Justice and Peace for Who? Local Justice and Peace Interventions for Peaceful Coexistence Among South Sudanese in Palorinya, Palabek & Rhino Camp Settlements

East Africa Horn of Africa,
International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
South Sudan

A study on the use and potential of South Sudanese  traditional justice mechanisms

The "Justice for Who" research endeavors to spotlight informal justice mechanisms utilized by diverse South Sudanese tribes and explore their potential application in fostering peaceful coexistence among Sudanese refugees in Ugandan settlements. The study provides an overview of the region where the refugees are situated, shedding light on the enduring challenges faced by both local inhabitants and refugees alike. It emphasizes the proactive initiatives taken by local communities to address these challenges, particularly in the aftermath of the LRA war in Northern Uganda.

In this context, the research examines the informal justice mechanisms within South Sudan, with a notable emphasis on how these mechanisms have effectively bridged the justice gap within the country, contributing to peaceful coexistence in various communities. However, challenges arise when these mechanisms are applied by refugees within Ugandan settlements due to the lingering effects of conflicts back home. The limited access to formal justice mechanisms, both in South Sudan and Northern Uganda, compounds the challenges faced by refugees and exacerbates tensions among different communities.

To address these complexities, the research explores the traditional indigenous peace and justice mechanisms in South Sudan, evaluating their structure and viability in the current political and social environments, both within South Sudan and in the refugee settlements of Northern Uganda. The study is instrumental in guiding interventions by the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) in the Palorinya settlement, located in the Obongi district of Northern Uganda. It recognizes the importance of scrutinizing alternative forms of justice in these jurisdictions, considering the migration of refugees with their norms and cultures amid challenging circumstances.

The historical backdrop of South Sudan, marked by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) era (2005-2011) and the subsequent Post-CPA era, provides a foundational understanding for the study. South Sudan's journey to independence in 2011, after enduring a prolonged civil conflict, was initially met with optimism and hope for a promising future. However, in 2013, the nation plunged into internal strife, resulting in widespread displacement, political settlements, and ethnic-based violence.

Despite the wealth of resources in South Sudan, including the oil-rich regions, these riches remained elusive to the population. The conflict in 2013, distinguished by internal strife within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party, escalated into protracted, ethnic-based armed conflict across the country. Mass atrocities, human rights violations, and a devastating humanitarian crisis ensued, with various peace agreements proving futile until the signing of the R-ARCSS agreement in 2018.

In light of these historical and contemporary dynamics, the research underscores the value of traditional legal systems in fostering justice and peace among South Sudanese refugees residing in Ugandan settlements. Concrete recommendations are offered to stakeholders, emphasizing the need  officially recognise the informal justice systems used by refugees are within the country's legal framework. This official acknowledgment from the state will legitimize their operations and set the groundwork for collaboration.

Formalise informal justice systems for the benefit of refugees and preserve the existing informal structures that refugees are familiar with, have access to, and trust. Ensure the effectiveness of these systems by allocating resources and providing training to traditional leaders and elders involved in informal justice systems. Strive for harmony and collaboration with traditional justice systems, recognizing their valuable knowledge and experience in conflict resolution and peaceful coexistence.

Building mutual respect and cooperation between formal and informal justice mechanisms will enhance the overall effectiveness of the justice systems.

Download PDF
Join our network

Login or register for free to get all access to our network publications. Members can also connect and discuss with other members. Participate in our network.

Thank you for downloading
Help us improve our network. Please fill in the questions.