09 Dec Perceptions of Transitional Justice in Sudan
“Whatever they’ve lost, it will not come back. But people need to feel some sort of justice”
– Key Informant in Sudan
Transitional justice in Sudan is at an early stage and is developing in an extremely dynamic context. Sudan has been marked by conflict and instability for decades. Since President Omar al-Bashir was ousted from power in April 2019, the country has been progressing through a transition to democracy and, it is hoped, a more stable, democratic future. However, moving forward also entails tackling Sudan’s past and ensuring that those wronged under previous regimes are heard. Without justice, there will be little trust in, and support for, the new government.
Rendering a clear picture of public perceptions of transitional justice is challenging given that public knowledge about the topic is developing and attitudes are shifting in relation to emerging events. Addressing the lack of data in this area, Sayara International recently conducted a countrywide study to assess perceptions of transitional justice in Sudan. This research was supported by the Transition to New Sudan program, funded by the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives and implemented by DT Global.
Through a combination of methods including in-depth interviews, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and media monitoring, Sayara developed a foundational understanding of the ways in which Sudanese people view justice. These findings help inform Sudanese government institutions — thereby helping to craft appropriate policy, behaviors, and messaging — and help guide the priorities for programming of donors working on transitional measures in Sudan.
Three research questions drove the study:
(1) What are the variables that influence perceptions of justice in Sudan?
(2) Under what conditions (using what transitional justice measures) would people be willing to turn the page and move on?
(3) Of the conditions (transitional justice measures) identified, which, if any, can and should be undertaken by the transitional government?
Findings from the study are numerous (and can be explored in detail in the full report shared below), but overriding themes surfaced. At this early stage in Sudan’s transitional justice process, there is broad public agreement on key issues such as accountability and reparations regardless of region, sex, age, and other variables. However, trust in government institutions to carry out transitional justice is low as a result of ineffective public consultation and a lack of transparent information sharing to date. Victim-centered, transparent investigations of the June 3 Massacre in Khartoum and other mass atrocities are key priorities for building trust in the government’s commitment to transitional justice. Overall, balancing public demands for rapid action while simultaneously ensuring transparency and inclusive consultation on any proposed measure will be critical to building and maintaining public trust.
Transitional justice in Sudan is certain to be a process of many years, if not decades, and perceptions of transitional justice are likely to change over time. Victim-centered processes to engage stakeholder constituencies must be built into any transitional justice programming. Sayara’s findings underscore that transitional justice measures must speak to the culture, history, traditions, and aspirations of the Sudanese people. While there is a significant role for international technical assistance to play in any transitional justice process, regular and transparent consultation with the Sudanese public is the most important method for ensuring contextual resonance and public trust.
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