OpEd, Politics

The elusive pursuit of justice: South Sudan’s government, African Union, and the stumbling Hybrid Court

By Gama Hassan Oscas

In the realm of international justice, the establishment of a Hybrid court stands as a beacon of hope, promising accountability for the gravest of crimes. However, in the case of South Sudan, this beacon appears to be flickering in the midst of governmental reluctance and the African Union’s wavering commitment. As the sun sets on the peace agreement’s timeline and the people of South Sudan yearn for justice, critical examination reveals a series of shortcomings that cast doubt on both the government’s willingness to cooperate and the African Union’s capacity to implement a Hybrid court.

Despite the urgent need to address past atrocities and ensure accountability, the South Sudanese government’s inaction remains concerning. Drafting mere legislations on Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH) and the Compensation and Reparation Authority (CRA) is far from sufficient. These actions, or lack thereof, indicate a reluctance to take tangible steps towards establishing the Hybrid court. With the peace agreement’s deadline having expired and an extended roadmap for implementation, the government’s procrastination raises questions about its true commitment to justice and reconciliation.

The African Union’s efforts to establish Hybrid courts to address war crimes have proven lackluster at best. A notable example is the African Union’s failure to successfully establish such a court for South Sudan’s neighbor, Sudan. The pursuit of justice for crimes in Darfur, marred by delays and inconsistencies, offers a grim precedent for the region. Given this track record, doubts loom over the African Union’s capacity to facilitate the establishment and functioning of a Hybrid court for South Sudan.

The lack of transparency surrounding the progress towards establishing the Hybrid court further deepens the disillusionment of South Sudanese citizens. Ordinary people are left in the dark, unaware of the developments that should shape their nation’s trajectory. This information void not only undermines citizens’ confidence in their government but also fuels suspicion about the African Union’s role in facilitating justice. The absence of transparent communication exacerbates the overall skepticism towards the commitment of both entities.

The failure to establish the Hybrid court and hold perpetrators accountable underscores a broader deficiency within the African Union. As a regional body entrusted with safeguarding justice, security, and development, the African Union’s inability to catalyze meaningful change in South Sudan raises fundamental questions about its effectiveness. The African Union’s perceived ineffectiveness to enforce justice could erode its standing and diminish its credibility in the eyes of the international community and the South Sudanese populace.

The establishment and financing of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda serves as a pivotal lesson that the African Union seems to have disregarded. This tribunal, established under the United Nations, successfully prosecuted individuals responsible for the Rwandan genocide. Its financial structure, largely supported by international contributions, demonstrated a commitment to justice that the African Union could have adopted for its own initiatives. Yet, this crucial lesson appears to have gone unheeded, further amplifying doubts about the African Union’s approach to justice initiatives.

Therefore, in the face of South Sudan’s government inertia, the African Union’s questionable track record, and the pervasive information void, the establishment of a Hybrid court remains an elusive goal. The failure to act decisively and promptly threatens not only the promise of justice but also the credibility of both the South Sudanese government and the African Union. As the people of South Sudan wait for the tide of justice to finally wash over their nation, the question remains: Will the government and the African Union rise to the occasion, or will their shortcomings stain the quest for accountability and reconciliation?

The author of this article is and advocate and can be reached on email at: oscarsgama@gmail.com

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