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The African Union is Failing South Sudan

David K. Deng argues that the African Union is failing South Sudan after deciding that the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AUCISS) should not release its report:

On the evening of 29 January, African heads of state gathered in Addis Ababa for a meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC). Among the items on the agenda was a presentation by the chairperson of the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AUCISS), former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo. More than a year after the African Union (AU) announced its investigation into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in South Sudan, the AUCISS was set to formally present its final report to the AUPSC.

Instead of Obasanjo, however, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, who doubles as the chairperson of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), walked to the podium and raised a motion to defer consideration and publication of the AUCISS report until peace is achieved, saying that it would jeopardise the ongoing IGAD-led peace process. President Jacob Zuma of South Africa seconded the motion, followed by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. With that, the matter was closed and a public release of the AUCISS report was put off indefinitely.

The AUPSC’s decision not to publish the AUCISS report casts doubt on the prospects for justice and accountability in South Sudan. It also raises questions as to whether the AU and IGAD are genuinely committed to ending the impunity that they themselves acknowledge to be a driver of violence in the country.

The AUCISS was formed in December 2013 with a mandate to “investigate the human rights violations and other abuses committed during the armed conflict in South Sudan and make recommendations on the best ways and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing among all South Sudanese communities.” Over the course of six months, from March to September 2014, the AUCISS interviewed hundreds of South Sudanese across the country and in the diaspora. Rumor has it that the report provides a detailed account of war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by all sides in the South Sudanese conflict. It is even said to include a list of people responsible for atrocities, including senior figures from both sides.

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