The SSLS is a membership-based civil society organization based in South Sudan. The organization was founded in 1994 by a group of South Sudanese lawyers. During the second civil war (1983-2005), the SSLS advocated for rule of law and human rights in southern Sudan. SSLS members participated in the drafting of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the National Interim Constitution, the Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan and the Transitional Constitution of Republic of South Sudan. The SSLS is currently one of a few organizations, public or private, to provide legal aid services in South Sudan.
Due to the difficulties of maintaining offices in southern Sudan during the war, the SSLS was originally headquartered in Nairobi. In 2002, the SSLSestablished its first office in southern Sudan in Rumbek. After the signing of the CPA in 2005,theSSLS opened a head office in Juba. In 2006, the SSLS was registered as a South Sudanese civil society organization under the 2003 Societies Act. By the end of 2013, the SSLShad spread its offices to six of the ten states of South Sudan. The organization now has eleven offices in the following locations:
The provision of legal aid lies at the heart of SSLS programming. SSLS legal aid clinics offer a range of services to clients who would otherwise be unable to afford legal advice. SSLS attorneys draft contracts, mediate family disputes, assist rape victims to file complaints and represent defendants in capital murder trials. In many of the places that the SSLS operates, its legal aid attorneys are the only lawyers available in the entire region. The SSLS’s legal services thus provide an important counter-balance for local justice systems that would otherwise be stacked against the poor.
The SSLS is currently in a transitional period in which the organization is experimenting with a new model of legal aid. In the past, SSLS staff would offer legal advice and mediation services for a range of minor to moderate disputes. For more serious matters requiring legal representation, the SSLSSecretary-General would either represent the client pro bono or the organization would hire outside law firms to represent clients. In 2011, the SSLS began transitioning to a model in which it employs in-house counsel that can represent clients full-time for any type of dispute requiring legal representation, not only serious criminal matters. This approach only became possible in the past few years, as additional numbers of lawyers have obtained their license to practice law in South Sudan.
This model of legal aid offers a number of advantages. The transaction costs associated with hiring outside counsel every time a legal action is required are greatly reduced when we have full-time lawyers at our disposal. The SSLS is also able to be more strategic in terms of the types of legal issues that it targets. In the short time that it has been using in-house counsel, the SSLS has seen a dramatic increase in both the numbers of clients that it is able to serve and in the beneficial impact that its representation is having on local institutions.
The SSLS’s governance structure is comprised of the General Assembly, the Governing Council and the Secretariat. The General Assembly includes the entire SSLS membership andis the highest body within the organization. The Governing Council is responsible for developing organizational policy, oversight and leadership. The Secretariat implements the SSLS’s day-to-day activities.
Since the SSLS was founded, the General Assembly has held four meetings. The first was held in Nairobi in 1994,followed two others in Rumbek during the war. The most recent General Assembly meeting, and the first of the postwar period, took place in Juba in July 2013. At this meeting, SSLS members elected the current Governing Council, comprised ofa number of leading judges and lawyers in South Sudan. John Clement Kuc was elected as Chairperson, Perpetua Ajonye was elected as Deputy Chairperson, Issa Muzamil was elected as a Council Member, Julia Akur was elected as a Council Member and Wani Mattias was elected as Secretary General.
As noted above, the SSLS’s organizational structure is comprised of a General Assembly, Governing Council and Secretariat. The Secretariat is in turn broken down into a number of administrative and program departments. The chart below represents the SSLS’s existing organizational structure.
Existing Organizational Structure
This organizational structure had several shortcomings. The distinction between the Secretariat and the Governing Council was unclear, and with respect to certain functions there was an overlap between the two bodies.Staff in the Secretariat were required to adhere to multiple reporting lines, complicating efforts to improve staff supervision.Information did not flow easily through the organization.
This strategic plan proposes certain changes to the existing organizational structure to better clarify the respective roles of the General Assembly, Governing Council and the Secretariat and to streamline reporting in the Secretariat. It is hoped that these changes can help to improve the SSLS’s internal governance processes while ensuring maximum accountability and transparency. The new organizational structure is represented in the chart below.
New Organizational Structure
Under this new organizational structure, the SSLS will have an Executive Director who will serve as the overall administrator in charge of the organization’s day-to-day activities. The Executive Director will serve as a link between the Governing Council and the Secretariat. A Deputy Executive Director will be hired to assist the Director in the discharge of his or her duties.Five core operational departments will be positioned under the Directors: