As part of its response to the crisis in South Sudan, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AUPSC), at its 411th meeting held at the level of Heads of State and Government, in Banjul, The Gambia, on 30 December 2013, mandated the establishment of the commission of inquiry on South Sudan (AUCISS).
In the said communiqué, the PSC requested the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), in consultation with the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples‘ Rights (ACHPR) and other relevant AU structures, to urgently establish a Commission to investigate the human rights violations and other abuses committed during the armed conflict in South Sudan and make recommendations on the best ways and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing among all South Sudanese communities.
The AUPSC requested the AUCISS to submit its report to Council within three months, reckoned from March 12, 2004 when the Commission was formally constituted with the swearing of the Chairperson and members of the Commission. The Commission is chaired by H.E Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Members of the Commission are: Professor Mahmood Mamdani (Professor and Executive Director, Makerere Institute of Social Research, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda); Lady Justice Sophia A.B Akuffo (President of the African Court on Human and Peoples‘ Rights); Ms. Bineta Diop (AUC Chair‘s Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Development) and; Professor Pacifique Manirakiza (Member, African Commission on Human and Peoples‘ Rights).
The Commission has prepared an Interim Report detailing the work done so far. The purpose of the Interim Report is to highlight the missions, activities and engagements undertaken by the Commission towards fulfilling its fourfold mandate, which relates to healing, reconciliation, accountability and institutional reforms. The Interim Report also provides some findings and observations on issues and interactions that the Commission has been able to engage with during its visits to South Sudan and neighbouring countries. It leaves out the historical, political and economic background on South Sudan. The more detailed Final Report will include this aspect and provide more detailed discussions and analysis of relevant issues. It will also contain detailed findings and recommendations relating to the four mandate areas as well as an indication of how and where various actors and stakeholders can engage with a view to finding lasting solutions to the crisis in South Sudan.
Work Undertaken and Achievements
As of the date of June 15, the Commission has conducted several missions to South Sudan and neighbouring countries as follows: April 16 (Khartoum) April 23-30 (Juba); May 10-15 (Kenya); May 15-18 (Uganda); May 26-June 4 (South Sudan: Juba, Bor, Bentiu and, Malakal); June 5-7 (Kenya; Kakuma Refugee Camp) and Khartoum.
During these missions, the Commission met and held discussions with or conducted interviews with regional and international leaders, government and opposition officials, South Sudan citizens, victims, refugees, IDPs, members of civil society organizations and intellectuals. The Commission also visited various sites including IDP camps; refugee camps in Kenya; alleged scenes of crimes in South Sudan; government offices among others. The Commission has also received leaders and other stakeholders in Addis Ababa. The Commission‘s engagement with these stakeholders has so far been organized as Key Informant Interviews (KII); consultations and; Focus Group Discussions (FGDs.
With respect to all meetings held and consultations conducted, the objectives have been to: introduce the Commission and its mandate; familiarization of the Commission with the situation on the ground in South Sudan; obtaining some perspectives on the immediate and remote causes of the crisis and; soliciting views on specific aspects of the mandate of the Commission, including ceasefire arrangements, humanitarian situation, possibilities for interim government, reconciliation, healing, accountability and institutional reforms.
In totality, the majority of respondents – including members of the opposition, international partners, South Sudanese, members of civil society, women groups and South Sudanese intellectuals – have so far expressed a united voice on a range of issues: the need to end the violence and for the warring parties to respect cease fire engagements; the need to address humanitarian needs of those affected; the establishment of an inclusive transitional government of national unity; the necessity for a broad based and inclusive national dialogue to address issues of reconciliation, healing and charting a new socio-economic and political path for South Sudan; the need to establish a national constitutional review conference to finalise the constitution and organize credible elections after the transition.
With particular reference to views of civil society in its totality, among the issues they suggested require attention include: weak governance, weak leadership and institutions, militarization and ethnicization of public life. In addition, it has been emphasized that the exclusionary practices of the past in terms of which political and military elites have held the key to determining the future of South Sudan must end. The Commission holds the view that national healing and reconciliation processes must of necessity be inclusive, and that women and others that inhabit the periphery of public life must be brought into the fold to chart a collective future for South Sudan. The Commission, in its on-going engagements is particularly sensitive to the need to be inclusive. For these reasons, it plans to conduct consultations all over the country, particularly in areas beyond the immediate theatres of violence where attention has so far been focussed.