April 22, 2014 (JUBA) – Members of the African Union Commission of Inquiry appointed to investigate cases of human right abuses committed during the violence in South Sudan have undertaken their first field visit to the young nation.
The visit, taking place from 21 April to 1 May, is part of AU efforts to end the conflict that broke out in the new nation in mid-December 2013, and ensure the emergence of an environment of sustainable peace that would enable a sustainable democratic culture.
The team, headed by former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo, comprises of Mahmood Mamdani, Bineta Diop, Pacifique Manirakiza and Sophia Akuffo.
The commission, during its first mission, reportedly intends to meet with South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and other government officials, including the speaker and deputy speaker of parliament, defence minister, chief of staff, ministers of security, interior, gender, child and social welfare, as well as the commander of the presidential guard and special representative of the secretary-general and head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
“The commission will also meet with former vice-president Riek Machar and the opposition group. It will conduct wide-ranging meetings with stakeholders including: chairman of South Sudan Human Rights Commission, chairman of National Assembly Human Rights Committee, chairman of South Sudan Committee for National Healing, Peace and Reconciliation, Civil Society Alliance, Church leaders, the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization among others,” the AU said in a statement.
Established on 6 March, the commission of inquiry was tasked with investigating human rights violations and other abuses committed during the armed conflict in South Sudan.
The commission is mandated to make recommendations on the best ways and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing among all South Sudan communities after collecting and review all available documentation pertaining to the human rights situation in South Sudan, including UN reports and those gathered by national and international specialists and non-governmental organisations.
“The Commission of Inquiry also shall interview victims, witnesses and sources, gather and review documentary, audio and visual information and other types of information that will aid the inquiry,” partly reads its terms of reference.
Its report to the AU Peace and Security Council is expected within three months.
The US-based Human Rights (HRW), said both warring parties are resposible for committing atrocities against civilians during nearly five months of violence in South Sudan.