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Traditional and formal authorities learn more about division of judicial responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of traditional and formal authorities were on the agenda at a recent UNMISS workshop in Eastern Equatoria State. Photos: Moses Yakudu/UNMISS

EASTERN EQUATORIA – Sometimes, traditional and formal laws collide. At other times, one or both sets of regulations are unclear. In many parts of the country, this legal confusion creates tensions, frequently leading to conflicts and violence. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is organizing workshops at the grassroots level to address the issues.

“Now, there is a clear division between the roles of chiefs, the youth and local government. The traditional chiefs must handle social crimes at the customary courts and refer cases of capital offences to high courts in the counties,” said Abdallah Hassan, Director General of State Ministry of Local Government and Law Enforcement in Eastern Equatoria after a recent training session. “You chiefs must cooperate with the new executive officers that we will deploy to establish local government administration in your districts,” he added.

Since gaining its independence in 2011, many remote areas in South Sudan have operated without such local government administrators, sometimes resulting in traditional chiefs taking too many law and order issues into their own hands. Some of the frequent consequences are cattle raiding, road robberies, revenge killings, and land disputes. Early and forced marriages, detrimental to the prospects of the girls involved, have also been tolerated.

Some 50 junior legal executive officers, newly recruited with support from the United Nations Development Programme, youth leaders and local chiefs participated in the two-day capacity building session, which also discussed questions of access to justice and conflict management.

“Please, continue to work with the religious leaders, youth, and women’s leaders to build peace in your communities. As peace partners, we facilitate where we can, but it’s your responsibility community leaders to unite your people,” said Caroline Waudo Head of the UNMISS Field Office for Eastern Equatoria.

Attendees were pleased with the learning opportunity provided.

“We came empty minded and ignorant of our roles to bring peace and justice to our communities, but today we are returning as leaders empowered to deliver what is needed,” said Aldo Ojara Aquilino, Paramount Chief of Magwi County, voicing the appreciation of many.

The peacekeeping mission will continue to strengthen all parts of South Sudan’s justice system.