South Sudan transition in danger of stalling, UN report says

Tuesday February 20 2024

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit. PHOTO | REUTERS


South Sudan’s transition to a complete civilian rule established through the ballot may be in danger of stalling. Either that or an emergency support is needed to rescue Africa’s youngest nation.

This is according to a report by Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

Yasmin Sooka, the chairperson of the Commission, says the establishment of a unified national army and transitional justice organs to deal with the past and the root causes of the conflict are the basic needs for South Sudan, which it has been unable to meet so far, affecting its journey to democracy.

Read: S.Sudan risks delayed 2024 polls due to ‘stuck’ deal

“Our investigations have found that the violence and gross human rights violations continue with impunity, with women and children being the main target of these crimes. Critical security arrangements, and an independent justice system supported by constitutional processes provided under the Revitalised Agreement, are essential to avoid a return to conflict following elections,” said Mrs Sooka.

Given that South Sudan is supposed to hold elections in December 2024 for the first time since independence in 2011, the report says that the country’s leaders must carefully navigate the conclusion of the political transition to achieve durable peace and prevent violence and gross human rights violations.


One of the commissioners, Barney Afako, says that South Sudan’s leaders must end the political and local conflicts and contestations that have brought so much pain and suffering to the people and invest in State and nation-building grounded in respect for diversity, and the protection of human rights.

In the capital Juba, the commissioners held discussions with President Salva Kiir, Vice President Riek Machar, senior cabinet ministers, and legislators.

They engaged with civil society, victims and survivors, human rights defenders, and journalists. They also met with the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, the United Nations Country Team, and diplomats from the African Union and its member states, the Troika—Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States—and the European Union.

The Commissioners travelled to the Greater Pibor Administrative Area and Jonglei State. There, women and children continue to be abducted in violent attacks along ethnic lines, carried out by heavily armed militias.

Read: S.Sudan army recommits to end recruitment of children

The processes, under the 2018 Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (RARCSS) mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), that are supposed to lay the foundations for sustainable peace and human rights protection are yet to be completed, even though the transitional arrangements conclude following the elections planned for December 2024.

Many abductees are held hostage, subjected to forced marriage, and suffer brutal abuse, rape, and sexual slavery. Last year, some of the abducted women and children were put on display like goods in a market and sold.

The Commission interviewed women who had been in captivity for more than four years, separated from families and their children. A dysfunctional criminal justice system enables perpetrators to operate with impunity. Ransoms negotiated by authorities and paid to abductors do not deter these crimes; rather they act as an incentive for further abductions.

“Victims and their family members told us they are traumatised by the abductions and disillusioned at the lack of support to return their loved ones who are missing or held hostage,” said Commissioner Carlos Castresana Fernández.

“Their situation reflects the Commission’s broader findings from investigations across the country, that the population is defenceless against human rights abusers and lacks protection, as the institutions needed to prevent and punish crimes are deprioritised and under-resourced by the State.

In February 2024, South Sudan completed the process of becoming a state party to several core UN international human rights treaties.

Read: S. Sudan transition stuck in mud of floods, politics

Mr Sooka said that South Sudan’s ratification of human rights treaties is an important step towards implementing the obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as it would open civic and political space, and orient State institutions toward protecting civil society actors and journalists, rather than repressing them.

The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan is an independent body established in March 2016 and mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The Commission is also mandated to determine and report the facts and circumstances of human rights violations and abuses, including by clarifying responsibility for crimes under national and or international law.