March 30, 2015 (JUBA) – Members of parliament in Upper Nile State have on Monday extended the gubernatorial term in office of the incumbent state governor, Simon Kun Puoch, making him the first top state executive in South Sudan to secure parliamentary approval and extension of his term for three more years.
This comes less than a week after members of parliament at the national legislative assembly in Juba extended the term of president Salva Kiir for three years, commencing on 9 July 2015 and ending on 9 July 2018.
The state government’s decision also came as a contradiction to earlier interpretation of the transitional constitution in relations to the extension of the terms. Some officials said the state governments did not require to amend their constitutions in order to extend their terms in office as they were automatically extended by the process in Juba.
The amendment also covered the term of the national and state legislatures as well as constitutional review commission but fell short of mentioning extending terms of the state governors.
Dengtial Ayuen Kuur, head of parliamentary committee on legal affairs and rules, however said on Monday the national parliament could not include the governors in their extension because the 2011 transitional constitution did not say anything about the fate of the governors.
He claimed that governors fall under different category and level of the government in that they operate under different laws, pointing out the country functions under decentralised system which gives powers to the lower level structures and executive institutions to determine and run their own affairs.
He said the state government had the right and power to amend their respective constitutions.
“We could not include governors in the amendment because governors in this country have laws made for specific level of governments, like in the state. These laws are the ones which lay down the timeframe for governors to be in office,” he said.
“So it was decided the amendment and the extension of the terms of state governors will be decided by the state legislatures. The intention was not to leave them out but to respect the constitution. We did not want to interfere with the affairs of the state,” he added.
Speaking on Monday from the state capital, Malakal, the speaker of Upper Nile state’s legislative assembly, Joseph Deng Parach, said the amendment to extend the term of the state legislature and the state governor was in accordance with article 62 (2) for the state legislature and article 98 (2) for the terms of the state governor.
Deng further explained that 31 members, including representatives of the opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC) were in attendance at the session held in its premises during which members unanimously resolved to pass the amendment of the state constitution.
“It was unanimous approval. There were 31 members when the extension was made,” he said.
Upper Nile state information minister, Peter Hoth Tuach, also confirmed the extension of the term of the state legislative assembly and the office of the state governor. He also explained that the amendment was made after the state council of ministers in its regular meeting on Friday 27 resolved to ask for extension of the term of office of the executive and the assembly in conformity to the transitional constitution.
Minister Tuach, who speaks for the state government as its spokesperson, cited 98 (2) and article 62 (2) of the state constitution as the basis for the extension of the terms of the two institutions in the area.