Towards foundational justice: Activist perspectives on negotiating legal pluralism during violent conflict in South Sudan
Rachel Ibreck (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Bashir Ahmed Mohammed Babikir (Bugema University)
Paper short abstract:
South Sudan's legal landscape is defined by complexity and violence. Plural laws, norms and authorities govern life in this war-torn state. This paper explores how community activists and paralegals navigate a fractured legal terrain in pursuit of security and rights, during an atrocious civil war.
Paper long abstract:
South Sudan's legal landscape is defined by complexity, violence and local processes of order-making. Plural laws, norms and authorities govern everyday life in this newly-established war-torn state. This paper explores how community activists and paralegals navigate a fractured legal terrain in pursuit of security and rights, during an atrocious civil war. It is based on extensive research in six government-held towns over four years (2014-18) for a book project, including a collaborative action research project to document local court proceedings. It foregrounds the experiences and perspectives of South Sudanese activists, including one of the co-presenters, revealing how they conceptualise and harness legality in support of vulnerable people. It identifies a critical legal consciousness among activists, rooted in common experiences of injustice and an eclectic knowledge of statutory, customary and humanitarian legal regimes and cultural norms. It shows how the law is used as a tool of repression against activists and how they employ their knowledge of the law and their social networks in creative negotiations with arbitrary and violent authorities. It explores struggles for 'law from below,' and considers their potential as a foundation for justice.