BY: Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok, NOV/03/2015, SSN;
The long-awaited AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AUCOISS) report has finally been published. It took nearly a year for the report to be released following numerous postponements. Without doubt political pressure and being wary not to influence the peace negotiations, played a role in delaying the release of the report.
It’s an opportunity for the AU to lead and contribute to establishing peace and stability in the war torn South Sudan. As many of you know, the AUCOISS is composed of well known respectable African personalities chaired by the former Nigerian president General Olusegun Obasanjo.
It’s worth mentioning that the AUCOISS report was commended by the major world players, the UN and the human rights organisations. The facts about what actually took place from the findings of the independent investigators are now in the public domain.
It’s a massive step in the right direction in the quest for justice for the victims and their families. The report drew conclusions that could be summarised as follows:
*There was no evidence of a coup attempt.
*Widespread and systematic killings took place in Juba in December 2013 and were carried out pursuant to a state policy and were coordinated and also possibly planned.
*Juba was subdivided into operation sectors which are, Amarat neighbourhood commanded by General Salva Mathok, Gudele and Mia Saba neighbourhoods which was commanded by General Bol Akot, Mangaten which was commanded by General Garang Mabir and Khor Woliang ( with two dots atop letter o ) which was commanded by General Marial Chanuang.
*Roadblocks and checkpoints were set up around Juba and were manned by policemen and soldiers. The officers were checking identities and arresting suspected Nuer men.
*Eye witnesses accounts of torture, rapes and killings committed by SPLA soldiers were reported.
*Kuol Manyang , the minister of defence was quoted that ” a militia loyal to Kiir killed most of the people here ( in Juba ) from 15 – 18/12/203 “.
*Testimonies from an ex-combatant of the Kiir’s militia states that the fight in Giyada was the signal for the militia to start the rampage.
The release of the report at this point in time appears to conform with a diligent and methodical approach to the problem. In my opinion, it was a difficult undertaking by the AU to investigate the events of December 2013.
The difficulty stemmed from the fact that many of the presumed perpetrators are powerful figures in the government and the SPLA and have exclusive command over large forces . In essence it was a case of investigating atrocities committed by warlords and people know how dangerous this could be.
The next step I would expect would be the announcement of the formation of the Hybrid Court of South Sudan ( HCSS ) as stipulated in the compromise peace agreement. According to the rules of the HCSS,” a person who planned, instigated, ordered, committed, aided and abetted, conspired or participated in joint criminal enterprise in planning, preparation or execution of crime, shall be individually responsible for the crime “.
Also it states that, ” No one shall be exempted from criminal responsibility on account of their official capacity as a government official, an elected official or claiming the defence of superior orders.
Furthermore it states ” The HCSS shall not be impeded or constrained by any statutes of limitations or the granting of pardons, immunities or amnesties “.
The above account means that, the militia, soldiers, commanders and top government officials shall bear responsibility individually in line with their role in the crimes committed.
The report has cleared a big obstacle to serving justice by dismantling the anonymity of the culprits and exposing them to the world. By doing so the presumed perpetrators are now individuals with definite names, positions and could be traced and found.
This has huge implications in terms of starting the process of indictment, prosecution and trial of the perpetrators. Clearly it would have been meaningless to bring up cases against anonymous individuals in a court of law.
Because of the valuable information made available by the report, a family that has lost a member or members in the Amarat neighbourhood now knows the commander of the perpetrators and could file homicide charges against General Salva Mathok in the HCSS.
Similarly those families who have lost their loved ones in Khor Woliang neighbourhood can take General Chanuang to court for similar charges. The same applies to the other operational sectors and the commanders will not escape prosecution and trial.
In a democratic government it would be the duty of the the Attorney General in the would be formed Transitional Government of National Unity ( TGoNU ) to file homicide charges against the perpetrators on behalf of the state and the victim families.
Obviously this is not feasible as some of the perpetrators would be members of the TGoNU and a case of conflict of interest would arise. Therefore it will all be down to the HCSS to ensure that justice is served.
In reality this matter will not end with the trial of the foot soldiers only. It will certainly reach the top man in the hierarchy and the top officials. the statement that the massacre was an execution of a state policy with premeditated coordination and planning should worry those on top of the regime.
Additionally the quotation from the minister of defence and the testimony of the ex-combatant of the militia leaves little cover for the president.
There is still a lot more to come and I believe when the heat of prosecution takes its toll on the perpetrators, we shall witness cracks in the wall of silence built by the regime around the massacre.
Certainly a point will be reached when every man will be for himself for survival. And only then the whole truth will be out.
I doubt that anyone could read the report without feeling the pain and utter disgust of the abhorrent acts that were carried out in Juba in December 2013. It is quite shocking that a citizen could be forced to eat the burned flesh of a relative or another citizen by the security forces that were entrusted with the duty of protecting citizens and maintenance of law and order.
It’s again mind-boggling that someone would come up with the satanic idea of compelling a fellow countryman obviously at gunpoint to drink human blood. These crimes are probably unheard of in the history of the world.
It even dwarfs the type of crimes committed by ISIS and probably ranks with Hitler’s gas chambers in terms of the effect on the psyche.
Since I read the report, I have been trying to understand why the perpetrators acted in such savagery against their fellow citizens.
A lot of questions came into my mind, who are these people ?! Have they had normal upbringing like the majority of us ?! Have they thrown their traditional and cultural values out of the window ?! All these heinous crimes just for the sake of clinging to power ?!
Many South Sudanese, me included, feel deeply ashamed of sharing citizenship with such kind of people. They have brought shame and disdain on the whole country.
The good news is that the report signifies the beginning of the end in two different ways. From the victim families perspective, it’s the beginning of the end of their horrible ordeal as the criminals will soon face justice and receive the punishments they deserve.
This would help them reach conclusion of their bereavement and allow them to move on with their lives. As for the culprits, it’s the beginning of the end of their kingdom of terror and impunity. Also those who thought they would remain above the law are in for the shock of their lives.
Dr Lako Jada Kwajok