Let's Speak Out

Judges thrown into mud

The judges of South Sudan have been thrown into mud and forgotten there.  About three weeks ago the Judges could not stomach the situation they found themselves in anymore and walked out of their courts. The result has been a disaster in the judiciary. Prisons and remand centres are filling up because there are no Judges to try cases. Land grabbers are now very bold and are busy building on plots of land that do not belong to them.  They know there is nobody to stop them. Law and order has broken down due to the absence of Judges to effect execution orders. If you hear the grievances of the Judges and you do not pity them, your heart must be made of stone. The salaries and allowances of the Judges have been put in jail indefinitely and all attempts they have made to liberate their salaries have been rebuffed. The average salary of a Judge is 4,000 South Sudanese Pounds, an amount that can buy only about eight kilos of meat or six sacks of charcoal. Who can live on that kind of salary? The members of Parliament for example take home a monthly salary of about 8,000 SSP excluding allowances. The Judges have no vehicles to transport them to their courts. Most of them are forced to take public transport and run the risk of riding in the same vehicle where the people they are trying are also in. In one recent case a Judge was trying to pay his transport fare when someone shouted, “leave it Moulana.” When the Judge looked at the person he realized it was someone with a case in front of him. Now if the person who is contesting that case saw what took place, what would he or she think? By failing to pay the judges a living wage and not providing them with vehicles, the state is exposing the judges to temptation to bribery. Last year the Governor of Jubek state borrowed money from a Juba businessman and paid off the arrears of the teachers in his state. Can the central government not do the same for the arrears of the Judges? One of the complaints of the Judges is that there are inadequate court rooms. Indeed in many of the courts the rooms are so small that the tables are shared by two or even three Judges.

The Judges have also demanded the removal of the Chief Justice Chan Reech Madut. The President formed a committee headed by the Minister of Justice Paulino Wanawilla to resolve the problem but the Judges said Wanawilla is too cozy with the Chief Justice so this committee is unlikely to help. The issue is clear: Either the country does with the judges or the Chief Justice who the Judges accuse of mismanaging the judiciary and insulting them. The Chief justice has been rejected by his officials and there is no way he can head the judiciary. The President should fire the Chief Justice and rescue the Judiciary from going under and dragging the entire country with it.


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