South Sudan’s Tentative List of potential World Heritage sites in 2017, UNESCO is supporting the State Party with the research and documentation necessary to begin preparation of a World Heritage nomination dossier.

Through the UNESCO 1972 World Heritage Convention, UNESCO is supporting the State Party of South Sudan with essential research and documentation on the potential “outstanding universal values” of the slave route site of Diem Zubeir. International and national experts have been engaged to study the site and its potential criteria for World Heritage listing.

Mr. Patrick Abungu, a leading expert in slavery studies and the UNESCO slave route project, undertook a first mission to South Sudan from 26 March to 2 April 2019, where he consulted community members from Diem Zubeir. During his consultations, he raised their 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 Diem Zubeir site offers the potential for research activities, which in turn could lead to the establishment of cultural institutions such as a museum or cultural centre, as well as the enrichment of relevant institutions including libraries and archives,” said Mr. Saidou Jallow, interim Head of the UNESCO Office in Juba. “It also offers the potential to be used as a dialogue space where a healthy discourse on the subject of slave trade and slavery can be undertaken,” he added.

Following Mr. Abungu’s mission, UNESCO is engaging the Likikiri Collective, a national NGO, to undertake site visits and community consultations in Diem Zubeir in order to further document the slave route site. “The objective of this research 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,” said Mr. Elfatih Atem, founder of the Likikiri Collective. “Through qualitative and oral history interviews, story circles and associated tours of the area, we would hope to begin building a modest oral history archive documenting people’s inherited memories of slavery in the 19th century and of the person of Zubeir Pasha,” he added.

“For the people of Diem Zubeir--the site which is associated with the history of slavery in South Sudan--this is a chance to tell the untold stories about the past historical injustices, which were meted against them, a history that represents their tenacity to deal with such adversities, and a chance to showcase the same story in Diem Zubeir as a representation of their identity for people to engage with, and to learn for a better future,”said Mr. Patrick Abungu.

‘’There are other Zaribas or slave camps in South Sudan but Diem Zubeir Slave Route is the most peculiar one compare to others because it served as assembling hub for slave collections from parts of the region to the market centres’’ said professor Samson Wasara Director of Institute for Peace and Development Studies at University of Juba.

‘’South Sudan is a new nation and its effort to enlist heritage sites onto UNESCO’s Word Heritage List is instrumental to realizing the role of culture for sustainable development,’’ said Mr. Becu Morita, National Officer for Culture at the UNESCO Juba Office in South Sudan.


https://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/state=ss, http://whc.unesco.org

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