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South Sudan Analysts Weigh in on Leaked AU Report

Workers open the doors of a morgue in South Sudan last year revealing the bodies of victims of the conflict that a leaked African Union report calls "intense and brutal."
Workers open the doors of a morgue in South Sudan last year revealing the bodies of victims of the conflict that a leaked African Union report calls "intense and brutal."

South Sudanese analysts on Monday rejected many of the key recommendations and claims made in a draft African Union (A.U.) Commission of Inquiry report that was leaked to the public last week.

Sudd Institute co-founder and a professor of African Studies at Loyola Marymount University in California, Jok Madut Jok, said the mere fact the report was leaked "makes me very skeptical about its value."

"We are told this is only a small portion of what would have been an entire A.U. report, which was more than 400 pages. This is only 60 pages and I believe it is a dissenting position by one of the members of the commission, rather than a report that is agreed to by all the commissioners," he said.

Kiir, Machar excluded

The draft report charts the violence that has rocked South Sudan since December 15, 2013, and makes several recommendations for restoring peace. One of the recommendations is to exclude President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar from a transitional government of national unity, which is supposed to be up and running by July 9 this year.

What is needed is not just removal of individuals but an overhaul of the system.
South Sudan analyst Jok Madut Jok

The leaked report suggests setting up a council of three people in place of President Kiir and Machar. It also recommends that lawmakers be allowed to remain in their parliamentary seats "because Parliament is the institution that did not have any role in the atrocities and it would be the institution that would oversee the trainsition,” Jok said.

Jok said he thinks excluding the leaders of the warring sides from any future government will not help bring peace and stability to South Sudan.

"Removing them simply means removing people, not removing the underlying causes and all the problems that led to the current unenviable situation in the country," he said. "You remove them and another two could step in. What is needed is not just removal of individuals but an overhaul of the system."

Luka Biong, the director of the Center for Peace and Development at the University of Juba, agrees that excluding Mr. Kiir and Machar from government will not help to bring the South Sudanese people the peace that they want.

“You are creating a situation that, OK, you are barring the two people, you want to get the intervention of the African Union, UN intervention in South Sudan. In a way, it is not consistent with having a negotiated peace agreement accepted by the people of South Sudan,” Biong said.

A commission of inquiry led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo put together the report on human rights abuses committed in South Sudan during the conflict. The team conducted months of on-the-ground investigation and research. Jok said the leaked version of the report is useful in that it charts the crisis in South Sudan from its very beginnings until recently. Biong said he thinks the report will help to end impunity in South Sudan.

Naming names

But both men also said the leaked report falls down on several counts. Jok faulted the report for publishing the names of people who witnessed atrocities committed during the South Sudan conflict and told Mr. Obasanjo's team what they saw.

The full names of officials who spoke to the A.U. investigators are given in the report, while people who witnessed atrocities including forced cannibalism, rape and ethnically targeted killings were identified by first name only, along with which camp for displaced persons they were in, or which organization they work for. It was not clear if the first names were changed.

"I see this as a complete setback for the entire business of human rights work because it will force people to never come forward with information and for future human rights investigations, will probably cause people to shy away from talking to human rights monitors," Jok said.

Jok also took issue with the report for saying the United States, Norway and the United Kingdom were responsible for winning South Sudan’s independence.

“This is a gross robbery of the right of the people of South Sudan to get credit for their own independence. They have been fighting for 190 years to get independence and yet their effort is taken by this report and given to other countries," he said.

Release delayed

The full report was supposed to be released at the end of January at an A.U. summit; but the A.U. witheld the report, without giving any reasons.

Jok said he thinks the report was not released because the A.U. and the East African bloc, IGAD, which since January 2014 has been trying to broker peace in South Sudan, recognized that making the report public in the middle of peace talks would jeopardize the negotiations.

"Releasing it and accusing the principals of their role in the atrocities that were carried out would probably cause them to shy away from the peace process," Jok said.

Peace talks for South Sudan were suspended last week after Mr. Kiir and Machar failed to meet a March 5 deadline to sign an agreement ending nearly 15 months of fighting.