Constitution: a process for state making or political control?

This article was originally posted on SPLM Diaspora, June 14, 2011.

The current political rift within the SPLM and the deafening
cry of the people from within and the diaspora has exposed many realities that
if not addressed adequately, will cause the South more pain than the last fifty
years of marginalization put together. The making of the constitution and
concentration of powers in the hands of the executive will surely influence the
shape of the political system that will emerge post-independence.

This article will look at specific vacuum that has been created by the political leadership in Southern Sudan which have led to the current dissents from the public on the way the government is handling the process of drafting the Transitional Constitution. The political leadership in the Government of Southern Sudan have missed a great opportunity to break with the past at its inception in 2005, and steer clear of modelling the institutions and political orientation of the government of Southern Sudan after the system in the North. By this I mean the SPLM failed to realize the history of struggle to liberate Sudan from the existing system of partisan political controls at the expense of institutional controls. In fact the SPLM mimicked what they have been fighting against for the last 22 years. This failure to realize the virtues and aim of the struggle at that early stage has contributed a lot to the current crisis of governance and the process of constitution making.

The foundation, upon which the leaders of the SPLM have envisioned for the Government, post CPA in 2005, has been far removed from the aspiration of the people. Little attention has been paid to the tenacity of the peoples’ desire to break with the past injustices, marginalization that has been imposed by the regimes in Khartoum on the people of Southern Sudan. The SPLM leadership has instead taken unto itself to forgo the principles of state’s institution making and rather they have focused on political control of the
state apparatus, in the style and substance, mimicking the National Congress Party. Here the SPLM has fused together the state and the party institution, making it difficult for other stakeholders to be part of the system. And in most cases, if there was any participation from other stakeholders, it has been merely a token gesture that is rarely taken seriously.

Thus, the SPLM either wilfully or ignorantly taken the approach of making and remaking the state in Southern Sudan in their party’s image, in the process dashing away with the glimmer of hope that the people have bestowed on its leadership. It has been increasingly apparent through the unfolding events that the SPLM leadership wants to rationalize their motives for controlling the political discourse and state institutions in a manner resemblance of the one party state, due to the insecurities and threats presented by the NCP. However, critical viewers of Southern Sudan politics see the threats presented to the system as mainly self-inflicted.

The paradoxical claim for democratic change that has been proclaimed for the last six years has fallen short of its intended meaning. The ruling party in Southern Sudan has thus far perpetuated a different model that is neither democratic nor populist, to use the rationale of the last 22 years of struggle—the peoples’ movement. The SPLM has embarked on remaking the structure of the system that has been despised by the people of Southern Sudan for the last five decades—one party state. Whether this has been acknowledged by the current regime or not, the writing on the wall is very clear.

The case in point at this juncture is the promulgation of the Draft Transitional Constitution. As a populist movement that is driven by a grass root quest for change, the SPLM has forsaken its calling by locking out those who are directly affected by the constitution from participating in the process—the people. The process itself has been totally controlled from its inception to reflect the will of the party, instead of the will of the people. This in its very nature is a drastic departure from the ideals of the ‘Movement’ that was trained for the last 22 years to build a democratic society and state, governed by the people and for the people.

The party’s political organs are de facto government institutions, directly interfering with its operation. Hence, there are no clear separations between the two: the SPLM Political Bureau has been immersed in the day to day governing instead of the government.  The ruling party, through its powerful Political Bureau, has shaped the Draft Transitional Constitution, favouring its continued dominance over other political space now and in the foreseeable future. This concentration of power in the party has been seen by the general public at home and in the diaspora as alarming, regardless of rationale being presented
to justify it.

Given the urgency of the current situation, it is incumbent upon the SPLM leadership to reverse the course of their political orientation towards the process of constitutional making and future direction of the state that it is aspiring to build in Southern Sudan. As well, the whole legacy of the SPLM as a Movement is dependent on the way it wants to be remembered, now and post-independence. Or it will risk eroding its popular support base for the sake of maintaining perfect control over the governmental institutions and
political discourse.

If the Movement ignores this call from the people, it will definitely push the moderate voices within and outside to increase their political opposition to influence the direction of political discourse, which will surely be detrimental to the survival of the Republic and the SPLM as a party. From the opinion of the author, there is still a relatively healthy environment to debate issues, because of the ‘perceived’ atmosphere of honest
exchange within the majority in Southern Sudan. However, the movement must not
see it as an avenue to drag its feet in the hope that the tide will favour its version of reality in the lead up to independence.

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About dusouth

Passionate South Sudanese who is interested in advancing the cause of peace and new thinking into the political discourse in Southern Sudan.
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