Monthly Archives: April 2011

Interim to Transitional to Interim: the new draft Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011

The freshly drafted transitional constitution has been released!  A PDF is available here.

After a few years of legal work and writing a paper partly on the history of citizenship law in north and south Sudan, I am disproportionately excited by new legislation from the South, and so have decided to break down the key changes (social and political, rather than structural) in this new draft as an exercise in putting this constitution in historical context.  There have been significantly more transitional, provisional and interim constitutions in Sudan – north and south – than ratified constitutions, and I’m keeping a collection.

This draft is a transitional version including its own provisions for interim structures of government.  Various parties in South Sudan say the constitution has been entirely rewritten and is dictatorial; although I’d agree that this is a pretty blatant attempt at consolidating SPLM power, the only major change is the assertion that the presidency shall be for four years following 9 July, without new elections.  This is matched by a general obfuscation over the organisation of a wider constitutional review.  The other political statement – much less subversive – is that Abyei is claimed under the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal Award as ‘the territory of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred from Bahr el Ghazal Province to Kordofan Province in 1905.’

On a different note, Arabic has now been completely dropped from the national languages section, and I’m hoping for debates in the future over whether it counts as ‘indigenous:’ in my mind it definitely does.  English is now the only official working language of the government, although I’m not sure how far this will actually work in practice (6.1).

This change to presidential terms and elections is clearly a serious issue and one of a number of concerning moves by the SPLM and GoSS to consolidate a real authoritarian hold on power.  However, in broader political terms, this draft of the constitution is a boring continuation of the fobbing-off of questions of citizenship and women’s rights.  It looks good, initially.  This version does lay out the explicit provision for dual citizenship (45.5), in line with GoSS’s stance on movement between north and south, in contradiction to Garang’s 2003 New Sudan Nationality Act and northern statements.  Although the constitution, as with the interim version in 2005, is impressively liberal on women’s rights to property, inheritance, marital choice, citizenship and government representation, Southern laws drafted since 2003 have frequently contradicted this.  Similarly, although this constitution’s definition of the South Sudan community has no reference to ethnicity as a feature, this is undermined by the New Sudan Nationality Act and the Referendum Act – which many have said should form the basis for a new Nationality Law after independence – emphasising ethnicity as a key marker in citizenship provisions, and restricting access to citizenship for women and most particularly the children of single women.

It basically seems traditional to have as nebulous and liberal a constitution as possible, particularly when most parties are trying to avoid the resolution of questions like Abyei and citizenship rights; however, in light of the two-tier, ethno-centric proofs of citizenship established in the two pieces of Southern legislation on nationality so far, this constitution is potentially a bit of a red herring for optimism over dual citizenship and gender equality.

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Interim to Transitional to Interim: the new draft Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011

The freshly drafted transitional constitution has been released!  A PDF is available here.

http://www.sudantribune.com/Draft-constitution-of-the-Republic,38679

After a few years of legal work and writing a paper partly on the history of citizenship law in north and south Sudan, I am disproportionately excited by new legislation from the South, and so have decided to break down the key changes (social and political, rather than structural) in this new draft as an exercise in putting this constitution in historical context.  There have been significantly more transitional, provisional and interim constitutions in Sudan – north and south – than ratified constitutions, and I’m keeping a collection.

This draft is a transitional version including its own provisions for interim structures of government.

Despite various parties in South Sudan saying the constitution has been entirely rewritten,

http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE73P38320110426?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0

the only major change is the assertion that the presidency shall be for four years following 9 July, without new elections.  This is a neatly tactical decision by the SPLM, matched by a general obfuscation over the organisation of a wider constitutional review.  The other political statement – much less subversive – is that Abyei is claimed under the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal Award as ‘the territory of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred from Bahr el Ghazal Province to Kordofan Province in 1905.’

On a different note, Arabic has now been completely dropped from the national languages section, and I’m hoping for debates in the future over whether it counts as ‘indigenous:’ in my mind it definitely does.  English is now the only official working language of the government, although I’m not sure how far this will actually work in practice (6.1).

However, in many social and more broadly political respects, this draft of the constitution is a continued fobbing-off of questions of citizenship and women’s rights: this version does lay out the explicit provision for dual citizenship (45.5), in line with GoSS’s stance on movement between north and south, although in contradiction to Garang’s 2003 New Sudan Nationality Act and northern statements.  Although the constitution, as with the interim version in 2005, is impressively liberal on women’s rights to property, inheritance, marital choice, citizenship and government representation, Southern laws drafted since 2003 have frequently contradicted this.  Similarly, although this constitution’s definition of the South Sudan community has no reference to ethnicity as a feature, this is undermined by the New Sudan Nationality Act and the Referendum Act – which many have said should form the basis for a new Nationality Law after independence – emphasising ethnicity as a key marker in citizenship provisions, and restricting access to citizenship for women and most particularly the children of single women.

It basically seems traditional to have as nebulous and liberal a constitution as possible, particularly when most parties are trying to avoid the resolution of questions like Abyei and citizenship rights; however, in light of the two-tier, ethno-centric proofs of citizenship established in the two pieces of Southern legislation on nationality so far, this constitution is potentially a bit of a red herring for optimism over dual citizenship and gender equality.

The PDF version of the constitution can be found here:

http://www.sudantribune.com/Constitutional-review-S-Sudan,38688

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Filed under Politics, Procrastination, Sudan, Women