Row over Juba EALS membership

Saturday December 8 2018

 East Africa Law Society

Delagates follow proceedings during the 23rd East Africa Law Society Annual Conference in Mombasa, on November 28, 2018. A Group of lawyers from South Sudan have protested the admission of the country’s umbrella body for lawyers into the East Africa Law Society. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG 

BRIAN OCHARO
By BRIAN OCHARO
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A Group of lawyers from South Sudan have protested the admission of the country’s umbrella body for lawyers, the South Sudan Bar Association (SSBA) into the East Africa Law Society (EALS), saying its members were planted by the government and do not necessarily represent the country's bar.

SSBA joined the regional society on December 1, during its annual general meeting held in Mombasa, Kenya.

The other members are the Law Society of Kenya, Uganda Law Society, Tanganyika Law Society, Rwanda Bar Association, Burundi Bar Association and the Zanzibar Law Society.

Members of the Legitimate South Sudan Bar Association, said they are considering challenging EALS’s action in the regional court.

LSSBA vice-president Kiir Chol Deng termed SSBA “a private Bar” established by the country’s ruling party in violation to the Constitution of South Sudan.

EALS chief executive Hanningtone Amol said the society admitted SSBA since it was the only statutory body acknowledged by Juba.

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“We have admitted SSBA after we visited the country for a fact-finding mission and held a consultative meeting with government officials and lawyers.

It was the only option we had since it was the only statutory body acknowledged by government,” he said.

But Mr Deng said the EALS did not conduct due diligence on the SSBA.

“It is our fear that admitting a private Bar will not only undermine the rule of law in the country but also encourage, promote, facilitate and impose illegalities on the legal fraternity of South Sudan,” he said.

“The alleged applicant (SSBA) is a private bar established by the ruling party in violation to the Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan,” he said.

He said the Provisional Advocates Admission Committee, which was renamed SSBA, had been dissolved by Ministerial Executive Order No. 01/2013 by Justice Minister John Luk Jok on February 22,2013.

“It is our fear that admitting a private bar will not only undermine the rule of law in the country but also encourage, promote, facilitate and impose illegalities on the legal fraternity of South Sudan,” he said.

Mr Deng said any attempts to proceed with the admission of the SSBA into EALS will not only be a slap in the face of the rule of law but also a gesture of encouraging the state interference into the affairs of an independent professional bodies in the region.

“Consequently, this will make EALS a political forum instead of legal entity and custodian of the rule of law in the region,” he said.

Mr Amol said the society is aware of the challenges South Sudan is facing but that could not halt a legitimate process that they have been working on for a while now.

He said the society has been pushing for the admission of SSBA to EALS and that once the team that had gone for a fact finding mission recommended it as the statutory body, they had to move with speed and admit it.

“Officer bearers do not get 100 per cent acceptance from the members of the bar all over the world but we could not stop the admission process which according to us was legitimate unless there was compelling reasons,” he said.

When contacted for comments , SSBA Secretary General Ajak Mayol promised to give proper response but he had not done so by the time of going to press.

According to the CEO, the faction led by Mr Chol failed to provide adequate reasons and evidence to make the society change its mind and reject admission of SSBA.

Mr Amol said it was easy to think that SSBA is sponsored by the government but a close a look at its membership dispels any such rumours since a majority of its members are not close to the country’s leadership.

“The so called LSSBA doesn’t exist, it was a voluntary association that had been deregistered by the government, we cannot work with a body that has been deregistered because that will mean we are disobeying the government,” he said.

The CEO however said that EALS has planned to visit the country so that it can help ironing out the emerging differences but maintained that disunity does not mean there are parallel bars in South Sudan.

SSBA applied to join EALS as a member but a section of legislators affiliated to LSSBA want the request rejected saying the bar is illegitimate.

Mr Chol said the legitimacy of SSBA as established by the ruling party has been challenged at the Supreme Court in South Sudan and is currently pending at the East Arica Court of Justice in Arusha, Tanzania

When contacted for comments , SSBA Secretary General Ajak Mayol promised to give proper response but he had not done so by the time of going to press.

Through an email, Mr Mayol said it was good that Mr Chol and his group articulated their grievances in a letter though he had not gotten opportunity to read the letter and digest the complaints.

"Kindly, share with me the letter such that I can table it before South Sudan Bar Association for a proper response. Please take note, this doesn't not in any way amount to any response from South Sudan Bar Association," he said.

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