“Many of us with pending court cases commute long distances to reach Lakes State High Court,” reveals 35-year-old Ater Kachuol. “After long treks, we would have to stand in neverending queues with the scorching sun beating down on us until our case numbers were called. But now, it warms my heart to see a proper sheltered area where we can gather to receive the justice we deserve,” he states with a smile.
Mr. Kachuol’s happiness is exactly why the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) funds its Quick Impact Projects (QIPs), which are small-scale infrastructural interventions that address urgent community needs.
In this case, the UN Peacekeeping mission and its local implementing partner, Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) handed over sheltered waiting areas, latrine facilities, a solar power system and three furnished court rooms to the Lakes State High Court.
The objective: To ensure community members can access justice services without undue discomfort.
“It makes me hopeful because this initiative, particularly the latrines and waiting areas, was requested by authorities at the State Court themselves,” explains Caroline Opok, Team Leader of the mission’s Protection, Transition and Reintegration Section in Rumbek.
“This demonstrates that they are committed to the wellbeing of their clients and communities,” adds Ms. Opok.
Additionally, bringing justice to community members isn’t an easy task and judges also need a proper environment to swiftly and accurately clear case loads every day.
“It wasn’t merely hard for our communities but also difficult for us as members of the legal fraternity to work in unbearable heat due to frequent power outages,” avers Judge Michael Atem Chol, President, Lakes State High Court.
“Now, thanks to the solar power system, we are optimistic that our working conditions will be much improved,” he states.
An effective and efficient judiciary is a key to enhancing rule of law and respect for human rights and as South Sudan begins preparing for free, fair and credible elections for the first time since its independence more than a decade ago, UNMISS support to the country’s government in shoring up its security institutions is key, according to John Oziegbe, Human Rights Officer.
“The backlog in cases that we have noticed for the past five years contributed to dispirited justice seekers while a lack of proper court facilities slowed down judges. The result was that conflict and violence soared. We hope that these interventions will help ameliorate hardships faced by community members and justice actors alike, giving a boost to accountability and general confidence,” says Mr. Oziegbe.
For his part, Daniel Laat Kon, State Coordinator, CEPO, called on greater connections between communities and authorities.
“CEPO and other partners will continue to advocate for human rights and rule of law,” says Mr. Kon. “We urge citizens of Lakes to join hands and uphold the rule of law together with the state government.”
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).