[Nairobi, Kenya, TCT] A university don has said that traditional leaders in South Sudan play a critical role in maintaining law and order and that the institution should be strengthened instead of being demonised.
(Left) Dr. Alfred Lokuji of Juba University. He said the office of traditional chiefs need to appreciated in manintaining law and order.
Dr. Alfred Lokuji of Juba University said that chiefs should be respected because of the critical role they play in building peace in conflict-ridden South Sudan.
“We need to pay attention to chiefs because they come from a time-tested tradition, they come from a tradition of consensus-building…We should not throw away the baby and the bath tub,” he said.
Dr. Lokuji was speaking in Nairobi over the weekend, in a forum organized by Gurtong Trust to show members of the public video series themed, ‘Opportunity Missed? Peace Messages from Chiefs and Church Leaders’. The videos feature comments by traditional chiefs and church leaders on what needs to be done to secure peace in South Sudan.
Gurtong captured the voices of leaders at the grassroots because it believes that traditional leaders in South Sudan play a vital leadership role in building lasting peace and bringing reconciliation among warring communities.
“The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) for the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) has indeed recognized their role and noted that such leaders have been effective as mediators and adjudicators in implementing peace and conflict resolution,” says a statement from Gurtong.
Dr. Lokuji said that South Sudan should not do away with traditional leaders, as some have suggested, because at the moment the country does not have enough judges who can adjudicate over legal disputes.
He added that any changes to the current administrative structure should be done through constitutional means and not in any other way.
“Let us use what people have put in place if we want to bring any change,” he said.
He added that the conflict in the country can only be dealt with if the people get to the root cause of the conflict. For now, he says, stakeholders are trying to find a solution yet they have fixed minds on what the problem and solution is.
“It is not enough to say you have a problem. You must analyse the problem to be able to come up with a solution…you need to keep an open mind and look at all options,” he said.
John Gachie, a journalist and commentator on South Sudan said that the peace discourse in the country must be taken to the grassroots, to chiefs and other local leaders who have moral authority and draw respect from people in local communities.
‘Peace is not cover-up but it must be credible to be acceptable to all,” he said.
Those who spoke in the forum expressed disappointment with the political leadership of the country for allowing the country to slip back into violence in December 2013 and most recently in July 2016. They urged the youth to desist from being used to perpetrate violence and to spread hate speech, especially on social media.
Dr. Lokuji said that people would be allowed to speak freely without fear of intimidation from any quarters.
Some speakers expressed disappointment that such an important meeting was only attended by tens of people, most of them women, while men and youth, who are the always involved in violence were largely absent.
Gurtong will hold another similar forum in Juba on 9th and 10th, in a venue yet to be known.