Is Law in South Sudan used to afford citizens Protection or to Exploit and Harm them?

By Tong Kot Kuocnin

LLB (Juba), LLM (Nairobi)

Specialist in Law, Governance & Democracy (University of Nairobi)

Over 50, 000 people displaced in Wau. The government and its heavily armed militias are leading the war against civilians and armed groups in the area(Photo: file)

Over 50, 000 people displaced in Wau. The government and its heavily armed militias are leading the war against civilians and armed groups in the area(Photo: file)

Aug 30, 2017(Nyamilepedia) —— “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination. I have fought against Black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die” President Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

As someone writing and speaking out about the conduct of the affairs and all odd acts befalling on the citizens of this country, one shouldn’t wrongfully be construed as being critical of the government and hence a rebel or anti-government.

We shouldn’t therefore be made prisoners of conscience even when the constitution which is the fundamental law of the country guarantees freedom of expression as one the fundamental freedoms accorded to the citizenry of this nation.

But before I keep quite once and for all, as needed clique in power and their associates, let me take up my pen again and write just one.

And as I am writing this piece of auricle, a troubling question is: Is law in South Sudan used to afford citizens protection or to exploit and harm them?

The answer to this question is in the negative. Law is of course not use in South Sudan to accord protection the people who needed most but used as a tool to exploit, subjugate, maim and harm the weak, poor and the less privileged .

This is not at all the very reason that chose this career. Many of us chose law as a professional career for a number of reasons. One of which, for me, as my ambition, was to use my professional training to help tilt the balance just a wee bit in favor of the most disadvantaged members of our society.

When I reflect on that choice today, one of the considerations that loomed largest in my mind is the manner in which the law was used in Sudan against predominantly Christian Southern Sudanese, not as an instrument to afford citizens protection but rather as the chief means of their subjugation, oppression and marginalization.

Commitment to changing this conduct was the cause and interests of our severely oppressed and marginalized Southern Sudanese choosing law as a career to protect themselves.

We chose law to be the hallmark of deep scholarship for many of us who took up the challenge in an attempt to change the status quo. Our biggest challenge, after graduation, presumably was on how to reconcile the use of law with the interests of the people by making it an instrument of protection and not subjugation, oppression and marginalization.

Unfortunately, Southern Sudan broke away from the Sudan but we had a hope that we shall use our legal training to benefit our new nation by helping use the law as an instrument of change and protection and not subjugation.

On the contrary, the South Sudanese security sectors of all kind copied this notorious practice that was used against us all and continue to use law to maintain a policy of ‘keep quite’ don’t talk or we will arrest you, beat you.

Law, firstly, used reconciliation as a basic element of ‘change’, that is, a change of attitude from hostility to friendly relations between different security sectors and various communities. In South Sudan, where the population was bitterly split into two hostile camps because of the conflict, there could of course be no middle course.

In this context, the struggle by the marginalized Sudanese was against all forms of subjugations, oppressions and marginalization and discrimination on all bases as non-Arab to pagans who deserved no rights at all.

The struggle was that of erasing the color line that tends to determine who is rich and who is poor, that all too often decides who resides in luxury and who lives in squalor, who will live and who will die. It was a struggle for freedom of all sorts.

President Mandela once believes that in the walk to freedom anywhere, many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintops of our desires.

He continues to give an account of conditions from underground that ‘the struggle is my life until the end of my life’. This was exactly the situation Southern Sudanese find themselves in during the bitter years of struggle for freedom from all yokes of injustices the central government of Sudan meted on them.

There was an engagement in the struggle to ensure that the rights of every individual are guaranteed and protected through a democratic constitution. Such a struggle is aimed at realizing the rule of law, an entrenched Bill of Rights, and multiparty political system in the country.

Mandela once said that to deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity. To impose on them a wretched life of hunger and deprivation is to dehumanize them. This is South Sudan we both liberated.

South Sudanese of all walks of life stood firmly against subjugation, oppression and marginalization by minority clique in Khartoum. Many of us were made by law, criminals, not because of what we have done but because of what we stood for.

With a lot of threats, extortions, intimidations, kidnappings, tortures and above all death from our own police, national security, CID and military intelligence, we are being treated worse than the Arabs in Khartoum treated us during our struggle.

Why? Was this the promise land of our forefathers whom we both sacrifice ourselves and died for? I know, people divided during a struggle and repressive regime don’t emerge suddenly united when time of repression has come to an end.

But I am quite certain that even with these lots of threats, extortions, intimidations, kidnappings, tortures and death, we will be surely strongly united for it is in nobody’s interest to suffer and die.

All of us are going through tough and difficult times, from common men and women to professional writers and journalists. I humbly ask of you not to submit to these angels of darkness who are inspired by nothing but riches and luxuries of this world, commit to your profession even if it means you die for.

Change will certainly come before the dawn and everybody will be made accountable to his wrong conduct whether a minister or a common man or woman. It is one said that if one is free at heart, no man-made chains can bind one to servitude, but if one’s mind is so manipulated and controlled by oppressor, then there will be nothing the oppressed can do to scare his powerful masters.

Follow the values that make you distinctively a person in the society but don’t be bothered by these threats, extortions and persecutions. Everybody is complaining of having been harassed, intimidated, threatened, kidnapped, tortured and the unlucky ones have died in the hands of their own brothers and sisters.

Don’t use law for your selfish gains but use it as an instrument for change, an instrument for protection and not subjugation, oppression and marginalization. This is my humble piece of advice to those who have lost hope in writing about the state of affairs in our country.

It is to those who bore the brands of pen revolution not guns to continue advocating for the good of this country for its total liberation from the liberators lies on our shoulders although we form part of these liberators.           

Tong Kot Kuocnin
LLB(Juba), LLM(Nairobi)
specialist in law, governance and democracy (University of Nairobi)

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