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Stakeholders call for honest debate on new constitution

Authors: UNMISS | Koang Pal Chang | | Published: Friday, September 10, 2021

A group of stakeholders discussing their inputs at a consultative workshop on constitution-making in South Sudan. Photos: Isaac Billy/UNMISS

Stakeholders has called for honest, transparent and inclusive debate on the new constitution-making process.

This week, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan worked in partnership with a local Non-Governmental Organization, Community Empowerment for Rural Development, to host a special two-day consultative workshop in Juba.

Participants included political leaders, academics, think-tanks, civil society, women and youth groups, media, and international partners in the peace process.

Legislation establishing the new constitution has been drafted and will ultimately be voted on by the newly reconstituted Transitional National Legislative Assembly.

Political leaders say it is critical that any deficiencies are identified now so they can be remedied prior to the law being adopted.

They say it’s also vital that the process is supported by the Government.

Speaking during the official opening of the consultative meeting on Tuesday, the First Deputy Speaker of the Revitalized Transitional National Legislature, Nathaniel Oyet Pierino says this constitution-making process is not to review the current constitution but to have a brand new constitution.

“This process is not about reviewing existing constitution but to write a brand new constitution for the country.” Oyet said.

“Without requisite political, financial and administrative support from the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity, the constitution-making process shall be wishful thinking. It shall never proceed or succeed,” says Oyet.

For his part, UNMISS Political Affairs Director, Guy Bennett says widespread consultations throughout the country has to be supported so that everybody feels included.

“The constitution-making process is very important and, with the inauguration of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and the Parliament, this is the moment to support widespread consultations throughout the country so that everybody feels included and able to project their own voice,” says Bennett.

Other stakeholders say it is also important that all sections of society have the opportunity to understand the new constitution and actively participate in crafting it, including the media.

Union of Journalist leader, Oyet Patrick says the media have an important role in raising awareness among communities across the country.

“We are always called to come and cover events, either the peace process or the constitution-making process, and then to inform the public. But we do not have representation in these institutions to advocate for our voices,” says Patrick.

“For example, one of the things we want maintained and, if anything improved, in the permanent constitution is freedom of expression, access to information and removing laws that we think will actually limit the freedom of expression.”

Lorna Merekaje, a civil society representative, said this constitution-making process must be a people-driven process.

“To me, a people-driven constitution-making process is a process whereby people are allowed to speak, but also one where a conducive environment is created for everybody to air their views and aspirations in regard to what kind of constitution we want,” says Merekaje.

All participants agree that honest, transparent, and inclusive debate is the only way to secure a durable constitution and democratic future for South Sudan.

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