Accountability in South Sudan can’t wait for peace – but could foster it

BY: Ken Scott is Amnesty International’s research consultant for South Sudan, THE EAST AFRICAN, JUL/12/2015, SSN;

On July 9, South Sudan observed its fourth anniversary as a state. I say “observed” because there is nothing to celebrate.

Since conflict broke out in mid-December 2013, South Sudan has become one of the neediest, most tragic places on earth.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed, in schools and hospitals, churches and mosques, even in guarded UN camps for already displaced persons.

On June 30, the UN reported grave acts of brutality against civilians by government forces in Unity State, including burning people alive in their houses.

Unicef recently concluded that “violence against children in South Sudan has reached new levels of brutality,” citing the gang rape and the murder of girls as young as eight and the castration of boys left to die.

Although the UN and international community have repeatedly voiced “outrage” and called for an end to the conflict, peace efforts to date, led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, have failed. Recent talks sponsored by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya also showed no tangible progress.

Among the root causes of the South Sudan conflict are an unfortunate culture of impunity and a historical absence of accountability. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 failed to address gaps in accountability resulting from decades of civil war with the North.

After 18 months of killing, mayhem and rape, the South Sudan government has done nothing of significance to hold any of its own officials and forces accountable for violations committed and in fact obstructs international efforts to monitor human-rights abuses and investigate probable war crimes.

****Maybe the warring parties in South Sudan will cease or at least reduce their attacks on civilians, churches and schools when they see serious international criminal investigators on the ground with a robust protection force and every intention to indict and bring to justice those responsible for so much human misery****

There has been no shortage of speeches calling for accountability, but a tragic shortage of real action. A year ago, there was already consensus among South Sudanese civil society and international actors including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for some type of hybrid court, but no such mechanism has yet been established.

The principal reasons given by the international community for not taking more action over the past year are the desire to give peace efforts a maximum chance of success by not naming persons allegedly responsible for the violence, and to show deference to the African Union in the hope for a genuine African accountability solution.

All of us hope that genuine peace can be established in South Sudan — a peace that is more than a ceasefire between rival elites, a peace that will addresses the country’s real issues and needs.

However, accountability cannot wait any longer. While some have expressed the view that the violence against civilians will only stop when such a peace is established, the prohibition of crimes against humanity and the rules of international humanitarian law are meant to prevent and stop such violence even while an armed conflict continues.

It may not be possible to achieve a complete peace in the short-term, but that does not and cannot mean that mass violence against civilians must, in the meantime, simply be accepted as “just the way it is.”

It is not true that justice and accountability can only be addressed once peace has been established. An investigative Commission of Experts was established for the Balkan wars in the 1990s three years before the Dayton peace accords were signed.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was established two years before the accords. International investigators were on the ground and evidence was being collected while the fighting continued.

The International Independent Investigation Commission to investigate the murder of former prime minister Rafic Hariri and 21 others was established by Security Council resolution in April 2005, four years before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was created in 2009.

The conflict in South Sudan must be addressed in a similar fashion. There is no need to wait for a fully developed peace or until a full-blown court or tribunal is established. Indeed, the people of South Sudan cannot wait.

There is ample authority in the UN Charter, Chapter VII, for the creation of a hybrid accountability mechanism for South Sudan, and, since 2011 and as recently as 28 May, the UN Security Council has made at least eight Chapter VII findings that the situation in South Sudan constitutes a threat to international peace and security.

Adequately resourced criminal investigators must be on the ground in South Sudan as soon as possible before more evidence is destroyed, concealed or otherwise lost. The US Secretary of State John Kerry said almost a year ago, “We’re well past the point where enough is enough.”

If that was true a year ago, it must be doubly true now. How many more South Sudanese civilians must be murdered and young women sexually assaulted before real, concrete actions are taken to obtain sustained security for all?

In early May, the United States pledged $5 million to help set up an accountability mechanism for South Sudan. This pledge must lead to concrete action now. A strong and sustainable international mandate can lead to justice and perhaps real steps toward justice can lead to peace.

Maybe the warring parties in South Sudan will cease or at least reduce their attacks on civilians, churches and schools when they see serious international criminal investigators on the ground with a robust protection force and every intention to indict and bring to justice those responsible for so much human misery. The time to act decisively, to stop the violence, is now!

Ken Scott is Amnesty International’s research consultant for South Sudan. He is a former senior prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and currently a special prosecutor at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.


  1. alex says:

    Dear mr Ken Scott
    I know you are a very respctable man and I want to tell you that as a researcher and human right lawyer you need to think twice of making final conclusions. There is a media war propoganda being carried on this net and a person of your level should not involve yourself in such a cheap political website which is anti goverment. Secondly all this allegations are being created to win both international and local support because the rebels are facing serious sadback in the military front. To be sincer raping and burning a child or woman and custrating children and leaving them to bleed to death is not and will not be a S. Sudanese Culture. A laywer and researchers always have to back their arguments by evidences so do not let your self to be mislead by media propoganda. You will ruin your reputation for no reason. I am a S. Sudanese I know my people better than you. When it comes to burdern of proof later on you will hear all those who have told these stories when asked who has witnessed the incident and where exertly the girl was burned and whose daughter, everyone will say I heard from so and so and the story will go without an end. Secondly you need to know there are many competing interest in S. SUdan that is why there are some circles trying to get reasons to interveine. Do not forget how USA was mislead by some of Saddam Hussen opponens by passing lies which has cost American reputation up to day because they were not able to get the wapons of mass destruction. If you have been following this website there have a lot of lairs which has been published in this net. I know you will argue that it is UN which publish this report but did they have proof and have they really the evidence to support the storries which were told to them? We fought for more than fifty years I have not heard of a girl of age eight years being raped nad burned alive in Sudan.
    To conclude one best example of this website is go over those who wrote the articles in this net. Is there any article which critice the rebels for the killings in Bor, Bentue, Akobo, Malakal and many other places and burning of hospitals, universities villages.

    It is up to you to take it or leave it.


      Anyone who is still defending Kiir’s lawless government is acting like the stupid proverbial ostrich. Read this and give your head a shake.


      Instead of flogging a dead horse (read defending Kiir’s defunct government), join the people who are determined to install a government of the people, by the people, for the people in South Sudan because they are looking out for all the tribes of South Sudan.


      Simply put, Kiir’s anarchic and evil government is an unacceptable insanity and the only people who still want him to continue “ruling” are ones who worship Lucifer. Watch this space as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel wrests South Sudan from Lucifer’s clutches. Go on, get Kiir to continue consulting his witches and see whose God is BIGGER. This is an Elijah Dare!!

      1 KINGS 18:16-45



      M. Akulia

    • defender says:

      Do you want to say that the US was mislead to support our freedom? If so, the your argument will hold water but if not, then do not just speak as if you are not educated. Those who put their neck out there to document these incidents, do it with great care, because their reputation and that of the institution they work for is preserved. Even if the proof that you are seeking is provided, you will come out with another set of justification to demand a proof. We our own witness to the brutality we visit against our own. If that is not a proof, then i do not know where you get the proof to show the pain that our people are going through.

      If the world is feeding us and those who are supposed to, are sitting with their pot bellies, full of feces, denying that our people are dying. What you expect from such a people? They do not have conscience, nor sense of belonging to a nation but their own bellies, and not even interest. If the international community who is footing our social expenditure bill (health, social services and food) decide to leave, would you still sit here and tell us that those who are providing us do not have any evidence that our population are dying? We do not see beyond our noses and then complain to wit, that we are being targeted, when are the once targeting our poor, just because some feel their corridor to looking is being exposed.

      I would love to see that the international community that do more humanity than our own quit and let those who continue to trumpet propaganda, as their own line of defense, feed the need and unprotected, to the devastating influence of tribal bigotry. What will become of the piece of land we call South Sudan? It will collapse under its own weight of brutishness.

      Let us nurse our wounds and accept those with intention to help us, help us see the level of brutality that we inflicting on ourselves. If we do not, life as we know it, will cease to exit in our country, if there is any to be saved, we will be cantons of tribal enclaves. This is not a far fetch from reality. Today, those who wield power and are doing the most damage, are those tribal militias who are either with government or the opposition/rebellion, who are doing great damage. The government is using these tribal militias as a source of fragmentation to our beautiful land, its people and envied future. Thus, if tears would have mended the problems of our nation, our mothers, those who have lost their sons and daughters in the current and past wars would have solved our peoples’s problem. But our leaders’ hearts have been gutted by the insatiable desire to loot and waste the wealth our people and land are endowed with, for their selfish wants to be wasteful, nothing less and nothing more. If you go to Juba or any other town in our country, you will notice what i am saying here. The billions of Dollars that the world has given us and that that we received from oil, are all spent on cars but not building or roads so that these cars that fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars could drive. Today, in order to go between Wau and Juba, you must traverse in roads from hell just to reach you destination.

      Please save us our souls. Let us deal with the reality of our nation and let us accept that we have failed ourselves so that we find solutions to our problems. If we continue to bury our heads in the sand, we will even loose our feathers in the process.

    • Guet Athina Guet says:

      Mr. Scott,

      You don’t know what you’re talking about … why don’t write about the first butcher of south Sudan “Machar” who’s in 1991 tried a coup against Dr. Garang and failed, and went on a rampage of killing woman, children and the old you buffoon idiot.
      Again the bipolar moron Machar, tried a coup again against elected president and failed again … Machar is mentally weak … you don’t get it do you, the man is serial killer.

  2. Chul Mi Bor says:


    Thank you for telling the truth. Kiir is criminal, killer, and tribalist. He belongs in a prison.

  3. Toria says:

    We can’t wait for ICC in the Hague to start establishing an International War Crimes Tribunal for South Sudan. Don’t wait until it’s too late to apologize like Bill Clinton in the case of Rwanda. Start it today, we have all the evidence and proves to back you up at any moment. We know all the criminals and the perpetrators, there are hundreds of witnesses waiting.

  4. Abel Magok says:

    Ken Scott

    You are misinformed in most part of your article as alex mentioned that there are lot of media propoganda going on with the war in South Sudan, and all informations you have wrote are the points we have been reading in the wrong media including social media like facebook.
    Although you are indeed misinformed, i like one point you have mentioned in your article.(Quoted), Among the root causes of the South Sudan conflicts are an unfortunate culture of impunity and a historical absence of accountability.

    It is true there is a historical absence of accoutability in South Sudan, otherwise, Dr. Riek Machar would have not become vice president in South Sudan in first place for the massacre he has committed in Bor 1991, when he splits the movement and decided to wage tribal war against civilians in Dinka Bor areas.
    It is true if there was an accountability, South Sudan would have not been in other war now with Riek Machar. Without shame, he is now seeking for compensations in (IGAD) peace talks for the people who died in the war he created while he does not compensated thousands of the people he had killed in 1991.
    If Mr. Ken Scott or Amnesty International is seeking for accountability on the issue of South Sudan, well and good they have to start from the massacre of Bor 1991, and is well documented.

  5. Francis Mangok Angeir says:

    Dear South Sudanese,

    I have seen the end of the destruction is coming praise the Lord our God of South Sudan. God bless you all.

  6. Amum Machar says:

    Pigi County and Paweny men in SPLA/SPM IO-M are responsible for the recent brutal killing of innocent civilians in Jonglei Atar Pigi County.
    By Amum Machar U.S.A
    I condemned those Paweny who are supporters of label Former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar for betraying their people whom have been marginalized in South Sudan.
    In addition, the community condemned the Nuer Community across the world particular the Gawaar-Nuer Community, Thong-Nuer Community, Leak Nuer Community for their continue revenge aligned with Riek Machar. This is against the will of the people of Padang Jieng Paweny Pigi County. Those communities under Rebel leader Riek Machar who hailed from Bentiu State should be accountable for massacred of innocent civilians which continued happening in Pigi County. Those brutal killing carried out the angry Nuer with specific tensions to kill all Paweny and displace the all populations included the killing of children and elderly. Therefore even though Nuer under rebel leader Riek Machar is going to sign peace with Kiir Government with tension to occupied the entirely Government with rests of members of the Dinka, I believe Paweny hearts would not and will never trust their leadership!

    Amum Machar

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