A Press Release by the Civil Society Resource Team on the Constitution Review Process upon Completion of the Citizens’ Dialogues on the Constitution in all ten states of South Sudan
19th -July -2013
Juba, July 20, 2013 (SSNA) — The completion of the Central Equatoria State Dialogue on the Constitution today marks a significant turning point in the civil society constitution Review process. At the launch of the civil society constitution review process in October 2011, eighteen lead civil society organizations made a commitment to contribute towards a constitution that reflects the will of the people. Consequently we organized ourselves to facilitate the participation of citizens in this important process – and to collect /collate their views, aspirations and recommendations for inclusion in the constitution. The Central Equatoria Dialogue is the final consultation under this initiative. We have convened similar dialogues in all the other states capitals as follows;
- Torit, Eastern Equatoria – 5th – 7th June 2012
- Yambio, Western Equatoria – 26th – 28th June 2012
- Aweil, Northern Bahr el Ghazal – 15th – 17th August 2012
- Kuajok, Warrap – 21st – 22nd August 2012
- Malakal, Upper Nile – 7th – 9th October 2012
- Rumbek, Lakes State – 4th – 6th November 2012
- Bentiu, Unity State – 13th – 15th February 2013
- Bor, Jonglei State – 25th – 27th March 2013
- Wau, Western Barh el Ghazal – 13th – 15th May 2013
- Juba , Central Equatoria State 17th – 19th July 3013
Over 1,200 citizens drawn from all counties of each state – included representatives from: traditional authorities, women’s groups, youth groups, civil society, state assemblies, religious groups, members of parliament and the local government – have been consulted.
Key Issues arising from the dialogues
Government good will for the constitution making process
Generally, the participants had no access to the Transitional Constitution and many were not aware of the ongoing constitution review process. There were calls for evident government good will for the process, which many felt should be inclusive of all citizens up to the Boma level. Participants wanted an assurance that the review process will result in a document that genuinely reflects their will.
Citizens’ would like to see effective institutions, structures and principles that will nurture, consolidate and guarantee democratic governance. Participants called for equal development opportunities for all citizens and regions.
In all states, participants called for an end to corruption and a mechanism for holding corrupt officials accountable. In addition, participants called for implementation of equality before the law and the eradication of impunity.
Calls for a Federal Political Structure
Participants were concerned that although the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011 has a strong emphasis on decentralization, the national government continues to be dominant over the state governments. The powers of the states are mandated by the national government which can withdraw state powers. Consequently, in all dialogues participants called for a federal system of government.
Our People want to see a Constitution that guarantees the protection and promotion of human rights including affirmative action quotas for women, people with disabilities, and youth. They called for a constitution that recognizes citizen’s rights to participate in their developmental priorities. They want a constitution that guarantees equality, freedom and liberty, free and independent media and a secular state that recognizes diversity in culture and religion. Participants also called for the right to food , to divorce and the right to clean and healthy environment to be added to the Bill of Rights
All want a Constitution that enables proper management of resources for the benefit of present and future generations. Participants recommended that states should have control over their own resources. They recommended that the Transitional Constitution 2011 should state that a specific quota of all natural resources be allocated to the producing state. It was also recommended that resource distribution should be based on population in order to be equitable.
Peace and Security
All want to see a constitution that re-dresses the deteriorating security situation. They want a constitution that provides a mechanism for nurturing social trust among and between communities. Citizens want the constitution to provide mechanisms that can redress the long history of inter-communal violence, the pronounced gun culture and the high proliferation of arms in the hands of civilians.
Distribution of Power
Citizens called for a constitution that stipulates: how positions in the constitutional and support structures are filled; the terms, period and termination of service of constitutional office holders and other senior public officials; specified turn-over cycle of constitutional positions; methodology for removal prior to completion of term and a definition of supportive legal instruments.
Participants also called for a reduction of the presidential powers stipulated in the current constitution that are seen to hamper democracy, including the power to remove elected officials. There were also strong calls across the state for all elective constitutional posts to be subjected to elections. Across the ten states participants called for the Judiciary to be devolved to state level.
Gender and Social Relations
Deliberations at the dialogues and other CSO consultations organized by women’s networks emphasize the need to redress inequalities and injustices resulting from history, customs and practice. Although participants acknowledged the 25% affirmative action threshold, they lamented the unsatisfactory implementation of this significant constitutional postulate, particularly in the Judiciary. Women have called for an increase in the percentage to 35% as promised by the Government, and look forward to the implementation of this promise.
In all dialogues, participants called for a marriageable age of at least 18 years and above for both sexes to be specified. Participants also called for inheritance rights for women and an express provision prohibiting all forms of violence against women. They called for ratification of CEDOW without any reservation
Participants were among others concerned that the interpretation of customary law is undefined and undocumented and can undermine fundamental principles enshrined in the constitution, in existing legislation and in international law.
Citizens acknowledged that democratic elections are the basis of the authority of any representative government and that regular elections constitute a key element of the democratization process. Citizen’s thus recommended that elections should be conducted periodically , freely and fairly. It was noted that the Transitional Constitution does not have a provision on how and when elections will be held after the transitional period and that this has led to the peculiar position where we have a national elections Act that is not guided by a constitution.
While most participants preferred a presidential system to a parliamentary system, they strongly called for separation of powers. They emphasized that none of the arms of the government should in any way interfere with the functions and work of the other, and thus that there should be no overlap of personnel in the different arms of government.
Other important areas of discussion were:
Issues on citizenship and nationality, the official language, the role of the traditional authority, the actualization of women’s rights, how to fully implement the affirmative action quota for women and other marginalised groups like people with disabilities, how the local government should function, mechanisms of controlling conflict of interests, and the importance of domesticating international law and conventions.
The Next Steps
The people have spoken loud and clear. The Civil Society Resource Team on the Constitution Review Process is currently analyzing the myriad of issues arising in the dialogues and the many CSO deliberations. The Resource Team on the Constitution Review Process will package a comprehensive document detailing the people’s recommendations and aspirations which will be tabled for validation at a citizen’s plenary and subsequently submitted to the NCRC to inform and strengthen the Constitution Review process.
For more Information, you can contact Civil Society Media Team