Re: A response to “From CPJ to Members of AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan:” 31 March 2014, South Sudan News Agency

By Dennis E. Paul

An open letter to the Citizens for Peace and Justice

April 1, 2014 (SSNA) — I have been observing events in South Sudan since before independence.  The recent events – intertribal conflict and deteriorating social and judicial structures and the merciless unconscionable deaths of innocent and defenseless – are beyond heartbreaking.   My sympathy goes out to all South Sudanese who have lost loved ones in the horrendous regressive violations of human rights.

The offer the following – in my most humble demeanor – observations and suggestions that may be of value in the  reconciliation process.

I have been reading “Letter From CPJ to Members of AU commission of Inquiry on South Sudan,” [31 March 2014, South Sudan News Agency].  I feel the CPJ’s efforts to turn ideals into actions are exceptional and commendable.

The ideas are obviously well thought out and I suspect the CPJ has researched experiences of other nations in developing “Initial Recommendations on the Implementation of Inquiry.”  I urge readers to read the “Letter.”

I think all five pillars seem substantial and appropriate but I am propelled to ask: Have the five pillars been tried and tested?  Are there other programs or policies that have been shown in other nations to be more effective?

Truth Before Forgiveness.

I find comments (in the “Letter“) regarding Truth Before Forgiveness particularly noteworthy — “Once the guns are silenced, people are urged to forgive one another and move on.   To adopt such an approach in South Sudan would be a grave mistake—one that has been made in the past and is increasingly considered to be a contributing factor to the enmities that led to the current conflict.     People cannot be asked to forgive others who have wronged them until they know for what their     forgiveness is being given. In that sense, forgiveness can only come after the truth and atonement.”

I believe this concept is particularly indispensable.

On another note; “Justice is Non-Negotiable,”  it is mentioned that:

“Men and women in positions of authority and those in uniform have committed serious crimes on the assumption that they are absolutely immune from any accountability for their actions. The only way to correct this shortcoming is to assert individual accountability and liability for criminal behavior.”

“Accountability should form the bedrock of a new institutional culture in which all citizens are equal and subject to the rule of law.”

I am aware that the greatest detriment to crime is the that those that intend to perpetuate crimes, know that they will be punished.

Those enforcing the law must maintain professional standards.  They must  have extensive ethical and moral training.  This offers insurance that objectivity in the service of law enforcement will protect all ethnic groups from unlawful prosecution.   I believe this is an issue that must bear great weight.

A few small programs were introduced in 2013 in South Sudan to train South Sudanese law enforcement personnel  abroad and to accept advanced training from law enforcement personnel from UN programs.  [“South Sudan  cadets join Ethiopia’s Police Academy“;  Sudan Tribune 12 Feb 2013 AND “UNPOL Trains South Sudan Police in Upper Nile“; Gartung 13 Nov 2013].  I feel, programs of this nature must be pursued vigilantly.

Lastly, with current events, it appears tribes are becoming more and more socially isolated. One paradigm that might be useful is a liaison (shuttle diplomacy for example) between tribes that might, with sensitivity and perseverance, slowly encourage unity of purpose in nation building.

I offer my observations with humility and respect.

The author lives in Iowa, United States. He can be reached at [email protected].

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