“Is South Sudan, the world’s youngest, a nation of freedoms?”

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Oppression and the making of a sound constitution.

By Suzanne Jambo

This question becomes imminent once the talk of a constitutional drafting process toward a permanent one. “Do we’ve a conducive environment” so WE all can participate in the deliberations of such a constitution so it becomes truly reflective of our aspirations as a people? Are basic freedoms as expression, assembly and movement guaranteed? Or is the political will of the power that be are the “alpha and the omega” in Africa’s youngest nation?

What did the lates Aggrey Idri and Samuel Dong do so bad to deserve to be kidnapped from Nairobi, Kenya, tortured and brutally killed and their bodies thrown into the river in July 2017? What did Kerbino Wol do to deserve to be chased in the bushes and killed with his dead body images circulated in social media in 2020? AND his dead body wasn’t given to his family to bury! How many more are lavishing in National Security Services, NSS of General Akol Koor—-does anyone know what’s going on with them—-their families and lawyers aren’t allowed to see them!

In the absence of a genuine political will (of the power that be) to respect human dignity, personal security and safety, freedom of expression and assembly, whatever “perfectly” drafted constitution, it remains a document written, perfectly, on paper! South Sudan, SADLY, already ranks among the least nations that do not respect human rights. We are already breaking records globally, but for the wrong reasons—SHAME on us for our people gave selflessly since the 1950s to live dignified, free and equal!

Earlier on today, in one of our “think tank” groups, one of our “intellectuals” debated the author over: “do constitutions protect human dignity or human dignity produce good constitutions?”

My reply to this: “What does this question serve if the political will of those entrenched in power don’t care and outrightly reject human dignity—human life doesn’t matter at all whatsoever to them, save for their own lives and their loved ones!” Moreover, “Why bother to amalgamate a constitutional order, to haunt my powers and curb them?” Yep, this is the straight up situation South Sudan is in! President Kiir, his first Vice President Dr. Riek Machar and other Vice Presidents and almost their entire cabinet belong to such a school of thought—-“don’t give them {the People} a constitution that will challenge their powers! Pretty much I’m done here with this piece!

However, for the purpose of the common good, I’ll broadly discuss why we must always push for a good constitution. One of the core functions of any constitution is to frame the institutions of the state; the government, judiciary and the legislature, separation of powers of thereof, and to determine who exercises the power and authority of the state, how they do so and for what purpose. However, constitutions do not fall from the sky or wishful thinking, they are our spinoff and must incorporate our aspirations shaped by universal conventions, historical contexts, our people’s yearnings, and political struggle.

So in a democratic system, the citizen claims the right of original bearer of power. To him/her, the constitution guarantees a social contract that limits the use of power by government to benefit citizens in exchange for their allegiance, support and obedience {law abiding citizens}. Likewise, leaders of any law-abiding citizens are expected to abide by constitutionalism. I’m always super keen on the term ‘constitutionalism’ as it sums up the idea of limited powers. Where power vested on state bearers as presidents, chiefs/senior officers of armies..they are constitutionally intrinsically expected to abide by the law and not drag their nations into internal (oppression) or external aggression! At this juncture, I’ve discussed both the citizens rights and government obligations and duties as protected by the constitution—-basically no one should be above the law!

It is worth noting that South Sudan is the world’s youngest nation since 2011 and has been indeed under transitional constitutions; the 2005-2011 interim period (of the Comprehensive Interim Period, CPA, 2005-2011) and another transitional one of 2011 which has been “appended” repeatedly (insertions, really) through the two peace agreements of 2015 and 2018/9. This makes South Sudan “more permanent with peace making agreements than actual constitutional processes” since inception as a nation. For this reason alone, South Sudan MUST begin the process of permanent constitutional drafting, else it shall remain on ad-hoc basis “till forever”. So the author totally agrees that a permanent constitution drafting process must begin NOW!

Once again, HOWEVER, I’ll roll back once more; “do we have a conducive environment for a constitutional drafting process—basic freedoms as expression, assembly and movement, are they guaranteed….?” The straight up answer is AN HUGE NO! No, SADLY, we don’t a conducive environment to participate, express our aspirations, to process our thoughts aloud and in writing of the type of a constitution we want in South Sudan—not under military marshal President Kiir and his co-conspirators who all took us to senseless wars {to avoid free, fair and credible elections in 2015} and so forth! We live in constant fear of the notorious NSS, the Blue House and General Akol Koor and co. No one would dare to speak their minds, for instance, to demand for basic freedoms guarantees in the would be, the preamble, least of all demand a detailed comprehensive exercise of freedoms or multi-partism inclusion in such a constitution drafting process. So count the average citizens, the women, youth, progressive and intellectuals out of this exercise, UNLESS fast track safeguards are in place (I’ll specify what I mean by this).

Regardless, we welcome the gesture for such an historic and urgently needed exercise. We also welcome the presence of the Max Planks Institute of Germany. I encourage all South Sudanese and African constitution enthusiasts and drafters to be creative in ensuring all voices are heard. We must take into serious considerations that oppressive antics are at highest alert to move into action to curb voices of pro-change, pro-justice, equality and freedoms while this process is begun and throughout. If you sense an eerie silence or you do not find loud enough pro-democracy and pro-freedoms voices, it’s because they’re microscopically monitored by ruthless General Akol Koor’s zillions-paid-social-media, under trees, and in offices agents! These NSS agents pests are taking notes of every voice for change in South Sudan. “We, the People are powerless” is real in South Sudan!

To genuinely and successfully embark on this, and If I were to facilitate for this, the best way to start this permanent constitutional drafting process would be to repel the 2014 National Security Act! Repeal, delete and cancel this Act altogether. This singular act is the reason why countless continue to be arbitrarily detained, we are all gagged! I have attached a May 2021 report by Human Rights Watch on the NSS, lest we forget.

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