Transitional Justice in South Sudan

After a long process of negotiations, the combatant parties in the conflict in South Sudan managed to sign a transitional justice agreement in 2018, which will bring peace and a new government to the African country. Although the agreement provided that starting May a new national unity government should take power, President Salva Kiir and the rebel leader Riek Machar, decided to postpone the commencement of the agreement for a year, to ensure that the political conditions and social are favorable for the formation of the new government.

During the current civil war that began in 2013, a worrying number of violations of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed against most of the civilian population. Today, millions of people are immersed in a state of precariousness.

A view of people holding photos of the founding fathers of the Republic of South Sudan, President Salva Kiir (center left) and John Garang (right) during celebrations of the the first anniversary of South Sudan’s independance in 2012. Photo by: Staton Winter

A view of people holding photos of the founding fathers of the Republic of South Sudan, President Salva Kiir (center left) and John Garang (right) during celebrations of the the first anniversary of South Sudan’s independance in 2012. Photo by: Staton Winter

The Peace Agreement signed in 2018 covers not only the necessary political, military and institutional changes, but also dedicates a whole chapter of its articles to transitional justice. With this mechanism there is hope that the highly corroded social fabric can heal gradually for the benefit of the population

However, the agreement does not constitute a safe way to achieve peace. In the first place, it lacks some vital components for the correct transitional justice process, such as gender justice, which allows justice for all those women victims of crimes and sexual violence. On the other hand, issues such as military unification and the new territorial division have not yet been dealt with clearly, so they can cause problems in future negotiations between the parties.

Probably the greatest obstacles to achieve peace in South Sudan is the current situation of political struggle, social disorder, and economic setbacks facing the State. Thus, it is required that the political leaders of the different sides that participated in the conflict, such as Kiir and Marchar, pledge to respect the signed peace agreement. For this reason, the international community, especially international organizations and African states, should monitor and support the process—as established in the agreement.

Likewise, its northern neighbor, Sudan, which is going through his own political and social problems and difficulties after the dictator Omar al-Bashir was overthrown, could affect the peace process in South Sudan.

In April 2012, the military occupation of the oil enclave of Heglig (one of the most important in the region) by the Army of South Sudan, again provoked a military confrontation with Sudan and, consequently, the immediate reaction of the United Nations Security Council. For its part, the military response of Sudan was swift and a border conflict broke out between the two nations that left tens of thousands of displaced people, being mainly affected inhabitants of the poorest sectors that cover the majority of the total population of the South Sudanese region. The interruption of revenues from oil exports, the main source of the nation's wealth, due to the conflict with Sudan caused an increase in the humanitarian crisis in a country with virtually no basic services.

Thereafter, and under pressure from international demands, Sudan and South Sudan resumed the talks and reached the first partial agreements on August 4, 2012. Even today, border differences between the two States have not been established and territories with large oil reserves are still disputed.

In general, the Peace Agreement represents a vital opportunity for South Sudan to materialize a lasting peace that guarantees the conditions for the recovery of the State, so that the social fabric can be recomposed and face the social and economic problems to which millions of its inhabitants are exposed. The start of the new Provisional Government of National Unity for South Sudan is the key to this objective, so that the agreement and the various mechanisms set forth therein are respected.

Sources: 

http://cepo-southsudan.org/news/making-transitional-justice-happen

https://www.newsdeeply.com/peacebuilding/articles/2018/08/20/analysis-south-sudans-power-sharing-agreement

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/10/29/what-are-the-prospects-for-south-sudans-new-peace-agreement-here-are-the-critical-next-steps/?utm_term=.d713f55f6a8b

https://peacemaker.un.org/sudan-machakos-protocol2002