Uniformed personnel in Baggari commit to upholding human rights, rule of law

Uniformed personnel in Baggari commit to upholding human rights, rule of law

Uniformed personnel in Baggari commit to upholding human rights, rule of law

Uniformed personnel in Baggari commit to upholding human rights, rule of law

As South Sudan’s people and leaders gear up for the country’s first national elections in December this year, much remains to be done to ensure communities fully recover from repeated cycles of violence.

Respect for human rights; upholding the rule of law; and strengthened accountability mechanisms are, therefore, more vital now than ever before.

In Western Bahr El Ghazal, South Sudan, however, delays in fully implementing transitional security arrangements—as stipulated in the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement—had compromised rule of law and referral pathways in handling serious criminal offences, often leading to shortfalls in holding perpetrators to account as well as ensuring the rights of every citizen are upheld.

To breach this gap, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), through its Human Rights Division, recently engaged with senior uniformed personnel from the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army-in Opposition (SPLA-iO) in Wau to raise awareness of their human rights obligations.

“These discussions have been helpful for us to recommit to protecting the rights of every citizen in our areas of responsibility, irrespective of their ethnicity,” declared Major General Peter Ngoli, deputy commander of the SPLA-iO Division 6A.

“Our talks were very fruitful, and I think all participants have understood the need to work according to the laws of the land,” he added.

Major General Ngoli was one of some 35 military commanders and officers from various brigades and headquarters who debated key issues such as stopping impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance; preventing arbitrary detentions; and upholding the rights and dignity of suspects.

“It was difficult to face some mistakes from the past, but we have understood both our individual and command responsibilities in bringing perpetrators of human rights violations to justice,” averred First Lieutenant Francis Bazilio of Brigade 3 in Mboro. 

Vitally, the two-day forum sought to establish mechanisms for referring serious cases of human rights violations to courts in Wau.

“I agree that serious cases should be sent to the competent courts,” said SPLA-iO Police Commissioner Major General Charles Jumo Usman. “We also suggest a joint investigation team is formed to ensure accountabilty,” he continued.

For Leopold Kouassi, a senior Human Rights Officer with the UN Peacekeeping mission, as signatories of the 2018 peace deal, it is crucial to educate the commanders of their responsibility to comply with the laws of the land.

“We have been able to highlight and agree on the appropriate procedures and channels that must be followed when dealing with serious criminal offences. This is real progress,” he stated.

The engagement was a milestone in terms of ongoing efforts to broker rapprochement between the parties to the Revitalized Agreement, and this event, according to Sam Muhumure, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Wau, will not be the last of its kind.

“We are having similar discussions with rule of law and accountability institutions across the board, to encourage synergies between relevant stakeholders across Western Bahr El Ghazal. The objective is to ensure the entire state and all citizens benefit from strong justice institutions and greater accountability,” he averred.”

A verbal commitment by senior commanders: An inroad into a more functional rule of law system.

“We are making a firm commitment to ensure that citizens are protected and that their rights are respected. We cannot do this alone so, we urge community members to report any concerns to us and to be patient while cases are being handled in line with the established laws,” assured Major-General Ngoli.

For its part, UNMISS will continue such dialogues and strengthen them through relevant capacity building initiatives.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).