Ironically, the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir has fired a dozen of striking judges, who wanted better pay and improved working conditions, while failed to reprimand murderous soldiers who have continuously committed atrocities and other human rights abuses against the citizens. Sadly, the timing of the dismissal cannot be worse, in view of the fact that the government of President Kiir is busy preparing to discuss various grievances of the citizens in a national dialogue.
Confirming the dismissal, Khalid Abdulla Mohamed, chairman of the Judges and Justices Committee, intimated that he and many other judges were dismissed. However, Mr. Abdulla Mohamed, who refused to go into details, gave no further elaboration.
The action of the president may send a negative signal to the world as well as set a bad precedence for the rule of law and separation of power in South Sudan. The country’s information Minister Michael Makuei said he could not explain why the striking judges were sacked. Definitely, the sacking of the judges has put tremendous pressure on the judges as well as jeopardized the separation of power amongst the three arms of the government. Ever since its independence, South Sudan has been facing an acute shortage of judges. While some judges died mysteriously others escaped the country into exile for security reasons. Yet, despite the shortage of the judges, the government in Juba had not taken steps to replace or increase the number of judges. Until the firings, a minimal number of just 274 judges had been officially employed across the whole South Sudan. The shortage of judges has drastically increased the work load of the judges, who are already overworked and underpaid. Sadly, the firings have forced the “survived” judges inherit more work. That is not all. The latest intimidating action of the president will put enormous pressure on the judges to toe the line of the executive or face dismissal. This has thrown the democracy and the separation of power in South Sudan into abysmal pit autocracy.
Mr. Modi Ezekiel a South Sudanese legal pundit reiterated that the action of the President would clearly undermine the independence of the judiciary, as well as portray the executive arm of the government as supreme.
“The judges may not feel free to utter out their views because they fear the executives will sack them, so they will be working according to the will of the executive yet an independent judiciary is crucial for any country that wants to build a better future.” Mr. Ezekiel warned.
On the other hand, since after the independence from Sudan, the extremely rich in mineral resources South Sudan has been saddled with internal war, which has resulted in the senseless killings and displacement of millions of its citizens. Rape as an instrument of torture has become the order of the day. All these atrocities are being committed daily by soldiers, who are under President Salva Kiir’s watch.
The questions most people are asking are: Is it fair for President Salva Kiir to dismiss supposedly independent judges who have been overworked, simply because they demanded for a better working condition and reasonable pay, while the same president has rather refused to reprimand soldiers who have committed war atrocities including deaths and rapes of innocent South Sudanese? What kind of signals would the action of the president send to the international committees as well as to his country and specifically the younger generation of South Sudanese who look forward to building a strong and progressive South Sudan?