By Francis Kagolo & Agencies
The African Union has appointed Ugandan academic Prof. Mahmood Mamdani on a five-member commission of inquiry into atrocities committed in the ongoing armed conflict in South Sudan.
The head of Makerere University Institute of Social Research (MISR) is to work under a probe team headed by former Nigerian president Olusegun Matthew Obasanjo to “investigate human rights violations and other abuses during the conflict by all parties".
South Sudan’s government has been at war with rebels since December 15, when a clash between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those supporting sacked vice-president Riek Machar snowballed into full-scale fighting across the world’s newest nation.
The commission of inquiry was sworn-in Wednesday last week by the AU commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
"Whoever is responsible must not get away with impunity," said Obasanjo, who is expected to submit the team’s recommendations to the AU within three months.
"Africa must not condone impunity of Africans treating Africans as if they are not human beings. I want to assure you we will leave no stone unturned."
Other members include Sophia A.B. Akuffo, who is Judge of the Supreme Court of Ghana and Bineta Diop, a special envoy for women, peace and security at the AU Commission.
Prof. Pacifique Manirakiza, a Burundian professor of law at the University of Ottawa in Canada, is also a member of the probe team.
LEFT-RIGHT: President Salva Kiir, the late John Garang and Kiir's former deputy Dr. Riek Machar
South Sudanese internally displaced people fight for food supplies, distributed by the ICRC. PHOTO/AFP
SLPA government soldiers from the 2nd Battalion pose at the SPLA headquarters in Nyang. PHOTO/AFP
The team will, among others, investigate human rights violations, and make recommendations on the best ways to ensure accountability, reconciliation and nation building
While inaugurating the probe commission, Dlamini-Zuma said the team faced a "very important and heavy responsibility".
The Human Rights Watch said in a recent report that war crimes have been committed by all sides in the war which has lasted almost three months.
The two warring sides signed a cease-fire agreement on January 23, but heavy fighting has continued, claiming thousands of lives.
The trial of four top leaders accused of treason for allegedly attempting to topple Kiir opened on Tuesday last week while stalled peace talks in Ethiopia are due to resume on March 20.
Prof. Mamdani, a specialist in African history and politics, has written widely about the politics of Sudan.
During a public lecture in January 2011, he warned that with independence, South Sudan was now predisposed to serious tribal tensions that could spark off violence and deter the highly anticipated development.
He said political violence in Africa was mainly not between states, but within states.
Prof. Mamdani speech on South Sudan: Part I
Prof. Mamdani speech on S. Sudan: Part II
Mamdani warns against tribal violence in S. Sudan