Understanding the Imperative of A People-Centered Constitution in South Sudan
Author: Zacharia Diing Akol
Organization: The Sudd Institute
Type: Policy Briefs
As South Sudanese warring parties are set, albeit be grudgingly, to embark on implementing the peace agreement they signed in August 2015, a sense of cautious optimism is being expressed, and rightly so. Since it broke out in mid-December 2013, the war has heavily inflicted on the young nation untold level of damage and suffering, and so it makes a complete sense that there is a great longing for peace, stability and prosperity.
However, putting the country on the path towards peace and stability surely requires genuine resolve and commitment not only on the part of the signatories to the peace deal but also of the South Sudanese citizenry. Moreover, both the region, which helped mediate the peace talks and the international community that provided the needed resources and relevant technical support to the process would do well to ensure that the post-conflict recovery agenda succeeds. To turn the tide against the bitter and acrimonious atmosphere the war has created, collaboration of all different camps involved is an avoidable necessity that should be fully observed. That is, overcoming the difficult situation whose deep wounds are still raw demand that South Sudanese from all walks of life need to fully embrace the window of opportunity the peace deal provides and use it strategically to further the gains of independence.
Of course, doing this undoubtedly requires that a well-considered constitution – one that puts the citizens at the center, is drafted and promulgated. This process stands to greatly benefit from past constitution making experiences, especially the mistake of making the process an exclusive exercise by only allowing few politicians to control and direct it to the exclusion of the rest of the country. To avoid the repeat of the past mistakes, there is a need to avoid viewing constitution-making process as a technical and special domain of the elites but rather as a broad based and participatory endeavor.
It should be born in mind that this reasoning directly resulted into many insurgencies that have and continue to rock the now rump state, Republic of Sudan since independence. Lack of a political consensus with respect to how state power could be shared and exercised led to a seemingly constant contest of legitimacy and credibility as different groups compete for supremacy and control. This time around, South Sudanese need to not only be involved in the making of the new constitution but also to be convinced that the constitution is a document they have bought-into and a contract between them and their state.
Zacharia Diing Akol is the Director of Training at the Sudd Institute. Diing has extensive experience in community outreach, government and organizational leadership. He is currently working on M.Res./Ph.D. in political science at the London School of Economics. Diing’s research interests include the role of civil society organizations in peacebuilding, traditional leadership and democratic governance, post-conflict reconstruction, faith and public policy, and the dynamics of civil war.
Before co-founding the Sudd Institute Diing served as a consultant for the Government of South Sudan, evaluating parliamentary activities and government programs. He was also a Transitional Justice Fellow at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa, a Project Luke Fellow at the Overseas Ministries Studies Center in New Haven, Connecticut, USA. Diing has facilitated short courses on conflict resolution, peace building, leadership and administration in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, Malakal and Renk, South Sudan and given public lectures on Sudan and South Sudan at numerous universities across the United States.
Diing holds a Master’s degree in Peace and Justice Studies from the University of San Diego and two Bachelor’s degrees from Michigan State University in Public Policy & Administration and Policy & Applied Economics.