East African court orders President Kiir to reinstate judges sacked over strike

South Sudan President Salva Kiir (centre) addresses the press jointly with First Vice President Riek Machar (R) at the State House in Juba, on February 20, 2020. AFP PHOTO
FILE PHOTO: South Sudan President Salva Kiir (centre) addresses the press at the State House in Juba. AFP PHOTO

South Sudan President Salva Kiir was ordered by the East African Court of Justice to reinstate several judges whom he dismissed three years ago after they went on strike for a number of reasons.

The judges had gone on strike in May 2017 due to poor pay and living conditions while also demanding the removal of the Chief Justice Chan Reec Madut for allegedly obstructing the judicial system and failing to address their grievances.

According to the presiding judge Monica Mugenyi, President Kiir did not have the mandate to dismiss the judges without due process adding that he breached the Transitional Constitution.

“The act of the President … is in violation of the Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan and a violation of articles 6(d) and 7(2) of the Treaty for Establishment of the East African Community,” Mugenyi noted.

The court also said that Kiir’s involvement would be necessary when implementing a penalty and approving a decision by a disciplinary board and the head of the Supreme Court.

The EACJ further awarded costs to the complainant which is to be paid by the government of South Sudan.

In July 2017, following two months of the judges strike, the nation’s Deputy Information Minister Akol Paul Kordi said that Kiir had issued a decree dismissing the judges, who were from courts of appeals and high courts.

A judge at the Court of Appeal, Justice Malek Mathiang Malek, subsequently filed a petition at the EACJ challenging Kiir’s action.

Malek argued that Kiir failed to follow disciplinary regulations and violated the Constitution and the East African Community (EAC) Treaty.

Civil servants in South Sudan sometimes go unpaid for months as the country struggles to consolidate its sources of revenue from oil and agriculture.

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