Talking Points: Deputy Country Director, UNDP, Amanda Serumaga Annual Forum for Traditional Leaders

Jul 14, 2015

Talking Points: Deputy Country Director, UNDP, Amanda Serumaga

Annual Forum for Traditional Leaders

14 July 2015

Opening Ceremony: 9:00 – 10:30 am

Hon. Jeremiah Swaka Moses - Undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice

Your Excellency Robert van den Dool - the Ambassador of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Hon. Justice Pamela Tutui - Representative of the Judiciary of Kenya

Hon. Nekodemo Arouman - Member of the Local Government Board,

Hon. Dell Rumdit - Director General for Traditional Authorities, LGB South Sudan

Hon. Justice, Dr. Benjamin Baak - Director of Research and Training, Judiciary of South Sudan

Heads and representatives of UN agencies, diplomatic missions, civil society,

Ladies and gentlemen. All protocol observed.

 


Good morning

·        There is wealth knowledge about the history of customary laws and their application within the South Sudan context.  At a time when South Sudan continues to search for a peace, the questions of justice, accountability and reconciliation remain central. It may, therefore, be fair to say that this forum comes at an opportune time.

·        While there is a regional and international conversation about achieving peace under the auspices of the IGAD plus and other initiatives; there also remains a need for peace and reconciliation at the individual and community level. It is, therefore, encouraging to see so many traditional leaders from the states of South Sudan, converge in this room to talk about peace and reconciliation, including questions of justice and accountability.

·        With support from the Government of the Netherlands - and through a partnership between UNDP and the South Sudan Law Society – a national perception survey on the meaning and scope of transitional justice was conducted across South Sudan from October 2014 to April 2015. The purpose of this survey was to understand the views of South Sudanese citizens on truth, justice, reconciliation and healing. The survey found that only 36% of respondents are aware of the peace efforts of the Committee on National Healing, Peace and Reconciliation, (CNHPR), 30% are aware of the National Platform on Peace and Reconciliation (NPPR) and 8% of locally-driven initiatives.

·        When respondents were asked what is necessary to achieve reconciliation, 40% said forgiveness, 33% said confessions and 25% said apologies. This indicates fertile ground for restorative justice in addition to retributive approaches to justice. The question remains how forgiveness, confessions and apologies may be achieved? It may be that this is where traditional authorities and customary systems can play a central role.

·        I have also taken note that the theme of this Annual Traditional Leaders Customary law Forum is “Let’s work together for unity, peace and reconciliation”, and that the workshop objective is “To support the harmonization of customary and statutory systems and create dialogue on peace and reconciliation in South Sudan

·        It is my hope that as the forum considers customary law and its’ application, the possible role that traditional leaders can play in through customary courts to address justice and accountability will also be considered. We already know that a significant proportion of the population seeks justice from customary courts, it may that it is these same courts that will be instrumental in serving as instruments for peace -  harnessing traditions and customs to increase protection of rights, promote reconciliation and thereby strengthen the rule of law. The harmonization of customary and statutory law is an important endeavor to achieve this, and is one of the topics to be discussed at this forum.

·        Within the context of the Netherlands supported Access to Justice and Rule of Law project’s transitional justice initiatives, UNDP is proud to partner with traditional leaders and South Sudan’s rule of law institutions in their efforts to increase access to justice, strengthen the rule of law and foster peace.

·        UNDP also supports peace and reconciliation initiatives through the Community Security and Arms Control project in partnership with the National Platform for Peace and Reconciliation (NPPR), whose mandate includes supporting ordinary people to raise their voices for peace and reconciliation. The NPPR’s campaign on “A Common Call for Peace Amongst South Sudanese” will run for the next six months. I hope this forum, having considered the linkages between justice and peace will commit to lead and join the campaign to spread messages of peace.

·        I look forward to reading the resolutions of this forum, and in particular the plans to take forward the findings of the transitional justice perception survey; the way forward to harmonization of customary and statutory law and importantly the role envisaged by traditional leaders on their contribution to peace making and reconciliation within and between the various communities in South Sudan.

I wish you two days of open discussion and I thank you in advance for your participation. Thank you for your attention.