- Written by Gordon Buay
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In his reaction to the public statement I issued on 23rd of January, the Government of South Sudan Minster of Legal Affairs and the chairman of Constitutional Review Committee, John Luk Joak, in his interview with Sudan Tribune, denied that the decree President Salva Kiir issued on the 21st of January contravened the resolutions of South—South Conference concluded on October 18th, 2010.H.E. John Luk argued unconvincingly that the technical committee formed by the decree of President Kiir does not replace the Commission that is supposed to be formed as per the terms of reference of last October South-South Conference. According to South—South Dialogue concluded by all the political parties last year, it is the commission that could prepare the ground for Constitutional Conference. There is nowhere in the last year Communiqué it is mentioned that a “committee” should be formed to prepare the ground for constitutional conference to take place as the honorable minister would want the public to believe. Since the resolutions of last year called for the formation of a commission rather than a committee, reasonable people would not fail to notice that Mr. John Luk contradicted himself by saying that the committee formed by Kiir’s decree is “to prepare convening of conference”. If the technical committee is the one to prepare the ground for constitutional conference, it follows logically that there is no commission that would be formed to do the same task.
The question the people of South Sudan should ask is whether the committee formed by President Salva Kiir is different from the commission stipulated in the resolutions of the South—South Dialogue of October, 2010. The President of the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) issued on 21st instant “Presidential Decree No. 022/2011 for the Formation of the Technical Committee to Review the Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan, 2005” . The technical committee the decree talked about is composed exclusively of members of the SPLM, except for one Minister in the GOSS, Gabriel Changson Chang, who declined participation as he was not consulted. So, it is only one party to prepare the Transitional Constitution for the independent South Sudan. If there is nothing wrong with this, I leave it for the readers to judge. My concern here is to address the disinformation being peddled around by the Minister of Legal Affairs and the Constitutional Development that the Committee is just technical and will make its findings available to the Constitutional Review Commission stipulated in the resolutions of the South-South Consensus Dialogue Conference and the subsequent three meetings of its Leadership Forum.
For those who want to compare notes and would want to examine contradictory statements of Mr. John Luk, the mandate, membership, scope of work, functions and powers of the Committee are spelt out clearly in President Kiir’s decree. It is on the basis of these provisions that we can pass judgments on what the Committee is all about. In the first place, there is nothing “technical” about the Committee. Its terms of reference and its membership clearly show that it is a “political” Committee as it should be. No Committee that is tasked to work on a constitution can be technical. Therefore, it is the interest of all not to belabor on this obvious point. Nobody will buy it and it will make its proponents look funny in the eyes of the public.
The second central issue is whether the Committee is a step towards forming the Constitutional Review Commission stipulated in the resolutions of the South-South Dialogue Consensus Conference, as made out by Minister John Luk, or whether the Committee supplants the Commission. According to the honorable Minister of Legal Affairs, the committee does not violate the terms of reference of last year consensus. If this were to be the case, the findings of the Committee would be reported to the Commission to consider. However, the answer to this is to be found in paragraph 3.1.6 of the “Scope of Work” of the Committee which directs the committee to “present the final draft of a Transitional Constitution, with an explanatory report, to the President not later than 25th April 2011, for presentation to the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA)”.
The key words are those highlighted above. If the honorable Minister is not deceiving the public, perhaps he read the last year Final Communiqué of South Sudan parties upside down because the work of the Committee is a final draft to be presented to the SSLA for adoption pursuance to the decree of President Kiir. The question that poses itself to reasonable people is: Where does the “Commission” come in here?
The people of South Sudan should warn the Minister of Legal Affairs that nobody will be hoodwinked by the cheap and hollow propaganda that there will be a Commission to wait for. In fact, the Committee’s mandate goes further than just the review of the ICSS to include working on the Permanent Constitution (see para 3.1.5 of the Scope of work), thus rendering the Constitutional Conference agreed upon in the resolutions of the South-South Conference redundant. The SPLM should come out clearly that it had arrogated to itself the right to write the Constitution of the independent South Sudan alone without the participation of other political parties.
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