Draft constitution sees light after boycotts by other parties

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May 3, 2011 (KAMPALA) – South Sudan’s draft constitutional review passed a crucial step after six opposition parties walked out of the meeting over the weekend in protest.

Five opposition parties, including the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – Democratic Change (SPLM-DC), which is the main opposition party in South Sudan, walked out of the constitutional endorsement meeting chaired by President Salva Kiir Mayardit. The meeting, which was supposed to end on 30 April, was delayed until 2 May, when the remaining parties agreed on the constitutional text and passed it for review by the council of ministers in Juba. The ministers will then forward the legal document to South Sudan Legislative Assembly for reading and final passage.

“Nineteen political parties, agreed on the reviewed interim constitution of South Sudan on Monday,” Riek Machar is quoted by UNMIS’s sponsored Miraya FM saying on 2 April.

South Sudan is due to declare independence from the north, having voted to secede in a January 2011 referendum, provided for by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005. Last month, a constitutional committee formed by President Kiir, the chairman of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) that governs the south, presented a final draft to the regional leader. President Kiir was to go through the constitutional text and pass over to South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA).

Last week, President Kiir converged a meeting for all political parties, which are more than 20, in Juba, to review and endorse the draft before being forwarded to SSLA. The SPLM-DC has only six MPs in the SPLM dominated assembly.

Opposition parties claim that the procedures for the drafted constitution violated a communiqué that called for equal representation during the constitutional review. It was also decided that chairpersons of all parties be presented during the drafting of the constitution which never happened, according the opposition leaders.

The opposition parties which worked out of the constitutional endorsement on 30 April include SPLM—DC, United Democratic Front (UDF), South Sudan Democratic Alliance (SSDA), United South Sudan Party (USSP) and South Sudan Democratic Front (SSDF).