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South Sudan president Kiir axes striking judges

Juba, South Sudan | AFP |  South Sudan’s government sacked a dozen judges who had been on strike for the past two months, the country’s information minister told AFP on Thursday.

“The president yesterday issued an order relieving some of the judges,” Michael Makuei said, without explaining the reasons for the layoffs.

More than 270 justices put down their gavels in May after President Salva Kiir refused to act on their ultimatum to fire the country’s chief justice, whom the judges claimed ignored their demands for better working conditions and pay.

The strike paralysed the justice system of the east African nation, which has been mired in a ruinous civil war for nearly four years.

Most of the 12 judges fired had been members of a committee spearheading the strike, said Khalid Mohamed Abdallah, the committee’s leader, who was among those laid off.

He declined further comment, saying “we don’t want to provoke the situation”.

The strike came amid a deteriorating economic situation in the oil-dependent nation, where inflation has soared after the conflict forced cuts in crude production.

The civil war that began in December 2013 has killed tens of thousands, forced millions to flee their homes and threatened 100,000 people with starvation.

South Sudan Bar Association member Modi Ezekiel said Kiir’s decision was a worrying attack on the independence of the judiciary.

“Judges may not feel free to utter their views because they fear the executives will sack them, so they will be working according to the will of the executive,” Ezekiel said.

 

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