Contributor's Opinion

OPINION: Is Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) a problem of South Sudan?

By Daniel Juol Nhomngek

President Kiir flanked by members of the tribal Jieng Council of Elders (File photo)
President Kiir flanked by members of the tribal Jieng Council of Elders (File photo)

January 7th 2020 (Nyamilepedia) – I think something has been grossly misunderstood. Many people have not yet understood that in every strategy in fighting the war, there must be delimitation of the problems. Otherwise, if a war is staged at all fronts, there is high level of likelihood that one may end up losing the war and gain nothing.

One of the issues that been debated at different levels of our communities and political levels and their associates is the issue issue of Jieng Council of Elders,-JCE, which has been amplified to the highest levels which cannot be imagined yet it is one of the minor issues that can be eliminated with just stroke of a pen. It should there be taken to that far.

In my understanding, JCE is a group that is surviving due to the absence of law. It has taken advantage of the absence of the rule of law to its own advantage using unsuspected or uninformed majority of Jeng Majority to protect their interests or advantages that accrue to them due to the absence of law.

In my understanding the issue of Jieng Council of Elders or JCE as it is known, should not be taken to be a great deal in South Sudan. What we need to focus on as South Sudanese is how to establish the law or rule of law and JCE should only be treated as an obstacle on the way to our target which will help is to focus rather than dividing our attention as it is the case now.

It is the law that defines the boundaries or jurisdictions of all social groups making up the entity called a nation or country. The law puts groups within the country in their respective places as it describes which group is the political and which one is a social. In drawing that clear distinction, it then places strict restrictions in the line demarcating those groups and those restrictions cannot be bypassed without any severe consequences..

Without the law, any strong social group can be become a law and imposes its own rules on the weaker groups and members through the use of force or other ways as it has a lot of advantages since they have accessibility to power.

Power, as John Locke in his Political Philosophy believes is essential to the running of a peaceful commonwealth or a country, but it must be vigorously checked and controlled, as well as used to secure national interests. The concepts of checks and balances have been introduced purposely to avoid the scenario of South Sudan where cultural group infiltrated the system and by default installs its own system run on its own will.

To complicate the matter that group is playing behind the scene of the national power which makes them remain unreachable. It becomes clear that as long as the national power is in front then that group will remain untouchable but more destructive to the national interest.

The best thing to do in such circumstances is to deal with the power that conceal the group so that there is a reform. The reform will come with check and balances which leads to the control of those negative social groups.

As it has been observed by some writers, the system of checks and controls or balances in government was developed to ensure that no one branch of the government would become too powerful.

It goes to say that where there are no checks and controls to deal with groupings and conspiracies within the system, the strongest group, (a group that wields a lot of power and influence), will become more powerful and then it imposes its primordial law or its will that must be followed by all disadvantaged members within their group and other groups which are also parts of a nation.

The foregoing explanation may help us understand that the rise of JCE in South Sudan owes its roots to the absence of the rule of law. The absence of the rule of law gave remnants of traditional elders who have been brought closer to power by their sons which afterwards enabled them to take advantage of crisis to install their traditional customs which is fashioned in and enforced through national law.

I strongly support the argument in the above paragraph that if the government of South Sudan would have established strong rule of law by establishing strong governance system such dangerous scenario where cultural group rules the country would have been escaped.

Rule of law makes strong system. In his famous work “The Spirit of the Laws,” Montesquieu argued that the best way to prevent anarchy in the system is through a separation of powers. This is where different bodies of government such as legislature, executive and judiciary exercise their powers subject to the rule of law.

In my view based on Montesquieu arguments above, where there is rule of law the government is strong and where there is strong government, the social organizations like community associations and cultural institutions like JCE are pushed to their social spheres where they deal with community issues without directly or indirectly influencing government policies.

In summary, the discussion above is an attempt to answer the question, IS JIENG COUNCIL OF ELDERS-JCE A PROBLEM OF SOUTH SUDAN? To me, it is not but the effect of the course.

Whereas we should not lose side by the influence the JCE has which makes it to be more dangerous than the government itself, we should not however give more to it than what it deserves.

We should strike where necessary as we are fighting for reforms. JCE is not the problem of South Sudan but a product of the problems of South Sudan that can be elimination when the solution of the problems of South Sudan.

Daniel Juol Nhomngek is a lawyer by profession holds LLB from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.   He’s currently working with M/S Ibaale, Nakato & Co., Advocates, P.o Box 26781, Kampala, Uganda. His research, he is interested in teaching and law practice in the areas of criminal law, international human rights law and the law of armed conflicts, public international law, administrative law, Equity and Trusts, constitutional law, Jurisprudence or political philosophy, legal methods and theory, legislative drafting and judicial practice; and law & public policy. For any comment please reach the authority through any one of the these email addresses: juolmarialdit@gmail.com ;or juoldaniel2003@gmail.com

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