Faculty of Law
University of Ottawa
Aboubacar Dakuyo has been concentrating his research for the past five years on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. This Canadian born in Burkina Faso is scrutinizing for his Ph. D. at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa the implementation of transitional justice based on local norms. He is analyzing the community norms applied by the Dinka and the Nuer of South Soudan, the most important ethnic groups that are faring war since the country gained its sovereignty in 2011.
His thesis is supervised by Professor Pacifique Manirakiza, the best person to accompany him during his research, according to him.
“I couldn’t find better. Not only is he teaching international criminal law, but he has also written on penal law and transitional law in Africa. He is well versed on the issue and he has been a member of the African Union Inquiry Commission on South Soudan and has been sitting on the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
The fighting in South Soudan between ethnic groups have killed at least 50 000 people and displaced 2 million according to International Crisis Group. Aboubacar is trying to determine if local approach of transitional justice can be an effective mediation tool between protagonists that respects the legal obligations of the state with regard to international law.
The South Soudan Interim Constitution adopted after the indépendance recognizes the legitimacy of customary tribunals which are taking care of 90% of disputes. These tribunals, lead by religious or community chiefs apply a restorative justice that do no punish the guilty individual but look to bring back social harmony. For serious crimes, like murder, the chiefs may compensate the prejudiced family with bulls or even a young girl to replace the loss of a family member.
“My approach,” says Aboubacar, “do not consist to idealize the customary norms, to romanticize them, but to adopt a critical approach that demonstrate their strengths and their weaknesses. In fact, these norms are generally patriarchal and do not respect women and children’s rights.”
If it becomes necessary to restrict transitional law mechanisms, Aboubacar believes that the local context will have to be taken into consideration for the population to feel that justice is prevailing. He could also conclude at the end of his analysis that a strict implementation of the law would be preferable.
This reflection on transitional justice brings the Ph. D. student to question in a more general context the African state issue. Many lawyers and authors consider that the international norms are biased toward a Western cultural imperialism. But in Africa, customary norms are very widespread. They represent a source of parallel justice.
“I think that we have to make space to the local norms by a reconceptualization of the State”, says Aboubacar.
An examination that could lead to the implementation of a fairer justice.