Home | News    Friday 8 July 2011

South Sudan passes interim constitution amid concerns over presidential powers

July 7, 2011 (JUBA) - The Juba based South Sudan Legislative Assembly passed the long awaited interim constitution, giving more powers to president of the soon-to-be independent state of the Republic of South Sudan on Thursday.

A woman holds the South Sudan flag during a rehearsal of the Independence Day ceremony in Juba July 7, 2011. (photo Paul Bank UNMIS)

The parliament ratified the draft interim constitution into the supreme law of the land two days before South Sudan formally declares its independence, after the majority of its citizens voted in January to create a nation of their own.

Speaking to the press on Thursday, Joyce Kwaje, the chairperson of the information, culture and communications in the parliament announced the passage of the constitution.

Kwaje denied claims that the constitution gives excessive powers to the president of the Government of South Sudan, arguing that the constitution represents the will and rights of the people of South Sudan.

“I congratulate the people of South Sudan for exercising patience and trust they have in their representatives in the parliament to the pass the constitution,” said Kwaje declining further questions from the press.

Barnaba Marial Benjamin, minister of information in the Government of South Sudan also told journalists at daily press briefing in Juba that the new constitution has been passed, denying that it concentrates too much power in the hands of the president.

“The new constitution is out. It has been passed,” said minister Marial, adding that the views of the general public were gathered and considered before the new constitution was passed.

“People of the South Sudan were consulted through their representatives in the parliament. Extensive consultations with our people were made on the constitution and their views have been considered.”

Benjamin explained that the new constitution encourages a system of decentralisation, while reserving the voices calling for federalism, to be addressed in the next permanent constitution.

The constitution contains a provision allowing the transfer of the former members of parliament in Khartoum into the new parliament in South Sudan, regardless of their political parties. Members of the political parties elected in Khartoum state are also allowed to join their respective states in the South.

An additional 66 members from various political parties shall be appointed into the transitional assembly by the presidential decree as 30 other members shall be appointed into the new council of states, making the total 50 representative from various political parties.

In case the post of the president falls vacant within the first one year during the transitional period, the political party on whose ticket the president was elected shall nominate the successor within the 14 days and the elections shall be conducted to fill the vacant position of the president after one year.

A constitutional review committee shall be formed during the interim period to work on the permanent constitution.

CONCERNS AND CRITICISMS

The US-based Cater Center last week urged the ruling SPLM party to demonstrate strong commitments towards an inclusive and participatory governance in South Sudan. It appealed on the parliament to consider taking into account views from cluster groups and other stakeholders before to adopt the constitution.

In a statement released on 2 July, the Center said "The current draft of the transitional constitution contains a number of provisions that appear likely to concentrate power in the central government."

The opposition SPLM-DC said the Constitutional Review Committee dominated by the governing party process "delivered a one-party constitution tailored to fit the SPLM alone". It went further to say the dominant party even rejected the "meek proposals" of some opposition parties.

The SPLM-DC went to accuse the ruling party of maintaining the institutions elected last year saying such decision dishonours the resolution of power sharing agreed during the “All Southern Sudanese Political Parties Conference” held in Juba in October 2010.

The opposition party further says the adopted constitution "denies our people the federal system" by concentrating all the powers in Juba and allowing the President to relieve an elected governor or to dissolve a state legislative assembly.

The new constitution, under article 101 (R), allows the president to dissolve the state legislative assembly and fire elected governors. The president can also declare war and a state of emergency without the prior approval of parliament.

(ST)