South Sudan is racing against time to draw up a new constitution in line with the 2015 Peace Agreement, this comes even as the security situation in the country degenerates.
The National Constitution Amendment Committee (NCAC) led by Gichira Kibaara, a former Kenyan Permanent Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, on April 13 presented a draft constitution to the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Paulino Wanawilla.
But the country is behind schedule, as the agreement required that the country would have a new constitution 18 months after the establishment of the Transitional Government of National Unity.
Through this approach, the Committee was able to go through all the provisions of the Constitution and make appropriate amendments. The proposed changes were then incorporated into the Bill that we are handing over today.
The transitional government is now 20 months old and the initial stage of the process identifying areas to be amended in the country’s Transitional Constitution, 2011 to conform with the agreement that has just been completed.
The delay, blamed on the continued conflict, has put doubt that South Sudan will hold elections by 2018 regarding the peace agreement.
Kibaara said the Committee reached decisions by consensus, and where consensus was not immediately achievable, the issues would be deferred for further discussion.
“Through this approach, the Committee was able to go through all the provisions of the Constitution and make appropriate amendments. The proposed changes were then incorporated into the Bill that we are handing over today,” he said.
Yet what has been completed is just the technical part of the constitutional reform process.
The next step would be for the minister to table the draft in parliament.
The committee and parliament would then identify articles that need to be amended to conform to the Agreement.
From there, the draft will be taken to the grassroots for consultation and gathering of public views. The constitution review faces two major challenges. First, the war in the country did not allow NCAC to seek views from the grassroots as had been provided for in the Agreement.
South Sudan is being torn apart by a civil war that is forcing thousands to flee to neighbouring Uganda.
Refugees claim government soldiers have overrun their villages and killed their relatives in a refugee camp in northern Uganda.