Justice Africa calls for support for civil society engagement in transformation processes in South Sudan
30 December 2013
The current crisis in South Sudan can only find a long-term solution with the full engagement of civil society. Justice Africa (JA) joins in condemnation of the current violence: the people of South Sudan need a comprehensive ceasefire and prompt humanitarian responses. We also urge all concerned to pursue non-violent mechanisms for dispute resolution and to draw on the national resources of a vibrant civil society that has articulated alternative visions for governance, peace and reconciliation. Groups which cross all ethnic divides have been working to promote the rule of law, human rights, and respect for diversity and gender equality through practices of dialogue and peaceful mechanisms for dispute resolution in the years prior to and since 2005. They constitute a contingent of peacemakers deserving of external acknowledgment, increased support and protection.
Only political and military leaders can end the atrocities, fighting and mass displacement, but they alone cannot provide a comprehensive and lasting resolution. Peace processes have too often been confined to political elites at the expense of dealing with more fundamental issues of reconciliation, human rights, justice and inequality. JA calls on regional and international mediators to be mindful of these past shortcomings, and to provide an opportunity for the voices of all South Sudanese peacemakers to be heard in the interests of peace. Civil society should have an input into policies on accountability and reconciliation as well as on the fundamental questions of how the state should be governed. There is no other solution but an inclusive national dialogue.
JA is advocating for coordinated support for democratic and civil forces in South Sudan. In collaboration with a range of South Sudanese civic and faith-based organizations, we are seeking critical engagement and trying to foster a social infrastructure for peace. We have been promoting a ‘Civil Project’, before and since independence, which recently concluded a series of consultations to inform South Sudan’s constitutional review process. Over fourteen months, 1200 citizens participated in the dialogues, held in all ten states. These consultations demonstrated that there is a popular will to engage in democratic practices, and to shape the fundamental laws governing the new nation. They also confirmed that South Sudanese civil society are ready and capable of mobilizing for peace processes—JA convened the dialogues in partnership with the South Sudan Law Society (SSLS) and a coalition of 18 civil society organisations.
The Civil Project dialogues illustrated the hopes and fears for the future of this new nation. Participants spoke of ongoing threats to their peace and security. They called for mechanisms to ‘promote social trust’; an overhaul of the security architecture and training of armed forces to improve discipline, among many other recommendations for the democratic governance of the nation.
By joining in the dialogues, and calling for inclusion in the state-led constitution review, citizens sought to make rights and political transition meaningful. South Sudan’s population existed in a state of war for most of the five decades prior to the country’s independence in 2011. They were denied the right to self-determination and to the peaceful expression of their values, beliefs and rights. The political leaders at national, regional and international levels should remember their demands and uphold the principle of civic engagement and genuine inclusive national dialogue to create a foundation for peace in South Sudan.
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