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Welcome SPLM-IO but there are hurdles to over come

By Ms. Kuyang Harriet Logo Mulukwat

The arrival of the SPLM-IO to Juba and the subsequent reception by government formally paves way for the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU).Hopes have been ignited and positive statements have been made  regarding the commitment of both parties to the process. As the political components are being horned out by the parties,  considerable processes and planning will be expected to accompany other portions (chapter 5) of the agreement, which demand an adherence to the proposed timelines and also require sequencing of Transitional Justice approaches.

In the past weeks, I have had a chance to address solutions to stand alone Transitional Justice mechanisms such as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a Hybrid Court for South Sudan, a reparations Commission and also traditional justice mechanisms which are rich in reconciling communities. As a concept, Transitional Justice conceptualizes a set of practices and mechanism that arise following a period of conflict. These practices are devised to deal with the past of any society.

Not only has Transitional Justice evolved into a corpus of practices consisting of both judicial and none judicial mechanisms in order to remedy the causes of a violent civil war, but it serves to deal with past human rights abuses in the most appropriate manner in order to end impunity and discourage future perpetrators. Transitional Justice has been applied in a number of countries and a ray of practices have been adopted to suit each specific situation. In several Transitional Justice discourses in the recent past, South Sudanese have been advised to use similar approaches in other countries as bench marks to adopt the most suitable and workable options for the country.

However, the provisions of the agreement provide for a range of options and those are to be implemented concurrently. For several Transitional Justice mechanisms to be implemented effectively, the question of how those approaches can be sequenced will be a major hurdle for both parties to face. Transitional Justice Mechanisms need a holistic response to the violent conflict to foster national healing therefore, a broad based approach which includes a holistic approach to dealing with the past, will be the most effective solution to combine all the mechanisms in the peace agreement. The question as to whether Transitional Justice is rooted in the South Sudanese culture has been raised and most importantly has been the question whether sequencing will be done right in order to foster adherence to the set time lines and allow for each mechanism to supplement the other.

With regards to sequencing – matters such as the prevalence of conflict amongst some communities, even when peace has been signed are critical, since the current context is still highly militarized and politicized. That said, the principle of a holistic approach will offer an integrated Transitional Justice programme combining the elements of truth telling, reparations, accountability, vetting and traditional justice mechanisms. Therefore, to successfully sequence the mechanism on Transitional Justice in order to enhance complementarity, the peace agreement, which includes a chapter on Transitional Justice, is a strong indication of a good road map to deal with the problematic past of South Sudan. The TGoNU will have to consider if a Transitional Justice programme will be extended beyond the transitional period stipulated in the agreement – because to deal with matters of 2005 to date, requires more than just the 36 months period provided for by the agreement.  A call to extend the period of the implementation of Transitional Justice mechanisms might be a tough one to make, but would be one that will support communities to deal with issues of the past.

 The question of financing all of the Transitional Justice mechanisms is something that need not be overlooked because for the successful implementation of the processes of Transitional Justice, huge financial commitments will have to be made by the transitional government. Whether the donors will fund some of the processes is an option that is yet to be explored, and whether the transitional government will be in position to fund some components of it, is also another concern that has to be dealt with. It is noteworthy to mention that Transitional Justice is not just about the institutional arrangements, but it involves awareness raising and designing effective communication tools for the citizens to understand the concepts involved – that process alone will demand for funding so that sensitization is carried out at all the levels of government and also at the grassroots level.

South Sudan is undertaking this journey for the very first time and while there are examples of similar process on Transitional Justice, the context of South Sudan demands for approaches that will effectively deal with  a painful and problematic past so that the nation and its citizens can sustain the peace and return to normal life.

 

The Writer is a South Sudanese Lawyer and a United Nations Consultant on Democratic Governance and the Rule of Law and teaches on a part time basis at the College of Law of the University of Juba. She can be reached on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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