By Dong Samuel Luak
April 16, 2014 - Many people in South Sudan are asking, how long did it take President Salva Kiir to plan all this tragedy befalling our young country now? Recruitment, training and arming the private army in Luri around Juba. Dismissing the whole cabinet, agreeing with Ugandan forces to intervene in case of any eventualities(alleged coup), putting innocent people on trail, now the most crucial question is the appointment of the Chief Justice Chan Reec from home area of the President, was it part of the plan? The legal community was taken by surprise when a presidential decree was voiced over the national media appointing a new Chief Justice to head the Supreme Court of the republic of South Sudan, the dubious circumstances which led to this appointment were not disclosed.
Among the many responsibilities granted to the president of the republic by our transitional constitution 2011 few are more serious or more consequential than appointing a chief justice, so this appointment shouldn’t be taken lightly, it should be made only after deep reflection and careful deliberation, because there are qualities that a chief justice must have, for instance his or her rigorous intellect, mastery of law, ability to provide clear answers to complex legal questions and understanding judge’s job is to be in office up to five (5) o’clock in the evening or beyond, not sleeping on the job, approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather commitment to impartial justice, a respect for precedent and determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand just to mention a few.
The process of replacing Justice John Wol hasn’t been rigorous and comprehensive; the President acted on the ill advice of his close advisors, the president never sought advice of members of the parliament, legal affairs committee, Bar Association and Law society, the president never reached out to constitutional scholars, advocacy organization, representing any array of interest and opinion.
The best practice of appointing a Chief Justice was recently demonstrated by the Republic of Kenya, were lawyers submitted their written application to a screening committee made up of Judges, lawyers, government officials and members of the public, these committees asses the candidates and submit a list of those who are considered qualified to be Chief Justice.
The process of appointing a Chief Justice can be controversial like the recent appointment of Justice Chan Reec Madut .
Chief Justice is “the pillar of our entire justice system and the public has a right to demand that the Chief Justice must strive for the highest standard of integrity in both their professional and personal lives, which i believe beyond reasonable doubt is questionable and lacking in the character of the newly appointed Chief Justice.
President Kiir at the time of appointing Justice chan Reec Madut, is aware that the supreme court of Southern Sudan was the only one organ of the new Republic of South Sudan which had failed in its purpose, all international reports, meetings of the SPLM political bureau, Civil Society, chiefs and grassroots testify to that effect.
This is another fiasco because we the legal community are perfectly convinced that Courts under the leadership of Justice Chan Reec Madut would never acquired proper weight and dignity as long as its organization being fatally defective and this is a serious injustice to the people of South Sudan, justice always is about doing the right things.
Greed is a vice, a bad way of being, especially when it makes people oblivious to the suffering of others, laws can’t banish greed, but they can at least restrain its most brazen expression, and signal society’s disapproval of it, by punishing greedy behaviour rather than rewarding it. By this appointment Greed and failure is rewarded.
In conclusion in African democracy always the president is right. But for those of us who believe in the rule of law as the foundation for all of our basic rights, i think a public hearing to question an appointee of the president, would have been what wounds deserve is Purple Heart, a Chief Justice with empathy, enough feeling for what many people are going through. The courts essentially become the rubber stamps of the powerful in Society, so why hire a lawyer if you can buy a judge or the whole Judiciary.
The writer is a lawyer in South Sudan can be reached at email@example.com