By Kuol Garang
Southern Sudan turned into the youngest sovereign state after rejecting a third civil war and killing of citizens in 2011. According to the 2008 Southern Sudan Centre for Census, Statistics and Evaluation (SSCCSE), the Statistical Year Book for Southern Sudan placed the population of this region at more than 8 million people. After the brutish Second Civil War with the successive military governments of the Sudan, citizens of southern Sudan conducted a successful referendum and gained an absolute sovereign status from the Sudan four years ago, implementing one of the vital aforementioned protocols of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA-I), the majority of the negotiations on the CPA-I between the Government of the Republic of the Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM/A) took place in Nairobi in Kenya in the 2000-2005 period.
After the most celebrated period of harmony was cancelled by few elites with special political interests for power in December 2013, the youngest nation went into its first controversial civil war, just two years ago. When the civil tranquility broke down in the nation’s capital, the conflict began to devastate thousands of innocent lives and valuable properties in Juba and most of the Upper Nile Region.
Moreover, some citizens from this new nation have exhibited views about this destructive war with ambivalent attitudes, so the new country has struggled with which feelings to accommodate for which groups in order to bring a lasting peace and justice for victims of this disputed civil war. At the same time, many uncivilized encroachments have been tearing apart the very true foundation of unity and social trusts among citizens of this new nation. But now the new Republic is determined to stop the fighting this month. After the military opposition groups and the ruling party signed the Proposed Compromised Agreement (PCA-II) in Addis Ababa on 17 August and in Juba on 26 August last year, most citizens of South Sudan have been hopeful to see a full return of peace to their country. Also, they have called for a full justice to be done for many victims of these elites’ crisis.
When the elites on the side of the current government and the elites on the side of the military opposition groups against the government establish the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) of the Republic of South Sudan in a few days this month, several civil societies will be amounting a legal pressure on the new power-sharing government to implement a full accountability on specific perpetrators of human rights abuses. Through the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS), numerous voices of justice are going to be calling for justice to be done on behalf of the victims of the new coalition-government.
The objective of this essay on the balance is to warn all stakeholders involved in the reconstruction of the post- Republic of South Sudan following serious human rights violations as a result of this unjustifiable military resistance organization, that temporary peace is repugnant for South Sudan; that citizens of South Sudan cannot afford to go through another contemptible elitist war; and that interfering with the process of justice deliberately is going to be an unacceptable act for thousands of victims, especially if the initiated Hybrid Court for South Sudan neglects to use a holistic approach, when the court proceedings on the trial of the perpetrators commence.
Peace is a devotion to pacifism and denunciation of war in order to live together in harmony within a sovereign state and just society. The newest Republic enjoyed a short period of peace for just two years. During the two years of relatively stabilizing security, most citizens were functioning at time of this relative peace in order to escape away from abject poverty. After many years living in an unimaginable insecurity in the hands of the Sudanese governments since 1956 until 2011, the CPA-I restored a stable peace-accord for the first in this destroyed region.
In fact, numerous citizens were beginning to invest for their future in their peaceable state because of this truce, starting in the 2000-2005 period. After the most successful referendum in the time of civil harmony, many finest citizens with finest minds started to establish businesses to upgrade their lives into a bright future.
With international and regional experiences gained over the years of frictions and long years living in exiles, most citizens welcomed the comprehensive accord in order to invest big enough for their families and children in the newest sovereign nation. For instance, several citizens embraced unity over disunity and began to establish their important assets for the first time. Furthermore, the leaders of the newest Republic put behind unconstructive dissensions and initiated the new public institutions for the first time in the history of this region in 2000-2013. For example, the leaders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Army (SPLM/A), which turned into the main ruling party of the newest country, started to form a national government for their citizens.
With the new interim constitution during the tranquil time initiated, the leaders of the ruling party established the ten state governments, headed by ten governors for the time in this region.
With civil tranquility becoming a contagious value for many citizens, the ruling elites began to preach the national message of meaningful pacification in order to provide health care and education to their citizens, at least numerous times. After years without a state of quiet life in the region, the main Torit-military faction and the infamous Nasir-military faction inconceivably united behind the national message of harmony in 2000-2011. As shown above, leaders of the main Torit-Nasir faction reconciled with other military factions, who were excluded in the negotiation of the CPA-I in 2000-2005.
However, the two years of the peace failed to nurture some ruling elites and citizens to learn how to work with prudence for the national accord dividends during the time of peaceful political climate. Certain sovereign elites and citizens did not commit to peace, for they did not oppose the war in December 2013. Even after several periods of disharmony among communities in the region, the spirit of the peace agreement missed to save the new Republic from plunging its citizens into this extensive destruction even, after the two years of the most victorious referendum in the history of discovering a state of sovereignty. Peaceful investment in trades to improve life to the next level by citizens recklessly agitated by certain ruling elites who wanted to be in the palace of the sovereign state, undemocratically. For instance, excellent civil ideas were thrown out of the window by some top ruling elites, just to become an immediate head of the new Republic.
Constructive minds, supposed to be used for building a viable modern Republic of the people, became unconstructive brains with intentions to literally destroy the Republic and citizens; best experienced minds became destructive minds of thousands of lives for the last two years. With early promises of peace dividends, preached by soldiers and elites and citizens to conduct a successful investment for the future in the time of law and order, were disregarded immediately because of immoral self-centeredness. Finally, sophisticated public and private assets and lives that began to appear in the new Republic were deliberately burned into ashes beyond recognition, to some extent in the brutal acts.
By and large, there anyhow no national language of national pacification; instead, an exuberant message of ruthlessness galvanized impatient elites and civilians’ minds for all destructive reasons.
Nevertheless, in the time of the peaceful harmony, certain ruling elites placed their high political energies on aiming for the weakest parliament that became unable to safeguard the security of all citizens in the 2013 political crisis. Unfortunately, some leaders in the national government were consumed by toxic ethnic politics that undermined the importance of running the newest country through a good governance in order to maintain the public confidence and security.
As a result of aiming for a poor governance deliberately practiced within the public institutions, the interim and transitional constitution of the new Republic became toothless to hold accountable those elites and citizens who created public corruption and disobedience of laws, both at the national and state levels. Therefore, the national agenda for the national pacifism, unfortunately, became a meaningless value before certain political and military class of South Sudan.
Instead of preaching the national reconciliation, some ruling elites preached a message of war on their citizens. Since other Torit-military faction and other Nasir-military faction united behind the message of war on their citizens, the notion to deliver public services to their citizens became an unpopular message before the warring parties. To sum up, working on the continuous national reconstruction became an expensive task to pursue for majority of the political dominant elites in December in 2012-2013.
Then particular Torit-military faction and majority of specific Nasir-military faction mishandled the national peace, suddenly. The actual, intentional and widespread armed conflicts between the two factions immediately hit the statehood in the nation’s number 1 city. The idea of national peace broke down in the nation’s capital inside the vice-president and the president’s amalgamated units of guards in December 2013. With the national peace abandoned by particular integrated units, the infamous battle broke out and many civilians were killed, immediately. However, certain ruling elites within the ruling party failed to prevent many civilians from being subjected to civil disorder in the National City and elsewhere in the country. Such elites with special interests to bring down the ruling party paralyzed the entire party’s strength to protect women and children from deliberate executions by some morally bankrupt former military militias who glorified this corrosive collision against innocent citizens of the new country.
According to the Human Rights Division (HRD) for the United Nations for South Sudan (UNMISS), shocking human rights violations unthinkably occurred after some south Sudanese in-ward looking authorities failed to defend civilians from the perpetrators of violence. Certain soldiers in the national uniforms turned into perpetrators and ignored to stop these terrible clashes in the new nation after the law and order broke down. With deadly rivalry for personal political power, the resistance military leader failed to stop this disgraceful fray in his new country. Instead, the military leader of the resistance group became the leader of the strife on the citizens of South Sudan. With messages of bitter rivalry being shared among citizens, the military leader of the resistance group rallied his supporters for bloody conflict against citizens who refused to join the military resistance in December 2013. Though this was supposed to be a time for most ruling elites to say that rest in peace the ‘Second Civil War’ that took 2 million lives under the Sudanese governments; instead, some legislators and ruling class breached the peace, unjustly.
In addition, the war on the military resistance side became an ideal opportunity to push for a government change and oust the current ruling elites from the power to meet the demands of military resistance to party structural reform. Specific elites on the side of the government and particular elites on the side of the military resistance group collectively failed to stop such accidental antagonism from destroying the livelihoods of many citizens without a just cause. For instance, the message of war became a powerful message to convince supporters of both elites to join the war in hope to defense two objectives. In sum, many supporters of the ruling party defended the constitutional democracy, and several supporters of the military organization started to fight in order to topple the current ruling elites from the political power, using a democracy card.
Though the message of harmonization among the past divided military elites was politically misguided just for personal greed over the national peace. Therefore, the Capital City of the new Republic was turned into a smoking city by the actions of few president and vice-president’s mixed elite units, who failed to understand the most important task that was given to them by the constitutional democracy.
The majority governing elites were supposed to neutralize these most dangerous maniac actions, by these misguided guards, but the legislators who were being protected, by these guards have become enablers of the civil war and now has taken so many innocent lives. For example, women and children became immediate victims of political contempt on the watch of most legislators of the Republic of South Sudan.
Therefore, toxic political ambitions, among the top elites in the Republic, influenced them and forced them to fail terribly from intervening early on in order to save so many citizens from being indiscriminately murdered by the perpetrators of violence. Overall, joining the notion of a meaningless civil war was made to become a sort of a mission of a worthy human project in the history of this youngest country in the world, because of a shorted-sightedness of some leaders in the executive, judicial and legislative positions in South Sudan, the first conflict of the Republic has entered into the history book of the nation due to failure of a right reasoning by some rogue politicians. Although, political ambitions are important steps for public good, the leader of the current military resistance groups of the Republic of South Sudan personally used his political ambitions against innocent civilians, and he failed to foresee any consequences of his military actions.
As a result, inability to foresee dangers due to personal political ambitions by the leader of the military resistance organization and his deliberate ignorance to rise above any major political and democratic challenges peacefully, since joining a noble cause for the quest of formal equality for South Sudanese citizens in the hands of Arab elites in Khartoum, have led to many civilian casualties. Given that personal greed and intentionally disregarding the lives of civilians, there is no virtue for any citizen to entertain such an insatiable leader with too much vexatious conducts.
In the face of political crisis, all south Sudanese elites were in brief supposed to lead their citizens into a just prosperous society justly; instead, they have led their citizens into unjust society because some elites have this tendency to unjustly reason due to a lack of bright and thoughtful insight.
In the end, both the ruling party for the new Republic and the military resistance organization against the new Republic suddenly started to consider justice for victims after key elites abandoned the notion of peace and glorified war against their citizens. The two warring parties thought about these unfair treatments of their citizens. Therefore, the African Union (AU), the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) started to strengthen some steps in the pursuit of justice for the new Republic.
For justice to be implemented in the new Republic of South Sudan, these regional and international organizations along with the warring parties have established the Hybrid Court for South Sudan. Furthermore, the question of justice for citizens of South Sudan became critical mission to these regional and international organizations, and the warring parties after discovering many deliberate violations of human rights during this civil war in the country. For justice to be pursued for South Sudanese victims, the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan has taken the importance of justice at least very seriously. Challenges of bringing justice to victims are incredibly difficult to be realized in societies that harbor impunity of political and military elites.
Therefore, the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan should draw a prosecution team of experienced lawyers from both international and regional lawyers with proven legal experiences in order for the victims to be given a full justice.
The established Hybrid Court for South Sudan should initiate a comprehensive plan to protect witnesses from any backlash from their perpetrators when they come forward to testify against criminals, while the court determines to deliver full justice for the victims of political crisis of December 2013. In order to pursue justice for the victims of South Sudan, the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan must decide a country where the court proceedings would take place in the absence of intimidation of witnesses.
Overall, the court needs to ensure that witnesses, who will come forward to testify during the trial, would be guaranteed a full protection, so that they might give facts of evidence about crimes against humanity to the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan without coercion of any sort. Though, certain elites within the ruling party and the military resistance groups stood by to stop this meaningless civil war on the new Republic that resulted into heavier casualties on their citizens for almost two years, they have also pledged to support the quest for justice for the victims of South Sudan. Both the reappointed vice-president and the president have promised to cooperate with the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan so that to deliver justice for the victims of political violence of December 2013.
Consequently, these key leaders in the executive position in the power-sharing government have agreed to support the process of justice for the victims who have been severely wronged unjustly by the perpetrators of this war. Because of gross violations of human rights on their citizens committed during this war, both the reappointed vice -president and the president have come to moral and legal realization that justice must be a priority of the coalition-government in the best interest of their citizens after all.
For fear of backlash against witnesses by certain perpetrators, the coalition-government and the sponsors of the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan will have to create a safe environment for all witnesses so that process of pursuing for the full justice for the victims would proceed accordingly.
As a matter of fact, it is often said that a temptation for impunity among political and military elites would create an unsafe atmosphere on witnesses who want to come forward with evidence before the court; therefore, the coalition-government, the United Nations, the African Union and the Inter-governmental Authority on Development must work in good faith to protect vulnerable witnesses from being intimidated by certain political and military elites when they come out to testify in the court.
Intimidation of key witnesses in the Kenyan criminal case should not be allowed to happen in the South Sudanese criminal case. In Kenya’s 2007 election, for instance, potential key witness was harassed and intimidated by the Kenyan government from testifying against the country’s president at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, so the ICC’s Gambian prosecutor decided to withdraw rape and murder and persecution and deportation charges against the Jubilee President.
When the Jubilee Government threatened the key witness from giving any testimony against President Uhuru Kenyatta, the ICC’s prosecutor, unfortunately, dropped charges of crimes against humanity, and it became a painful time for many men and women and children who have suffered hugely from the horrendous events of the post-election violence, given the fact that they have been waiting patiently to see full justice being done to them.
There is a need to campaign for justice for the killings, rapes and displacements of civilians, but to avoid any possibility of political and military elites’ impunity from facing justice in the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan, regional and international lawyers who will be tasked to conduct this first trial of South Sudan must ought to be trained about basic cultural biases, deeply entrenched inside South Sudanese communitarian customary repressive laws.
Even if the trial is going to be situated in another country, still there will be a situation where all parties involved in this criminal case should be guaranteed a long term protection on some witnesses and their families from any dangerous repercussions when witnesses might come forward to testify against the perpetrators in the court of law, generally speaking.
A secure venue of the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan is one way to pursue justice for the victims without disruption by interested parties. There is a desire to establish the full justice for the peace to hold after some elitists with personal interests have disturbed peace of this country. Setting a right environment to pursue the complete justice for the victims of South Sudan will become a possible reality when witnesses are placed in an environment where ruling elites will not intimidate them for speaking the facts of violations of human rights.
The established Hybrid Court for South Sudan should duplicate the approach applied on the situation of Rwanda in order to reduce any negative influence on prosecutors, defense lawyers and the witnesses before the court. At the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, one of the defense lawyers was arrested by the Rwandan government for speaking on behalf of a client, forcing the group of 30 defense lawyers to fear for their own safety in the pursuit of justice for the victims of the Rwanda-Genocide 1994 that occurred between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority. Therefore, the founded Hybrid Court for South Sudan must work together with the coalition government of the national unity in a way that should give a full protection of witnesses during the trial of the perpetrators of human rights abuses committed during this civil war. On the whole, there should be a new legal practice that should prioritize the safety of victims and witnesses while pursuing the importance of justice when this court starts to hear its first cases, given the fact that there are weak institutions that may fail to protect all witnesses and victims from further victimizations in the newest Republic when they return to their homes after the court hearings. Sponsors of the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan and the Government of National Unity should also cover expenses for victims and witnesses wherever the court proceedings would take place.
For legal efficiency to take place effectively, the coalition government and the proposed Hybrid Court for South Sudan should work effectively to discourage any ineffectual legal system so that to deliver justice timely. For instance, both the coalition government and the sponsors of the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan must house witnesses in a secure and convenient location where their safety would not be threatened by the perpetrators of atrocities, even inside the host country where the hybrid court would hear cases. For the court to proceed without interruption of violence from possible disrupters of justice, a host country of the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan should organize independent security officers who would provide security throughout the entire court proceedings so that any evidence gathered would not be tempered by any mean, when the court commences its works, altogether.
In contrast, the location of the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan is not going to be a location without enemies against the witnesses during the trials of perpetrators in the pursuit of justice. The proper place to seek justice for victims would be a place without enemies of justice that is a place to say that witnesses and perpetrators’ vicinities and premises should be given a full maximum security by an executive body of the host country of the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan. Having the coalition-government to collaborate with the initiated Hybrid Court for South Sudanese prosecution team and the sponsors of this trial does not mean that there will be no unexpected events during the trial and after the trial, so there should be a need for a high alert at all times to protect all parties involved. All in all, in order to make a justice stick for a long term period, one of the objectives of this court is to provide all of the perpetrators, victims and witnesses with decent dignity, maximum security and legal rights during the trial and after the trial, so that means to prevent more victimizations of these subjects.
However, until resources are put in place to facilitate witnesses to the hosting country of the trial, the criminal court proceedings would not take place and justice would be delayed, but justice delayed is justice regressed, so covering full expenditures for the witnesses during this trial should be one of the priorities of the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan, international human rights organizations, the United Nations, the coalition-government, the Inter-governmental Authority on Development and the African Union. For a speedy trial to take place, big budget will have to be allocated for court fees in order to cover certain essential necessities of life for witnesses inside the host country of this trial and, even some legal funding must also go for detention facilities for the perpetrators, wherever the established court for South Sudan would choose to put them while waiting for their trials.
That means the coalition-government will first arrest the perpetrators and then hand them to the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan for prosecution; what is even more so challenging now is that there are no known perpetrators on both sides specifically arrested because of the United Nations, human rights organizations and the African Union’s findings; for the most part, all stakeholders are waiting to see which side will first issue an arrest warrant on its perpetrators in the name of justice for the victims.
In conclusion, there should be a strong satiable avidity to grasp this opportunity and establish a strong foundation for peace to be returned by the country’s ruling elites because the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan is being accepted by both leaders in the interest of the new justice system for the new Republic of South Sudan. In summary, there is a hope that a full implementation of peace and justice will reconcile both victims and perpetrators when both warring parties honestly promise to stay engage on the message of national peace instead of the message of another war on their citizens and their newest country. In any event, there will be procedural and political challenges that will face the established Hybrid Court for South Sudan, but those systemic, legal difficulties should not overcome the need for the demand to providing the full justice for the victims if all parties that will involve on this trial will refuse to approach the process for the complete justice for the victims with another complicity; however, in short, with absolute prudence to imagine unforeseeable circumstances that may transpire before the trials, a full state of harmony will come to South Sudan once again.
To summarize, even outside South Sudan for god sake, there should be a peace of mind for a permanent peace dividend to prevail and prevent another war at a certain point in time. In essence, the Proposed Compromised Agreement has absolutely entitled all citizens of the newly founded Republic of South Sudan to live together in peace and justice within the state of no more war; unless, if their God-given civil liberties are truly threatened by certain evil domestic and foreign enemies of the sovereign nation.
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