Impunity Watch in South Sudan
We began our work in South Sudan in 2015 with the primary aim of supporting the work of civil society actors engaged in transitional justice work at both the community and national levels. Our ultimate objective has been to facilitate increased capacity and knowledge among actors positioned to advocate for the inclusion of local voices in the country’s transitional justice processes and for locally-driven approaches. Thus far our work has comprised several workshops, an initial scoping study and support to local partners in their TJ endeavours.
Decades of civil war preceded South Sudan’s breakaway from the north and eventual independence in 2011. Despite the initial euphoria that greeted the birth of the world’s youngest nation, deep-rooted grievances were left unaddressed in the country. In December 2013, these grievances came to the fore as the country fell back into a civil war fought out along ethnic and tribal lines. The signing of the 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCISS) aimed to put an end to the violence and established a broader framework for tackling the conditions that created the violence in the first place.
Nevertheless, the peace agreement did not last long. The fragility of the ARCISS and the failure to tackle the underlying roots of conflict were laid bare in July 2016 with the renewed outbreak of fighting. This most recent bout of violence led to more than 50,000 deaths, millions displaced, and an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis. Just as before, unaddressed grievances and ‘old conflicts’ lay at the heart of the violence, the result once again feeding an entrenched culture of impunity.
In this context, transitional justice has been further pushed to the background. Transitional justice remains rather an undeveloped subject in South Sudan, although attention for its processes has rapidly increased after the signing of the 2015 peace deal, which includes a dedicated chapter on transitional justice. Continued instability and the outbreak of violence in 2016 once again means that transitional justice is often relegated to the background; despite early vigour among civil society to push for the implementation of provisions under the ARCISS which outlines a broad framework for the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms.
Despite these set-backs the CSO-led Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) is at the forefront of civil society efforts to push for comprehensive transitional justice in South Sudan in order to break the cycle of violence and impunity.