Brief Report on South Sudan National Constitutional Review Process
January 7, 2012 (SSNA) -- During the consultative meeting that was convened in Home and Away Hotel in Juba in the evening of 6th January 2012 chaired by Dr. Riek Machar, Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan in presence of South Sudan Political Parties Leaders (representatives), Mr. John Luk Jok, Minister of Justice of the Republic of South Sudan presented a memo of FRAMEWORK FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW COMMISSION (CRC) dated 05/1/2012 with Ref. MOJ/J/RSS/2011.
1. The memo outlined the legal framework that required the President of the Republic of South Sudan constitutionally to establish the National Constitutional Review Commission (setting out mandate, powers, function, legal status, provisions for staffing, etc) and appoint Commissioners (including their terms of service) by decree after completion of consultation.
2. Also the memo outlined Membership and Criteria of appointment, citing that the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan requires the President of the Republic to consider: competence, experience, technical expertise, representativeness, integrity and independence of appointees.
3. Further, the memo highlighted that the Transitional Constitution does not stipulate the number of Commissioners and thus, it is proposed that the number be around 15 - 25 so that the group is small as it is meant to be based on expertise with effective coordination.
4. Further more, the memo outlined that those who are required constitutionally to be consulted by the President of the Republic are: Political Parties, Relevant Professional Bodies ( e.g., Bar Association, Law Society, Academia, etc), Women, Civil Society Organizations, and Persons with Disabilities.
5. The memo set out the criteria for identifying legitimate Stakeholders Groups and Civil Society Organizations to be: formal registration of the organization, substantial membership, length of period of existence of the organization and participation in national issues.
6. Also the memo indicated the 9th January 2012 to be the deadline timing of consultation for the establishment of the formation of the CRC as requires by the transitional constitution, and urged that the consultation be completed quickly within the remaining three days so that the President of the Republic could make formal appointment of the Commission members.
7. Finally the memo mentioned that the consultation meeting was convened by the Office of the President and the Ministry of Justice in order to reach an agreement on the composition and nomination of the Members of the CRC.
During the consultation meeting, many leader (representatives) of political parties seemed not to be happy with the short notice and hurrying of consultation meeting within a very short time. Most of them seemed to have agreed that the President may go ahead to appoint the Chairperson of the CRC and his Deputy as well as other permanent members of the Commission the total of which is 9 members.
But the SPLM said that it will have the lion share by taking up 4 permanent members with the rest of political parties given 3 to share amongst themselves and non-participant groups given the remaining 1 member to share among themselves. Also the SPLM-DC requested that it be allocated 1 permanent member because it is the officially recognized Opposition Political Party in the new country.
Regarding the non-permanent members of the CRC, it was reluctantly resolved that they be appointed later with SPLM taking up 21 members, other political parties dividing 10 amongst themselves and the non-partisan groups sharing 5 members among themselves. Regarding this, the SPLM-DC demanded that it be allocated 1 non-permanent member.
It has been noticed that Civil Society and other non-partisans stakeholders were not invited to the consultation meeting and this seems to be a violation to article 202(2) of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, 2011. It is not clear whether they will be consulted somewhere else within the remaining two days before the deadline of the constitutional appointment of the Chairperson of the CRC and his Deputy.
The same discontent about SPLM hegemony that surfaced during the drafting of the Transitional Constitution could repeat itself sooner in days ahead. Let's watch the constitutional review process in South Sudan and speak out without any fear or favor.
Dr. James Okuk