Democratic Forum Demands Removal of
May 15, 2007
The interview conducted recently by the South Sudan Chief Justice, Ambrose Riiny Thiik in
will definitely create some controversy as it is bound to attract critics to question the role of judiciary in relation to political affairs in the autonomous government of the South. The interview could have been conducted either by the Secretary General of the SPLM or the Minister of Information for the Government of South Sudan (GoSS), particularly when it comes to the question of government integrity, and the matters pertaining to corruption in
. Being fully aware of the Chief Justice’s legal and political backgrounds, we are not surprised to see him conducting such an interview and releasing such statements warning the people of South Sudan not to criticize the GoSS lest it would undermine unity among Southerners, and may help Northerners to “clamp down on” Southerners.
It is out of the ordinary to hear the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court warning or advising the Southern public to refrain from criticizing the government lest Southerners will play themselves into the hands of the Arabs. The Chief Justice had made some references about the collapse of Addis Ababa Agreement and attributed the failure of the accord to Southerners washing their dirty linens before the Northern public—giving way to Field Marshal Jaafar Nimeri to abrogate the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1983.
Between 1972 and 1983, the main political actors in the South were Abel Alier and his supporters on one side and Joseph Lagu and his group on the other. As a lawyer and a politician back then, which camp did Mr. Ambrose Riiny Thiik belong?
When the South was set aflame in early 1980s, was Ambrose Riiny a lawyer or a politician or both? And which camp was vocal in criticizing the Addis Ababa Agreement? Who gave suggestions to the government of Nimeri to interfere with self-government Act of 1972? And what role did Mr. Ambrose Riiny Thiik play at the time? Did he go about warning and advising people not to criticize the Addis Ababa Accord as he is currently doing?
Rumors have it that in the beginning, the group that started in the 1970s to wash their dirty linens before the Northern public happened to be in Abiel Alier’s camp and some were even said to be lawyers at the time. What did Ambrose Riiny do to Abel’s camp when they began washing their dirty linens before Jaafar Nimeri? Did he advise them to refrain from such a campaign? All that Southerners know was that the campaign led to dissolution of Joseph Lagu’s regional government in 1980, giving way to fresh election which brought in Abel Alier’s group. As a result of that, the Lagu’s group had to use the same strategy of washing dirty linens before the Northern public to undermine Abel Alier’s government—a campaign which led simultaneously to re-division of the South and the Bor—Ayod uprisings.
Since the Chief Justice has made it as a personal crusade to stop people from criticizing the government, is he considering advising South Sudan Legislative Assembly to enact laws that will totally ban criticism against the GoSS or is he exercising his democratic right to freedom of speech as a private citizen who has learnt from his past experiences?
Whichever way his argument is looked at, the Chief Justice has compromised his position by meddling himself in political affairs in disregard to the principle of independence of judiciary. Why we are saying so is because there are serious legal cases that are before his court which could be prejudiced by such an interview, i.e., land disputes between the Baris and the government of the South. The inhabitants of the Central Equatoria State, based on the warning from the Chief Justice, should not go public for their grievances lest the Northern Sudanese would take advantage of their complaints—even if it means losing their lands to lords of misrule and corruption for the sake of smooth or for that matter rough implementation of the CPA since current corruption lords have replaced “awalad el balad” to implement the promise they made in 1983 that “they would go to bush and come back as masters of the Equatorians”.
With such a warning from the Chief Justice which discourages Southerners from criticizing the GoSS, there would be no reason for Bari Chiefs to appeal to South Sudan Supreme Court to safeguard their rights to land since they would get the same warning from Mr. Ambrose Riiny Thiik in a form of legal verdict. Based on the mindset of the Chief Justice, the only option the Baris should explore—in order to redeem their lands—is either to appeal to International Court of Justice (ICJ) before they are finally dispossessed from their ancestral lands by the SPLM’s land grabbers or to strike out of court settlement that would please the Chief Justice as long as the secret deal shields land grabbers from humiliation before the Northern public.
With this advice or warning from the Chief Justice, is he not also preempting the outcome of the trials of the former Minister of Finance and his accomplices, whose cases are already known in the Northern media? Will he strike a deal with the Northern media not to embarrass corruption lords so as to put the lid back on Pandora box of Gogrial-Awil’s cabal in order to allow their trials to be conducted away from the media? As far as we are aware, any case that has attracted publicity in the media is deemed to be prejudiced, and gives room for defense lawyers to demolish the charges brought against the accused, making the prosecutors look foolish and disoriented. With defense lawyers performing robustly before lower court judges the Chief Justice appointed, it is highly likely and certain that the accused would be given the benefit of the doubt and be declared innocent and if possible be allowed to resume their active services as we hear rumors saying that the former Minister of Finance (Arthur Akuein Chol) is telling people he would return to his job after his name is cleared by the court of Mr. Ambrose Riiny Thiik, who does not like Southerners to wash their dirty linens before the Northern public even if the burning issues involved organized looting, mismanagement and misappropriation of public funds.
With such a warning from the Chief Justice, who abhors public criticism of lords of misrule and corruption before the Northern media, will his warnings not undermine the functions, duties and responsibilities of Anti-corruption Commission led by Dr. Pauline Riak and the Parliamentary Committee on Corruption headed by Prof. Bari Wanji (also known as the “Liberator”)? As far as we can recall, both Dr. Pauline Riak and the “Liberator” are on record on their appeal to the public to help them fight corruption by encouraging Southern Sudanese to debate these issues or use their pens in the media to expose corruption lords as well as encouraging the students to debate SPLM corruption publicly in their campuses—so as to curb and eradicate mismanagement of public properties. At last, the “Liberator” may be forced to become an oppressor if he complies with advice and warning of the Chief Justice, who is allergic to hear public debates about Gogrial-Awil’s corruption syndicate.
Coming back to the issue of appointment of judges in South Sudan Supreme Court, we applaud the admission of the Chief Justice that the court is dominated by one tribe and we commend his efforts to make the Supreme Court more inconclusive, unlike the Ministry of Hon. Micheal Makuei Lueth, who is unrepentant despite charges of tribal nepotism brought against him. Having said that, this does not warrant the Chief Justice to be given a clean bill of health when it comes to appointment of judges as we have learnt from reliable sources that people who have not been to recognized law schools and with no legal backgrounds— and who do not speak the first official language in the South—were appointed as judges under his supervision. Could the Chief Justice tell us whether the criteria of appointing judges were based on being members of the SPLM party or friends and relatives of Gogrial—Aweil kitchen cabinet and have to be rewarded as such? According to the Chief Justice, the people he approached to join the Supreme Court in order to make it more inclusive happened to be Dr. Richard K. Mulla and another non-Dinka. Are these the only non-Dinkas who happened to be seniors qualified to become Chief Justices in the Supreme Court? We tend to doubt the sincerity and genuineness of his explanation; rather it is a preemptive action from the Chief Justice in protecting his appointments from being criticized by the public, as he had already seen this happening to Hon. Micheal Makuei Lueth, who filled his Ministry with his clansmen.
With such unprecedented comments from the Chief Justice, could we now say that Mr. Ambrose Riiny Thiik is considering leaving the judiciary and becoming a Minister of Information, a post which
he held in 1980 under government of Gen. Joseph Lagu? If so, where will President Kiir relocate Dr. Samson Kwaji who may be constrained by the lack of legal education to become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? Will he be given induction courses to supervise the judges and be exempted from technical and legal matters which are the prerogative of a Chief Justice? If not, what will be the position of
president Kiir since his Chief Justice has gone on the loose by courting the media and
releasing statements which he had been unable to propagate quietly? Unless Ambrose Riiny is preparing to become the Minister for Cabinet Affairs and spare Samson Kwaji his position, the South is really in for disaster since there are so many uncontrollable spokesmen for the GoSS determined to protect the reign of corruption and misrule.
We are also concerned with the way the Chief Justice is going about telling Southerners to keep their affairs secret from the North while on the other hand his party (he is proud of being spokesman of Salva Kiir), the SPLM, is
working seriously with the NCP in order to make unity attractive. Will it not frighten off Northerners who are currently working and living in the South to bring their cases before the courts under his rule lest they may experience prejudices and biases because of the comments made by the Chief Justice? Furthermore, could we say the line of action taken by the former Ministers of Education and Finance in Upper Nile State to close down Quranic Schools and Islamic banks was an indication of the Chief Justice’s advice and warning to South Sudanese to segregate themselves from Northerners? If so, why were they released from their duties when we thought the actions they had taken were in line with personal crusade of the Chief Justice who believes in racial segregation between the North and the South?
With the demise of John Garang who was the father of Sudanism—the ideologue and the founder of the SPLM/A—the masses of the South would want to know what the SPLM party stands for. Is the party changing its objective from unity to separation as many Southerners suspect the current position of the Lt. Gen. Kiir although he doesn’t propagate that publicly but may quietly uses the likes of Ambrose Riiny Thiik and others to propagate secessionism on his behalf? If that is the case, why don’t the Gogrial—Awil elites come out publicly to support the call for the independence of the South rather than blackmailing the Nuba, the Engessina, Darfur, Eastern and
and the rest of Africans in the North?
Finally, we would like to advise the whistleblowers in
to keep away from exposing scandals of the SPLM party because, by doing so, they risk losing their jobs and face very steep sentences from the court of Mr. Ambrose Riiny Thiik. The Chief Justice has abrogated to himself the right to crusade on behalf of the lords of misrule and corruption to persuade
masses that the path to peace and democracy goes through the dark tunnel of organized looting, misappropriation and embezzlement of public funds.
Mr. Gordon Buay
Spokesman of South Sudan Democratic Forum and Chairman of Democratic Forum in
Email: [email protected]