6 July 2019

South Sudan: Justice Close as South Sudan Hybrid Court Gets AU Nod

Justice for families of those who have been killed, raped and maimed since 2013 in South Sudan seems achievable after the office of the Legal Counsel at the African Union signed a draft for the formation of a Hybrid Court in the country.

However, Juba seems to want to scuttle it.

The EastAfrican has gathered from sources in Addis Ababa that there is goodwill within the AU Commission and the Peace and Security Council to form the court in order to bring to book war criminals and to ease the implementation of the revitalised September 2016 agreement.

However, there is also concern that some powerful forces who have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity will scuttle the implementation of the agreement.

The Troika -- the UK, US, and Norway who funded the bulk of the peace process -- have been pushing for the formation of the court as part of their preconditions for releasing funds for the implementation of the peace agreement.

But Juba, through spokesman Michael Makuei, has accused the Western powers of pushing for the court as part of a long-term scheme for regime change.

"They want to use the Hybrid Court against the leadership of South Sudan. The agreement gives it the right to indict anyone and they are trying to selectively target South Sudan politicians through the court," said Mr Makuei.

The court is a product of the Olusegun Obasanjo-led commission of inquiry. It is included in Article 5 of the agreement under the transitional justice institutions that also include the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing and the Compensation and Reparation Authority.

Hurdles

One of the challenges is that the agreement states that the AU is responsible for establishing the court in consultation with the transitional government, but it does not give timelines.

Experts say the AU has been hesitant to establish the court out of fear that it could alarm those who have committed atrocities.

In April, it emerged that President Salva Kiir's government had signed a $3.7 million deal with a US consultancy firm to block the Hybrid Court, which is one of the pillars of the agreement.

The contract with Gainful Solutions Inc -- a company belonging to former diplomat Michael Ranneberger and Soheil Nazari-Kangarlou -- has raised concern that Juba is trying to subvert sections of the peace deal.

According to the two-year consultancy contract signed in April and publicised on the American Justice Department website, Gainful Solutions is supposed to delay and ultimately block establishment of the Hybrid Court and open a channel of communication between President Kiir and Washington with the objective of persuading the Trump Administration to expand economic and political relations with South Sudan.

James Oryema, Riek Machar's representative in Kenya, said the opposition has been lobbying the international community over the establishment of the court because they believe the agreement should be implemented holistically.

A recent report by the International Crisis Group report suggested that the international community also wants to find a lasting political settlement that will end South Sudan's recurring conflict.

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