South Sudan's 2011 "constitution"
How Sudanese Refugees can establish a government in South Sudan that nurtures freedom and safety:
South Sudan’s “Constitution” now. There is no Constitution governing South Sudan, if by “constitution” we mean a body of laws with the force to punish any leader who misuses power. No constitution, law, nor any government body, has any power to stop the President of South Sudan from doing anything he wants.
The 2011 Constitution authorizes the president to dismiss all the rest of the government except himself: the Parliament, state governors, state assemblies, his cabinet, and the Vice President.
President Salva Kiir dismissed his cabinet and Vice President, Riek Machar, in 2013. He fired two state governors, and wouldn’t allow elections to replace them. The President appoints the 10 justices on the Supreme Court.
The United States president, by contrast, can replace his cabinet, but he can’t touch anyone who was elected. And every member of Congress and the Senate is elected – no one is appointed by the President. He certainly can’t do anything to any part of any state government. Nor can he remove any judge for any reason! If a judge, Congressman, or the President is to be impeached, the House and Senate must do that.
FreedomHouse.org says “The president [of South Sudan] cannot be impeached”, but p. 34 of the 2011 Constitution says he can: “the President may be charged before the Supreme Court upon a resolution passed by a two-thirds majority of all the members of the [National Legislative] Assembly.” Why would Freedom House say he can’t be impeached?
Is it because the president has appointed 134 members of the 400-member National Legislative Assembly – just over one third – making it impossible for the Assembly to reach the required 2/3 to impeach, even if everyone not appointed votes to impeach?! Not to mention the other Kiir loyalists elected to the remaining seats: currently the SPLM, Kiir’s party, holds 251 seats. (By contrast, the U.S. president doesn’t appoint)
Or is it because there isn’t much chance of him being impeached when the president can dissolve the whole assembly if it tries?
Or is it because even after the Assembly votes to charge the president, the case is then tried by three Supreme Court justices – all of whom were appointed by Kiir, along with every other judge in the whole country, and any of whom “may be removed by an order of the President for gross misconduct, incompetence and incapacity and upon the recommendation of the National Judicial Service Commission” whose makeup is decided by the parliament which the president can dissolve?
The other chamber of Parliament, the Council of States, has 50 members – 30 of whom are appointed by the President!
By contrast, the U.S. President can remove nobody except his own cabinet. He appoints all federal judges, but only if a simple majority of the elected Senate approves. He has no power over state judges or lawmakers.
With a “constitution” like that, can we be surprised that... The president, Salva Kiir, was elected in April, 2010 with 93% of the vote to a 4-year term, but there has not been another election in the seven years since then.
Besides the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, (SPLA), the president runs the National Security Service, whose power is not defined by the Constitution, but may be defined by the Parliament which the President can dissolve. The NSS, among other things, shuts down newspapers and arrests, and probably murders, journalists.
South Sudan spends over 10% of its GDP on its military – a higher percentage than any other nation in the world, even though South Sudan has no hostilities from any other nation; its military targets are only its own people! We can’t even count the dispute with North Sudan over the oil fields, as hostilities with another nation, since we don’t know if that area, Abyei, belongs to North or South Sudan: the people were supposed to have a referendum about which they wanted to join, but it has been postponed indefinitely, occupied by U.N. peacekeepers from Ethiopia, since the South started hostilities with a May, 2011 ambush that killed 22 soldiers of the North.
South Sudan’s lawlessness, in contrast to the noble principles of its 2011 Constitution, is so great that the U.S. State Department classifies it as “Tier 3” in slavery, sex slavery, and its use of children soldiers. 26 other countries share that category, including North Korea, Iran, Russia, Syria, and (North) Sudan.
Torture even of children, slaughter of Dinka civilians by Nuer and of Nuer civilians by Dinka, even of patients in hospitals, makes human rights organizations throw up their hands, or just throw up.
What refugees can do! Because of the violence and intolerance of criticism by the government, it is not safe for the National Constitutional Review Commission to meet in Sudan. Only refugees can seriously discuss and debate serious changes in safety.
Money enables reform. Publishing information, travel to meetings, taking time to research options and explain positions, all costs money. Especially in areas of violence where protection is an expense.
South Sudan’s 500,000 refugees in diaspora have lots more money than the 11.9 million still living in Sudan. (Which doesn’t count the 230,000 refugees TO South Sudan, mostly from Darfur, North Sudan.)
Sudan has a GDP of 21 billion SSP, which is about $3.15 billion USD. Oil revenue is quite a roller coaster, but one recent figure was 7.2 billion SSP, or $1.08 billion USD. 98% of the government’s budget is from that $1.08 billion.
By contrast, personal remittances from refugees to their families in Sudan have been as high as $1.6 billion USD in 2008, although they have fallen to as low as $300 million according to the latest figures. (Knoema.com) Therefore, personal remittances from refugees is as important to South Sudan’s economy as oil, although both are on a wild roller coaster ride. In other words, refugees have potentially more economic power to support reform than the government has from the oil fields of Abyei to stop it.
Personal remittances are only half the outside support South Sudan receives. FDI, foreign direct investment, is $800 million. ODA, Official Development Assistance, is $1.45 billion.
Unfortunately the government further destroys South Sudan by its borrowing. Total government revenue is 16.4 billion SSP, or $2.46 billion USD, but it spends 33.1 billion SSP or $5 billion USD. Although citizens don’t have that kind of borrowing power, it is not a strength for the government; that only causes hyper inflation, which only makes personal remittances in USD more valuable.
Probably the most amazing way refugees can change the face of their homeland is by organizing together the channels of communication they have already paid for. Even though the average citizen living in South Sudan lives on $210 a year, (GDP nominal), with an ability to purchase food and necessities locally that would compare to living in the U.S. with only $1,670 a year (GDP PPP - “purchasing power parity”), 24.5 % of the population have cell phones! 15.9% are on the internet! Obviously these were not paid for out of $210 a year. They were paid for by relatives living in diaspora. I wonder if this communication is counted as part of personal remittances?
While the National Security Service arrests and kills journalists and shuts down newspapers in South Sudan, refugees have the potential to create accurate news that will reach virtually all Sudanese.
Imagine refugees reporting what their relatives in South Sudan tell them is happening all over South Sudan, to a website that organizes the information. Reporters could leave Sudan and work in safety. Censorship would disappear as a significant factor!
But mere news of what the government, and the opposition, are doing wrong, is not going to heal South Sudan. There needs to be discussion of the details of the kind of government whose reins will remain in the hands of the people of South Sudan.
OK, now here’s a really original idea: Mexico lets its people vote who no longer live in Mexico. Should South Sudan? But should refugees have exactly the same vote as citizens living there and living under the government? What about creating a new branch of government, with some limited ability to monitor and restrain the other branches, that is elected exclusively by refugees?