Heal the Past [Last part]

By Christopher Sebit

Success of the transitional justice system depends largely on effective co-ordination of operations by the CTRH, HCSS and CRA. The CTRH should be tasked with establishing restorative justice forums where offenders are given opportunity to come voluntarily to give their testimonies, declare repentance and seek forgiveness from victims and communities. These restorative justice programs provide victims with the opportunity to express their feelings about the harm inflicted on them and to contribute their views about what is required to put things right.

Involving victims in the restorative justice process is also beneficial to them in the sense that it helps them heal their emotions and lessens their fear of offenders and of being victims of crime again. It is worth noting that victims of crime participate voluntarily in the restorative justice program. To help victims take part in a restorative justice program, they should be provided with complete information about the restorative justice process: possible outcomes, their role, the role of offenders and other participants and information about the criminal justice system option.

The important point to note is that the restorative justice process and its outcome should not cause further harm to the victim again. In other words, the restorative justice program should not result in re-victimization of the victims. Another important point to notice is that victims of crime are entitled to all the victims’ services available in the community irrespective of whether they participates in the restorative justice program or not.

Victims of crime may choose to forgive the wrongdoers and receive restitution from them if they recognize the harm they have caused and participate actively in putting things right. If reparation or compensation for the harm is required, the CTRH should take appropriate measures by referring the case to CRA. It is also recommended that the traditional methods of healing and reconciliation be recognized and incorporated in the framework of the CTRH and CRA as required by the R-ARCSS.

To heal the accumulated multiple wounds of individuals and communities, the efforts of CTRH, HCSS and CRA may not be satisfactory. Perhaps, the way out of this limitation is to go for a more diversified THRP where the TGoNU, states, local governments, civil society organizations and NGOs form a coalition to conduct series of conflict resolution and trauma healing workshops. These workshops should target individuals, community leaders, leaders in government, public officials, youth and women groups, professional groups, military personnel, business people, students, etc.

Trauma healing workshops should be conducted throughout the transitional period and beyond, and they should have a beginning and an end. The first workshops should focus on addressing personal histories. The objective is to enable individuals understand trauma implications thoroughly and acquire possible tools of healing it. In other words, the participants in these workshops should be persuaded to acknowledge traumatic experiences in their lives and to talk about them boldly to others. Expressing pains enhances understanding and motivates individuals to move forward in life. Personal change is very instrumental in political organization of a country.

The second workshops should be tailored to exploring cultural factors. The process of healing wounds is seriously impeded by some aspects of culture. Therefore, people need to be made aware of those negative aspects of culture. Our cultures interfere with our ability to deal with unprocessed pains. They influence the way we perceive the newly emerging situations or technological advances around the world. We are too close to our cultures. We need to look critically into our diverse cultures and sort out unprocessed pains preventing us from uniting our people and mobilizing them along a sustainable socio-economic development process.

The third workshops should be geared toward reviewing organizational models and finding ways and means to restructuring our institutions and changing leadership styles. The main areas to be targeted are the system of governance, structures of development projects, and leadership models. We need to look for shortcomings in the present applicable decentralized system of governance, and see how they obstruct our efforts in dealing with unprocessed traumas. If the federal system of governance provides a sound ground for overcoming the shortcomings exhibited by the decentralized system, then it is advisable for us to go for its implementation without delay. But what is important to take note of is that we should look for a type of federalism capable of uniting our people on one hand and managing ethnic diversity and conflicts on the other hand.

In a research dissertation entitled “Federalism: Managing Diversity and Conflict in South Sudan”, Arkangelo (2015) recommended introduction of Territorial Multinational Federalism with a number of states determined by a carefully studied criteria that takes into account the 1956 boundaries and the opinion of all ethnic groups acquired through intensive  popular consultations. Territorial Multinational Federalism has been identified as suitable in the management of diversity and conflict and in creating conditions for building peace, justice, equality, trust and solidarity across ethnic groups (Arkangelo, 2015, p.xiii). For detailed research work, see the library of the Institute of Peace, Development and Security Studies (IPDSS), University of Juba.

To get a space to sort out unprocessed wounds and set a stage for real economic and human development to take off, we should strive to put in place a federal democratic style of leadership giving autonomous powers and equal representation to all ethnic groups in central institutions. A federally democratic style of leadership ensures success of the CTRH, HCSS, CRA and the proposed THRP. Below are some of the necessary conditions required for the success of these transitional justice institutions.

[1] Contracting well-trained personnel to facilitate workshops on restorative justice. Preferably, graduates of the Institute of IPDSS should be contracted as facilitators of restorative justice workshops.

[2] The HCSS should be made accessible to all victims of crimes, and that the process of litigation should not be intimidating, time consuming or expensive.

[3] The CTRH should put much emphasis in transforming the social structures and systems that enabled the wrong doing to be committed.

[4] Both the HCSS and the CTRH should work out mechanisms that will prevent further occurrences of violence.

[5] The CTRH should give freedom to the victims of crimes to participate voluntarily in the restorative justice programs.

[6] The CTRH, the CRA and the HCSS should complement one another. For example, a victim of crime who is not satisfied with the ruling of the CTRH can be advised to seek redress of her/his case in HCSS. In the same way, an offender who is not satisfied with the ruling of the CTRH is to be offered an opportunity to get her/his case heard in HCSS.

[7]The success of a restorative justice program largely depends on offender’s admission of guilt and acceptance of responsibility for her/his criminal actions.

[8] The victims should be provided with accurate and reliable information about the restorative justice process and its outcome. They should be made aware of the role played by the offender and other participants in the process. They also need information about criminal justice as an alternative option.

[10]Since the proposed THRP is going to be implemented in stages, throughout the transitional period, there is need to mobilize sufficient funds. TGoNU, IGAD, AU, UN, NGOs and the international donors are under obligation to meet the cost of the THRP. Without sufficient funds, THRP will not bear fruits and the serious consequence is that our unprocessed pains will continue to obstruct efforts geared towards building peace and initiating a sustainable development process. The coming generations will get trapped up in these unprocessed traumas and allow the cycles of violence to go on unabated. This should not be permitted.

To sum up, the proposed THRP offers the people of South Sudan a rare opportunity to dialogue among themselves as communities and individuals with the view to healing unprocessed pains and tense relationships that have been blocking the process of reconciliation and political integration. Communities and individuals strengthen through THRP will become innovators of development projects that our country has been lacking. THRP is salvation for our present generations and the generations to come. It will make the unity of our people possible and attractive.

We must operationalize the CTRH, HCSS and CRA to salvage the R-ARCSS and heal our debilitating and devastating past. Healing the past means breaking the cycles of violence and clearing the road for just peace. Reconciliation is a function of CTRH, HCSS and CRA, i.e. Reconciliation= f (CTRH + HCSS + CRA). There is no way to drop any of the three components of reconciliation. If you drop the HCSS as some of the ruling elites would like it to be done, you kill the healing and reconciliation process. This is disastrous! Any attempt to undermine the implementation of the HCSS provisions by either party to the conflict tantamount to serious violation of the R-ARCSS. No sound minds of the downtrodden people of South Sudan will accept the non-implementation of the HCSS provisions. God bless the establishment of the three institutions of justice: CTRH, HCSS and CRA! Amen.





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