Constitutional review: is SPLM’s constitution worth time and resources?

By Deng Riek Khoryoam, South Sudan

April 27, 2011 (SSNA) — The supposedly national interim constitution of the republic of South Sudan, which was being reviewed by the SPLM to suit the current political situation, has come out uglier than ever thought before. The SPLM had hijacked the process from the beginning to the end tunnel and had arrogated to itself the right to review this sensitive and highly important national project without considering the implications of doing so. Those of us who were open and honest enough to express our concerns right from the beginning were belittled and bewildered, but our concerns and worries can now be vindicated as we have seen the constitution. Those who felt and thought that we were just against the SPLM as a party should now feel shameful for the words they uttered recklessly as the would-be-fruits of the SPLM handpicked committee stemmed from an unproductive and weathered tree, altogether.

The review of the 2005 interim constitution of Southern Sudan into the interim national constitution of the republic of South Sudan was a national project that demanded authentic participation of all the stakeholders to whom this constitution belongs. That is if they are to own this constitution because it’s said that people will only participate actively (not passively) in something if they helped or were part and parcel of the whole process, especially if it’s something to do with their future destinies. This way they would feel a sense of ownership as well as the pride, and which will also restore their dignity because after all, they are not just part of the census figures; they are recognized and thus have a greater role in the society. This is one of the principles of community development.

But in spite of all that, the question that could spring from a sound-minded person is: was SPLM’s constitutional review worth time and resources? This is a question whose answer only people with objective view of realities know. Definitely, it’s not worth time and resources invested in this venture, as far as the analogy employed here is concerned. You can agree or disagree with me – that is absolutely your choice – but let’s agree to disagree! Firstly, the front or first page of the constitution is nasty and leaves a lot to be desired of the incompetent political handpicked committee as it sends off readers for deep sleep. This is because it still carries the seal of the government of Southern Sudan, which should now be abandoned for good as we are transiting to statehood in July. They say that first impression lasts, and it’s indeed true. It reads like this: “Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS seal), the transitional constitution of the republic of South Sudan, 2011”. As contradictory as it is, I don’t think the committee knew what they were doing or were up to the task, unfortunately!

Secondly, why should it read “transitional constitution” instead of “interim constitution of the republic of South Sudan”? The committee was not wise and selective enough in using certain terminologies and to know the difference between these two terms in meaning. It should have been “interim constitution of the republic of South Sudan” because we are going to become an independent country come July 9th and from there we shall start the process of getting a permanent constitution, since we have laid the foundation already. In this case, it’s an ‘interim’ because it’s not a permanent one but something that will guide us through that period before we could have a permanent constitution in place and in force. I don’t want to put much emphasis on this because a savvy writer has critiqued it already.

Thirdly, the committee made a grave and an avoidable mistake by unwarrantedly and unnecessarily defining Abyei as being part of Southern Sudan before the stalemate could be resolved peacefully and amicably by the two parties (article 1, sub-article 2). Who doesn’t know that Abyei should be part of South Sudan if we are talking the truth? But because the two partners are deadlocked over the ownership of Abyei, it would be a recipe for war if one party decides to make any proclamations that it belongs here or there without first agreeing at the table. I don’t think Abyei stalemate can be or will be resolved by claims and counter-claims that it belongs to South or North Sudan. It needs strategic thinkers and not emotional people like those of Makuei Lueth and other Abyei Boys. Abyei is in Southern Sudan but because of the big mess brought about by the Abyei people themselves and the complications by the notorious NCP regime, it cannot be said to be, at least for now. Please educate yourself further through my article on Abyei, titled “Is Abyei becoming another Kashmir in Sudan”?

The committee also made another mistake by wrongfully concluding that the capital of the republic of South Sudan shall be “Juba” when ROSS and its trash-throwing-GOSS have been chased or denied the use of Juba as its federal capital by the local community – the Bari community. The best thing to do is to heed to community unanimous decision to have the capital moved to another geographical location not within central equatorial state, even though other few equatorians disputed and denounced the position taken by Chief Alfred Lado Gore and his community. I respect their decision and others should do likewise. Let the capital be moved to any other location in Southern Sudan, suitable to be a capital of a modern city in this modern era. This is wrong and it shows/exposes the very ignorance and the incompetence of Kiir’s committee.

Fourthly, Salva Kiir confessed that the decision he took when he appointed the political committee to the exclusion of other stakeholders in the society, who are equally important in the review of the 2005 constitution, was wrong. He said he “regretted the decision, saying it was wrong for the SPLM government to have excluded others from the review of the constitution, which was supposed to be for all the concerned parties/stakeholders”. The question is whether H.E. Salva Kiir was sober and in his rightful mind when he appointed his political committee, exclusively from his party – the SPLM or not? And what could have informed his decision to appoint this committee? Did he carefully study the pros and cons as well as the implications of his decision or not? Was he acting under the influence of somebody else or was it his conscience that told him that it was the right thing to do or perhaps, the right decision to take? And if so, why regretting now when it’s too late? These questions, among others, can only be answered by H.E. Kiir himself.

Probably Kiir was influenced by others as usual and I always say that he is an innocent man. John Luk and Michael Makuei might have brainwashed and influenced his decision, however wrong it might be. John Luk contradicted himself by saying or talking about the need of the review process to be “democratic” and the constitution to “meet people’s aspirations”. What kind of democratic process is this shameless failed minister talking about when they were accused by the opposition of being undemocratic? How can this constitution meet people’s aspirations when it was being done in favour of the king in order to show support and loyalty to SPLM instead of doing it for the general good? The committee was selected on the basis of their allegiance and loyalty as the only requirement, as opposed to merits. As a result, the constitution that has now been produced and handed to the president last week is a useless document—–I have read it carefully and I can tell you, it’s indeed a useless document not worth the time and resources spent on it. Overall, it’s a copy and paste document of the previous constitution that is going to be repealed after this constitution has been adopted and promulgated!

I think those voices that were deemed as ‘lone and wild’ voices have now been vindicated and proved right because the document has come out more like an SPLM thing than for the whole republic of South Sudan. John Luk just wanted to get a credit for doing everything in favour of the president and that was why he frustrated opposition until they pulled out of the review process, to his comfort and excitement! For heaven ‘sake, surely Mr. President is going to read it and assent or sign the way it’s because he’ll be made to understand that it’s the best document or constitution ever produced on earth and he will ignorantly sign it. The parliament too will do the same since 98% of its members are SPLM; and since this is an SPLM project, especially because it says elections will only happen in 2015 (status quo continues), or perhaps, longer than that. The majority dishonourable members of parliament are only there to serve themselves and get their sitting allowances and go to Nairobi or Kampala for long holidays instead of their visiting their constituencies.

The author is a civil society activist living in Southern Sudan. He could be reached for comments at [email protected]

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