VOICES FROM A PARALEGAL WORKSHOP

The following statements were collected during a paralegal workshop, as participants reflected on areas of law that affect people’s lives.

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ON LAND

“If the community refuse to give the land to the government what can the government do?”

“We southerners know where we are going, it is only that some of us don’t know where our leaders are trying to go.”

“The problem is land has not been demarcated, people are not sensitised. If left un-demarcated as community land it makes it very difficult to administer, and for law enforcement it would be better if there was a town court; currently there are only payam courts that then go straight to high court agencies to operate. It would be better if there was one in the middle since people here are not used to the way of operating at level of high court.’ – If you take a case to court they tell you where is the evidence that this land is yours? We don’t judge cases on land which is not demarcated.”

“This is my land it’s a good plan… it’s the space that belongs to you and not other persons.”

“A physical feature that consolidates human life”

“In the moment the community may decide anything. If people try to appeal to court the court says the land is not demarcated, you go and solve it in the community. This problem is always arising because it is not demarcated but it is cosmopolitan. We find it difficult to solve the issues. Even chiefs can’t hand le the issues. Chiefs or payam courts are used to dealing with issues within one community. Those from another community may not respect that community. If the policy was there it would greatly help.”

“Traditionally it was related to where your ancestors were. Now the government comes with laws, which the community doesn’t understand. They have refused town land council because they see it as government institutions coming to rob their land. There needs to be education on the land act. The community land council are not there because people in the community don’t understand and fear that if they come they will steal the land. The institutions aren’t there. Even in boma level they form as land boards and reject the payam land council, feeling they at boma level are the rightful owners.”

“Aspects of evidence: if you say it’s community land you have to prove your ancestors have been living there… you, the chiefs, women’s groups to prove it’s where you come from… things you have planted… buried relatives… serves as evidence, you should not disturb the peace of the dead. You should not take advantage of burying your relatives in someone else’s plot. Exhumation, court and rituals are expensive to move them.”

“If you follow the right procedures it will be easy for the matter to be addressed. If someone comes to your plot you can’t just threaten to shoot them. Begin a process, go to the next level. The purpose is to address the issue without having a fight.”

ON JUSTICE

“Some laws were tough and people didn’t want laws to come. So you pose it in a way to say ‘Imagine they rape your daughter, or your wife’…’my wife? No, pass this law’. If you approach things in a right way people can understand but if you go without consultation it can present problems.”

“We have paralegals all across South Sudan, almost all the ten states in SS. I will begin with example of some of the challenges they have. In Budi for instance…..they are approached by the chief, ‘who are you?’ ‘We have been trained as paralegals, to advice and do this and this.’ The chief wanted to arrest him. He was put inside for a couple of days, when we heard we went and he was released. Then we held training for chiefs and local government. We trained them on local gov act, civil procedure act etc. so now the paralegals are there and can approach the chief and say excuse me, I don’t think this is in line with our customs. So paralegals must understand the local traditions and customs of the place. He must be from the place, because he understands the local environment.”

“One of the challenges is super power. If someone is arrested immediately he’s taken where I can’t see him… maybe he’s a brigadier there is nothing I can do… if the arrested has a brother who’s a general he is released.”

“Super power is one thing we face…one of our teachers was on the ground with us. Some big general military man sent soldiers to the site and he was taken by force. It was very difficult to follow up because they can arrest you in the same way. He was taken to the barracks in Juba, we followed it up. He was taken to the police. Once he was taken to the police the one who was pushing his arrest disappeared so he was released because there was no case.”

“If you intervene in police issues, you might be arrested too.”

“When people were struggling for the liberation freedom was paramount but when we got independence we didn’t think about where to go – we lost the way which is why there is this crisis. Not to know is a disease.”

“Unless we accept unity in diversity we will stay in crisis if a Madi, Dinka, Bari etc cannot stay together we will stay in conflict of diversity. If we don’t accept ourselves and look at ourselves without divisions we will not establish peace. We need to feel safe with other tribes.”

” It is very important for us to say, “I am South Sudanese” without emphasis on where you’re from – together we are all agents of change and we will take the same message to the grassroots.”

“It all falls on the two parents, of the boy and girls, so long as the arrangements are there they allow them to go. They look at their girl as a source of income/wealth. So a school girl is married. If we go to statutory system we are told it has to go to the customary system, this is our culture. The police refer it back to the customary court….”

“People don’t respect the chiefs when they are doing their work. They don’t have their security taken into consideration while they are handling cases. They don’t have a secretary to help recording the cases. And soldiers interfere in their work. I myself was arrested by soldiers, held in detention for couple of days in horrible condition, people intervened so I am now out. In the past chiefs were respected, but now the respect is missing.”

“We who stay in communities where they are cultivating, the problem is the roaming cows. This took place last year. There was a certain poor woman, her crop was completely destroyed by the cows; when the matter was presented, two calves were arrested. When the owner came he was told what they had done. He threatened, choose what you want, release the cows or face bullets. Another boma chief is experiencing the same thing. Cows are roaming but people have started digging. How can we solve this problem? Our community have no money, rely on agriculture. As a paralegal it is difficult to challenge, you see a cow moving but you have no way to challenge it.”

“We rejected the town council because it was not based on consultation, it was appointed. The appointment of leaders means we don’t know if they are for us or against us. There is no clarity over who has power over the other.”

“There are often weapons present in court, which means no fair judgement.”

“Lack of documentation for reference – the boy was asked what is your name he said Lagu and the chief judged him as his father was a thief and his mother was stubborn – genetics and character based judgement.”

OTHER VOICES

  • Voices on Justice from a Justice Seminar
  • Voices from a Paralegal Workshop
  • Voices on Issues Related to Divorce, Security, the Justice System
  • REFLECTIONS ON THE IGAD PEACE PROCESS
  • VOICES FROM CIVIL SOCIETY
  • VOICES OF WOMEN IN THE PAYAMS OF JUBA

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