By Elhag Paul
January 23, 2012 (SSNA) — We are at it again – this thing called the constitution. The heart of what makes a state alive. In July 2011, the present transitional constitution was bulldozed without any regard to the people. President Kiir and the SPLM (Oyee party) decided on what they wanted (“One man, one tribe and one party government” editors’ opinion SSN 2012) and they forced it on us. Though president Kiir went around the world dancing and singing democracy while waving this shoddy transitional constitution, he only left despair behind as its contents are stuff of dictators and tyrannies. In fact whenever president Kiir utters the word democracy his insincerity and lack of commitment immediately engulfs the environment. The constitution says one thing and he and his officials back home practice different things not commensurate with it. In all fairness, it is arguable that RSS is not governed by any document. The constitution is just a document a state must have, but not to be followed to the letter as in other countries. So in our first hurdle on drafting a decent constitution we failed spectacularly. Everybody accepted that the exercise was futile and it was thought that the drafting of the permanent constitution would be done differently. Is it now? Let us examine it.
Abruptly with a bang the president on 9th January 2012 issued “decree number 03/2012 for the appointment of full-time and part time members of the National Review Commission (NCRC) 2012 A.D” with a tight deadline. Why the urgency to draft the permanent constitution? After all as stated above, the transitional constitution came to life under very divisive circumstance. The wounds that this document opened up in the society are still fresh. Some of us had hoped that the government of president Kiir would be sensitive to allow enough time for the wounds to heal before embarking on the final process.
The timing of this permanent constitution project is highly suspect. It appears that the government wants to deflect the attention of the people from the festering issues of corruption, insecurity, and mismanagement of the country. It knows that it has miserably failed the people of South Sudan in these areas. With the dramatic failures of governance in Jonglei and the negotiations with the Arabs of Khartoum exposing their sheer incompetence they want something that can divert the attention of the people away. So what is better than the constitution project? This project also affords them the opportunity to fiddle with the process to insert clauses in the permanent constitution that will allow the ‘Oyee party’ looters to get away Scot free with the loot and the mismanagement of the country. Or, possibly, they want to convert and cement the current constitution into a permanent one. Whatever plans they have, president Kiir and the SPLM need to be careful and not push our country into turmoil. There is no need in antagonising the population day in, day out while they are failing in all areas of governance. President Kiir and his ‘Oyee party’ have stretched the patience of South Sudanese to a breaking point on many issues. Wisdom demands that they better listen on this issue of permanent constitution. It is up to them whether they want to or not.
President Kiir’s decree raises some serious issues. It is as if history is repeating itself so soon. All the signs point to the same way the draft transitional constitution (DTC) was foisted on us few months ago. President Kiir the political midget and expert of tribal politics is missing the point if he believes that cobbling together a permanent constitution by his ‘Oyee party’ reflecting interest of a limited section of the society is going to hold. It will not and this will continue to be a live problem for years to come. Effectively what this bamboozling of the constitution is doing is to sow the seeds of instability in RSS. With that the next democratic government will have no option but to organise the process again until all the shades of opinions in our country are reflected in it. In absence of that, there will always be troubles in our country. Take for example, the instability in the Sudan since 1956 has partly been due to lack of acceptable constitution to the Sudanese people. It is also one of the things that have inspired South Sudanese to secede from the Sudan.
President Kiir foundered in his decree. The representation of the various parties in the country is skewed to give the ‘Oyee party’ the majority in the constitution commission both in the full membership and the part time membership. What does this tell us? It tells us that the ‘Oyee party’ wants full control of the process in order to make sure that the constitution fully reflects their view which as stated above is domination by ‘one man, one tribe and one party’. Will South Sudanese accept this crude tribalism? It remains to be seen.
One intriguing episode is the appointment of NCP, PCP and the Communist party members into constitution commission of RSS. The question to ask here is: Why appoint members of political parties’ alien to RSS? NCP is the ruling party in the Sudan and PCP and the Communist parties are the opposition parties in that country – all are foreign and parties of a country hostile to RSS. How could it be that their members can be represented in the constitution commission of an independent neighbouring country which they are hostile to? What planet does president Kiir live on? Does he really know what he is doing? Or, is this the infatuation with the project of New Sudan (which died on 9 th July 2011 with the independence of South Sudan)? Any reasonable person would agree that president Kiir needs his head checked on this? The appointment of members of foreign parties is not only illegal but flies in the face of rationality. However, if this appointment is intended to rig the process by appointing SPLM disguised members as members of those parties to further boost the representation of his ‘Oyee party’ in dominating the entire process, it amounts to serious political corruption which is a crime in itself against the people of South Sudan. Whatever way one looks at it, it bodes ill for RSS.
While president Kiir is appointing members of foreign parties into our constitution commission, he is doggedly excluding true South Sudanese parties from the process deliberately. Take for example, he has failed to acknowledge parties such as USSP and others whose members have not been included in the commission. What credible answer has president Kiir got for this? Excluding citizens and including foreigners from a hostile neighbouring country into our national affairs. Even people from Abyei get priority privilege over the indigenous rightful citizens of RSS. Let us not complicate issues; Abyeians like Deng Alor are technically not citizens of RSS. Why should they be enjoying the privileges of RSS while true citizens are being marginalised? The whole of this process that president Kiir has initiated is tantamount to political corruption. No wonder corruption is deeply ingrained in the very fabric and the DNA of the ‘Oyee party’.
Some of us rightly believe that the permanent constitution must reflect all shades of views and opinions in South Sudan. The reason is that this document is the social contract that binds South Sudanese together. It is also the document that reassures all the citizens of their rights and responsibilities regardless of their religion, creed, gender, sex and tribe. As the document that gives basis to governance of the country it must be something that South Sudanese agree on. There is no room for foreigners such as members of NCP, PCP, and the Communist parties to be part of it. Therefore, it is rational to demand that all the members of these groups including Abyei should be removed from the constitutional process. RSS is not a banana republic for president and the ‘Oyee party’ to play with. RSS is not president Kiir and his ‘Oyee party’s’ property. They are the rulers today, but surely there will be somebody else tomorrow and hence the constitution must be a foresighted document.
At this juncture, it is important for me to bring in the UN. Ms Hilde Johnson in her press conference in Juba on 30th September 2011 on Radio Miraya had this to say about the UN’s role in South Sudan on the subject of democracy. “There are many ways of ensuring political pluralism and for me and for us the greatest test would be the practical implementation of the democratic transformation process. This implies that key legislation needs to be in place, political space needs to be secured and those that are active politically whether or not in opposition, are protected both in terms of human rights standards, in terms of their ability to have freedom of speech, as well as their political activity. So the test of political pluralism isn’t always that everyone should be in the government but that the opposition that holds government to account can do so without interference. It is also about being able to abide with core democratic principles. As I (Hilde Johnson) mentioned in my intervention, it is going to be important what the Political Party Act looks like, what the Electoral Act looks like and that there have been adequate consultation with the different parties on the acts. In addition, we have a very important constitution review process coming forward. So both from the perspective of the community and the people of South Sudan but also of the parties, having an inclusive and broad consultative constitution review process is going to be one of the most important tests as well. These key political milestones down the road, for me, are where we would see the test of political pluralism rather than necessarily in the formation of the government. That can be done in different way, and I don’t think there is one recipe for how it should be done. “
Now it is clear that president Kiir and the SPLM have failed the test. The constitution process was started abruptly on 6th January 2012 with a deadline of 9th January 2012. Three days is not a reasonable time for consultation. Further, true South Sudanese stake holders have not only been excluded but not consulted. What are the UN and Ms Hilde Johnson going to do about this? The credibility of UN is on line here. If the UN and the International Community is not going to do anything, they should rest assured that their word will ring hollow in the ears of South Sudanese in particular and Africans in general. Also marauding gangs like those 6000 kids who attacked Pibor will continue to take the law into their own hands and the situation could get out of control. UN needs to maintain its credibility by ensuring that they do what they say they would do. I do not have to mention this, but it is worth reminding Ms Johnson that UN’s reputation with rogue regimes is not encouraging. For example, in mid 1990s genocide in Rwanda (committed by the ruling party) took place under their nose. Again in former Yugoslavia in Srebrenica, the Serbs committed genocide under the gaze of UN. Again, in Haiti, UN soldiers were embroiled in child abuse and male rape cases. Again in Abyei in June of last year, Khartoum’s army aided by Janjaweed attacked, ravaged and took over the town with UN troops barricading themselves with their guns in containers. Again, in DRC UN staff members were accused of involvement in criminal activities such as rape. Recently in Jonglei, the marauding kids from north Jonglei gave them (UN) and RSS one week notice of intent to commit genocide in Pibor and they did nothing. The result is loss of innocent lives. When will the UN rise to the challenge of what it claims to be doing wherever their presence is? Or wherever they are deployed? The RSS is slowly and surely drifting into disaster while the UN is watching. UN is forgetting that it has a mandate of section 7 of the UN Security Council to protect the people of South Sudan. In my view this protection must include protection from the government of the day. What this then means is that president Kiir and the ‘Oyee party’ must be held accountable for generating all the problems in the country. To date this ruling party has not accounted for human rights abuses it committed during the war and it seems there is no provision made to address this. President Kiir and the ‘Oyee party’ broke the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when they were in the bush by engaging in heinous crimes against humanity. What is baffling some of us is that the UN seems to be rewarding them for their criminality. I wonder what example this behaviour is setting for future none state actors.
Since coming to power in 2005 under the CPA, the ‘Oyee party’ blatantly ignores the needs of South Sudanese people such as health, education, housing and security. They concentrate on enriching themselves by robbing the state and taking away the rights of people in participating in their affairs (It is worth noting that until 2005 South Sudan did not have a Dollar millionaire, but now most of the people in the government are millionaires including the president). Now the right of the people to participate in drafting the permanent constitution is being violated openly. This is evidence beyond doubt that the GoSS is not democratic. The songs of democracy that they keep singing are only to fool the international community. What we have in South Sudan is crude tribal government that should not exist in 21st century.
Therefore, Ms Hilde Johnson needs to follow up on what she said on 30th September 2011. She needs to tell president Kiir and the ‘Oyee party’ that tribalism and democracy are irreconcilable and incompatible and there is no point in refusing to democratise. She needs to stress to president Kiir that the various shades of opinions and views in South Sudan should be represented in the commission regardless of whether they are friendly to SPLM and GoSS or not. The constitution is something larger than anything in South Sudan but South Sudan itself. It is the document that brings the people together in a social contract to co-exist. It will be there after SPLM is gone and many generations to come. So SPLM should not be short sighted and negligent in laying the building blocks of a good and stable government.
Finally, I hope that president Kiir reviews his actions with regards to the permanent constitution and make the necessary amendments and adjustments to exclude foreigners and foreign parties while bringing in every shade of opinion in the country to play in drafting the permanent constitution. If as usual he ignores reason, let him and his ‘Oyee party’ rest assured that our future government will scrap any tribal constitution put in place now with a people’s one.
The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org