South Sudan

South Sudanese women call for greater participation in constitutional review

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By Ngor Arol Garang

January 25, 2012 (JUBA) - A South Sudanese women’s alliance on Wednesday said the National Constitution Review Commission (NCRC) did not fully represent their interests after its swearing ceremony on Tuesday.

The group called on the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, to ensure least four women participate in the NCRC in order broaden women voices from both political and citizenry perspective. The South Sudan Civil Society Alliance echoed the call.

“I vow to give the Commission absolute freedom in producing its draft,” said Kiir at the swearing in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Juba.

On 9 January Kiir appointed Akolda Ma’an Tier, chairperson of the laws reform commission, as chairperson of the constitution review commission and former Upper Nile State governor, William Othwon Awer, as his deputy. The 45 member commission also saw appointment of the justice minister, John Luk Jok and presidential advisor Tellar Deng.

“It will reflect the aspirations of our people and it will lay the basis for effective governance and help our country to develop in peace and prosperity”, said Kiir.

South Sudan’s interim constitution was published in July 2011 amid concerns about the powers it gave to the presidency. The Carter Center issued a statement declaring “The current draft of the transitional constitution contains a number of provisions that appear likely to concentrate power in the central government."

Lillian Rizig, an activist and a chair of South Sudan Women Empowerment Network said many women call on Kiir to consider the full participation of women, not only from the political parties, but also representatives of civil society groups in the constitutional process.

Rizing said that the 22 per cent representation for women in the NCRC contravenes a stipulation of the transitional constitution, which demanded 25 per cent. She also expressed concerns about additional pressures on the current female participants.

Kiir on Tuesday explained that the constitution-making process offers us a unique opportunity to design the kind of country that “we need” with the 45 members travelling throughout South Sudan “to collect views and to provide information on the Constitution to incorporate these views of the people to improve the Transitional Constitution”.

The draft, scheduled to be completed within a year, will be presented at the National Constitutional Conference for public debate before it is adopted by the National Legislature and only after this process can the Constitution to be promulgated by the President.

The National Conference will include representatives from every region and group. Article 203 of the Transitional Constitution requires representatives of political parties; civil society organisations; women’s and youth groups; faith-based organisations; those South Sudanese who have special needs; traditional Leaders; those who sacrificed in our national struggle including war widows, veterans and those disabled in the war; business leaders; trade unions; professional associations; academics.

(ST)