UNDP helps traditional leaders build stronger local justice systems in South Sudan
A two-day justice workshop for traditional authorities was held from 26 – 27 July at the Royal Garden Hotel in Juba, attended by 50 chiefs from Central Equatoria State.
Led by the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development and facilitated by UNDP, the workshop aimed to highlight issues of local governance. It examined the role of traditional authorities in building a strong foundation for a united, peaceful and prosperous society, based on justice, equality, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
“We are very grateful to attend this important workshop as a means to empower the traditional authorities with new knowledge so as to perform our judicial functions in conformity with the law,” said Chief Alex Taban Loaba, Chairman of the Council for Traditional Authority Leaders for Central Equatoria State, in opening remarks.
Chiefs and traditional authorities administer local justice mechanisms for most South Sudanese people. “The traditional justice system in South Sudan has played an important role in justice dispensation. It is a system that is well understood and sought after by over eighty percent of South Sudanese and at the same time perceived as very expeditious,” said Thusita Pilapitiya, head of UNDP’s Democratic Governance programme. “The role of chiefs and customary law are recognized as the primary source of law and enshrined in the bill of rights in the Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan and now the Transitional Constitution.”
UNDP continues to provide support to traditional authorities to increase their understanding of human rights and women’s justice issues, whilst also working to extend the reach of formal, statutory justice mechanisms throughout South Sudan.
According to Ms. Pilapitiya, “It is now time for all the stakeholders involved - the judiciary, the national Ministry of Justice, the Local Government Board and the State Ministries of Local Government and Law Enforcement among others - to start to implement the strategies that have been developed, to clearly highlight the interface between customary Law and statutory systems; and for the Law Review Commission to review existing laws relating to issues of local governance and the role of traditional authorities in particular.”
The workshop is part of UNDP’s commitment to provide technical assistance, capacity building, customary law development and infrastructure support to the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development, soon to be renamed as the Ministry of Justice.