Civil society discuss the formation of a transitional justice working groupSep 29, 2015
On 29 September 2015, just over a month after President Salva Kiir signed the peace agreement, over 30 representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs), including the South Sudan Council of Churches, convened in Juba Grand Hotel to discuss the formation of a civil society transitional justice working group. The meeting was organized by Dialogue and Research Initiative (DRI) and the Human Rights Development Organization (HURIDO), and was supported by the Public International Law Policy Group (PILPG) of the SUCCESS Consortium (supported by USAID) and UNDP’s Access to Justice and Rule of Law Project.
The recent signing of the peace agreement marks the beginning of a three-month pre-transitional period during which necessary preparations must be taken to usher in the thirty (30) month transitional period provided for by the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. During the transitional period and thereafter, action will have to be taken to address the legacy of past violence in South Sudan. CSOs are key stakeholders in these transitional justice processes. Currently there is a need for civil society working on transitional justice in South Sudan to unite and coordinate. This will help develop a comprehensive strategy that guides civil society interventions in transitional justice in order to achieve sustainable peace and reconciliation.
Gordon Lam, Director of the Dialogue and Research Initiative, opened the meeting by urging fellow civil society actors to ensure that they live up to their roles as “key players to kick-start the discourse on transitional justice across the country.” His sentiment was echoed by facilitator Lorna Merekaje of South Sudan Democratic Engagement Monitoring and Observation Program (SSuDEMOP) who pointed out that “it is everybody’s responsibility to contribute and do what we can, no matter how small you are.”
UNDP made a presentation that illustrated the background, membership and structure of transitional justice working groups in Zimbabwe, Uganda and Liberia. “There is no set format for a transitional justice working group and it is essential to ensure that the formation of the group reflects the needs and dynamics of the South Sudanese context” explained Niki Frencken, UNDP’s Access to Justice Technical Coordination Specialist.
Jackline Nasiwa, SUCCESS/PILPG Program Specialist called upon the representatives to “take the opportunity provided by the peace agreement to strategize around engagement in the transitional process.” She further called upon CSOs to start conducting or participating in public consultations, to actively contribute to shaping the mandate of the transitional justice mechanisms provided for in the peace agreement and to educate citizens on their role in transitional justice processes.