NGOs urge release of AU report on S. Sudan conflict

JUBA – Several civil society organizations in South Sudan on Wednesday called for the immediate release of a report on the South Sudan crisis by the African Union (AU) Commission of Inquiry.

"Whatever the outcome, the inquiry should be published," Edmund Yakani, the director of Community Empowerment for Progress, said while delivering a petition – signed by 19 NGOs – to the AU's liaison office in Juba.

"On behalf of my colleagues in the civil society organizations, I want to say that we need the full report – not only on accountability, but it should tackle all issues, including institution reforms, healing and reconciliation," he said.

The commission of inquiry was appointed in March 2014 to investigate alleged human rights violations and other abuses committed during the conflict, which broke out in South Sudan in late 2013.

The five-member commission, headed by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, has visited the troubled country and spoken with government officials, rebel leaders, civil society organizations, religious groups and displaced people.

South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, has been shaken by violence since late 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked vice president, Riek Machar, of leading a failed coup attempt against his regime.

Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have since been displaced in fighting between the two rivals, close to two million have been uprooted from their homes, and hundreds of thousands now seek shelter in refugee camps scattered across the country.

The petition asserted that, since its establishment, the commission and its chairman had made a number of public statements indicating support for accountability efforts.

In May 2014, the commission stated that it was mulling the creation of a hybrid court to be established jointly by the AU and UN should evidence emerge that international crimes had been committed.

"We are disappointed that, since then, there has been no public information about the findings and status of the report," reads the petition in part.

"We believe that the release of the… report and the provision of timely public information on its findings and status could play a critical role in deterring further violations and abuses and bringing sustainable peace to South Sudan," it adds.

When receiving the petition, Mashood Issaka, the officer in charge of the AU's liaison office in Juba, said the commission had wrapped up its work and was now planning to present its report at an AU summit currently underway in Addis Ababa.

"People's focus has always been on accountability. But we also need to look at the way forward; this is what the African Union is looking at," he said.

Issaka added that the commission's mandate transcended the issue of mere accountability and also included "healing and reconciliation" and "institutional reforms and capacity building."

He went on to assert: "As the African Union, we are not willing to see this country collapse."

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency