South Sudan – New Constitution
South Sudan gained its own constitution when the country became independent on 9th of July 2011. However, this is a temporary constitution that will eventually be replaced by a permanent constitution for the country. In January 2012 President Salva Kiir appointed a constitution commission given the mandate to propose a new permanent constitution for South Sudan by January 2013. For various reasons it took time before the commission started its work, and early this year the mandate period of the Constitutional Commission was extended by two years to December 2014.
When the Constitutional Commission has presented its proposal for a permanent constitution, the proposal will be subject to a separate Constituent Assembly with broad representation from all sections of society before it is sent to Parliament for final approval. This may take place the second half year of 2015 by the earliest.
The Commission also has as part of its mandate to conduct civic education about the constitutional process and provide a broad public consultation throughout. There is a concern among civil society organizations, churches and some politicians in South Sudan that the Commission does not take this part of the process seriously. The general belief among many is that it is important to involve all sections of society in this process, and that the Commission should facilitate this. So far there is little suggesting that this is given special priority.
Young people are an important group of the population of South Sudan, and the establishment of representative dialogue forum for this age group in both the state and national level will be very important in this process. Here, young people from different backgrounds and from all parts of the country can come together, identify issues of national importance that are important to them and present their views and proposals to the Commission. Therefore it is important that the Commission takes such suggestions seriously and consider them carefully. The Oslo Center supports the establishment of such dialogue forums for the youth.
A permanent constitution is an important part of nation-building in South Sudan, and form the basis for a number of other laws that will help to secure a sustainable democracy that protects the people’s interests and fundamental democratic rights. A broad public participation in the process is a prerequisite to achieve this.