Solaye Snider, Blog Writer

While South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar struggle to negotiate the terms of a peace deal and unity government in Addis Ababa this week, a leaked draft of the African Union’s Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AUCISS) threatens to further destabilize negotiations, casting doubt on their successful resolution.

Authorized by the AU’s Peace and Security Council in December 2013, the  inquiry’s mandate was to investigate human rights violations and abuses committed during the conflict and to recommend the best ways to maximize accountability, reconciliation and healing among South Sudanese communities. The sixty page draft has not been officially released due to fears voiced by the chairperson of the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) that its findings might jeopardize the peace process currently underway. The document was obtained from a “source close to the five-member inquiry panel” by international news agency Thomas Reuters and advises that neither leader hold power in the transitional executive being proposed.

The inquiry further suggests that the current vice president, and all ministers in power before the civil war, “be barred from participation in the transitional executive,” and recommends that the five year transition instead be overseen by a three person panel appointed by the AU and backed by the United Nations (UN).

The leaked draft of the AUCISS holds Kiir and Machar directly responsible for “organized massacres” of the South Sudanese people and confirms previous UN reports of ethnic-based massacres and serious human rights violations by all rival factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).  This includes evidence of the recruitment of child soldiers, alongside instances of abduction, rape, and murder across the country.

In a re-iteration of the protocol signed by IGAD in August, both parties last month agreed that any SPLM member convicted by a “competent court or tribunal of crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against peace or gross human rights violations and abuses” would not be eligible to hold public office in both the Party and the Government. In spite of this agreement, IGAD peace talks still centre around creating a power sharing agreement between Kiir and Machar for a transitional government beginning in April. With the March 5 deadline set for the peace deal passing unsuccessfully, the UN has agreed to sanction those who further impede the peace process. The key contradiction is that the AUCISS findings undermine the goal of the peace process itself.

The UN Security Council, the United States, Britain, Norway, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and numerous South Sudanese and other international NGOS have urged the AU to publicly release the inquiry’s findings. Canada has remained silent on the issue.