The Republic of South Sudan: In Collaboration with Jacob Jiel Akol in Search for a National Constitution

By Aldo Ajou Deng Akuey

Thank you Jacob, for your awakening message, alerting us to begin our scholarly search for a new constitution of our own, capable in illuminating, addressing and incorporating the cultural indigenous ingredients. In highlighting on what we were and what we are, thus concretizing the foundation of unity we fought for, for fifty years (1955-2005).

South Sudan passed through a barbarous time, from traditional lonely periods of own wars into deadly enslavement s during Christianity and Islamic initial movements, rivalries and protracted wars of survival. These phenomena extended into Turkish Ottoman Empire/Egyptians’ invasion of Nubia (Sudan) and extended to South Sudan, in which they established their exploitative extractive economic interest from 1820-1885.

In 1885 Mohamed Ahmed Al Mahdi, an Islamist leader, staged an Islamic revolution and defeated the Turks and Egyptians and killed General George Gordon, an English citizen who was the Governor-General of Turkish-Egyptian Nubia. The Mahdist rule did not change slavery in Nubia and hunt for slaves and minerals, animal wealth and timber in South Sudan, until the British-Egyptian’s reconquest of Sudan and South Sudan in September 1898.

The British and Egyptians reconquest of Sudan in 1898 brought a drastic change for Sudan and South Sudan, following the abolition of slavery and the slave trade. In 1899 the British and Egyptians conquerers established the colonial Condominium Government, for Sudan and South Sudan in 1899. Thereafter, evicting the slave masters and Islamist-Arabs, representatives then of Ottoman Turks and Mahdia (1820-1898). The Condominium Government centered at Khartoum could not stop there but unified the Southern Sudan’s territories into one autonomous region under the British colonial Governor-General represented by British Governor for Southern provinces headquartered at Juba. The British contributed marginally to freedom by setting free slaves, stopped Islamic religious recruitments and evicted slave traders from South Sudan. In spite of the British relieve of Southern Sudanese slavery and Islamic bondages, they were not, in any way, nearer to self-rule, but to continue subjects of the British colonial power until January 1956.

Before January 1956, just on 18 August 1955, South Sudan’s army garrison at Torit town (Eastern Equatoria province), mutinied, intending to preempt and abort the independence process scheduled to be declared on 1.1.1956, a unilateral action promptly rejected by Southern Sudanese, as they were not consulted in accordance with the provisional constitution in operation then. South Sudan demanded a federal constitution, to compose of two federal states, North and South. Northern Sudanese, with Egyptian support, rejected the federal proposal.

Instead, the Northern political parties, represented in the parliament, had a counter-proposal for an inclusive, centralized Islamic system of a governmental constitution. The Constitution could not be passed by the Constituent Assembly (parliament) of 1958. Southern Sudanese members, with extreme astonishment and anger, refused and rejected the counter-proposal, describing it as divisive and unworthy of debate. The parliament dispersed in a mood of violence and disagreement, not to meet for years until July 2005, following the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on 9 January 2005, in Nairobi, Kenya. The CPA turned and opened a new page for an experimental test: “make unity attractive.”

As required by the Sudan constitution and the CPA (two in one), the Interim Government of National Unity was formed on 9 July 2005, a coalition government shared by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), National Congress Party (NCP) and other political parties from South Sudan and Sudan. Thus setting and streamlining the New Sudan’s executive leadership between the SPLM and NCP. President Omer Ahmed Hassan Al Bashir continued as the head of the Interim Government and Dr. John Garang de Mabior became the First Vice President and President of Government of Southern Sudan (though Garang died in plane crash on 30 July 2005, he was immediately substituted by the Vice President of Government of Southern Sudan, General Salva Kiir Mayardit), as prescribed by the Constitution amended (CPA incorporated).

The two men, the Islamist Al Bashir, and the socialist-secularist Garang, agreed to work together to “give peace a priority, make unity attractive within the six years interim period and emerge, in the end, with one united new Sudan.” On 9 January 2011, the people of South Sudan, voting in an unprecedented referendum, inside and outside Sudan, successfully rejected the visionary “new Sudan” by 98.9 percent of the votes cast. On 9 July 2005, the day Garang was appointed the First Vice President of Sudan, President Salva Kiir Mayardit, in accordance with newly promulgated Transitional Constitution, officially declared Southern Sudan as a sovereign and independent “Republic of South Sudan,” raised the new nation’s flag high among the flags of nations arranged in line to mark the celebration. The public cried out “free at last, free at last, free at last!

Free at last, but the liberation was/is not conclusively over. The liberation remained incomplete and unfinished, since the borders, Abyei, the Nuba Mountains, and the South Blue Nile CPA’s protocols, failed the implementation. This failure retained the war between SPLM/SPLA-North with Sudan’s Government. Sudan accused South Sudan of rendering support to SPLM-North. South Sudan counter accuses Sudan to support the rebels in their endeavor to overthrow the government. Thus making it difficult to maintain a comprehensive peace in South Sudan and Sudan and within the borders of the two countries.

Besides this shared lack of a genuine peace, the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan (stereotypical of Sudan’s), as a truly borrowed system of governance and government, does not sufficiently address the shared values of African traditions, cultural roots, social interactions, Christianity as the religion of the ninety percent of the population and the unity of the country we fought for, for many years (1955-2005).

This brings me to conclude that South Sudan needs a new constitution of its own making. For nearly two centuries (1820-2018) until now, South Sudan had never promulgated its own indigenous inspired constitution. We need one at this stage and have said it to ourselves recently during the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) peace process, designated to end the war between the SPLM and SPLM IO of Salva Kiir and Riek Machar respectively. The Revitalized Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), signed on 12 September 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by all the political parties, stipulate the proposal of formulating a “federal constitution,” to replace the present Transitional Constitution which, in reality, accommodates nothing, in terms of comprehensive distribution of powers: security, social, political, economic and system of governance and government.

The federal system of governance and government, agreed upon by the political parties in the R-ARCSS, could be capable to accommodate the National and regional diversities of the young republic of South Sudan. Federation could absorb, sustain, contain and address the basic principles, liberties, freedoms, democracy and the rule of law, in an inclusive system of governance and government. Federation could provide peace and security, the fair share of power, resources and the stable infrastructure needed for technologically overall development. The new federal constitution, if the R-ARCSS succeeds and is implemented as expected, then the new constitution shall be ready within the coming 44 months from now. Let’s work for peace, harmony, reconciliation, justice, equality, and unity.

Aldo Ajou Deng Akuey is a Former Government Minister in Sudan and South Sudan. He  is currently  a  Member of Parliament in South Sudan and the Chief Administrative Officer at The Nile Explorer – The Mirror of Africa.

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