March 16, 2013 (BOR) – A ceremony that South Sudan’s Jonglei Youth Union organised to mark the signing of its constitution and inauguration of newly-elected leaders was cancelled on Sunday, after an official queried the legality of the document.
- Jonglei state local government minister Diing Akol speaks to journalists in Bor, 16 March 2013 (ST)
John Aluong, a legal advisor to the state ministry of youth, sports and culture, said the youth constitution needed to be taken to South Sudan’s ministry of justice for registration, before it could be signed off on as a recognised law.
“As a lawyer, I am not part of the signing, and I will not preside over it. I don’t even know what the constitution looks like. [The Jonglei] Youth Union is a civil society [organisation] and its constitution doesn’t need signing here to become a law. It is illegal”, Aluong stressed.
The youth union’s council passed the draft constitution following three days of deliberations, prompting its chairperson and executives to invite state officials, including the governor, to witness the signing into law of the document.
However, on 16 March the youth ministry’s legal advisor wrote to members of the union, asking them to follow correct legal procedures required before a constitution can become law.
Formed in 2012 as an independent body, the union comprises of 66 members drawn from each of the 11 counties in South Sudan’s largest state.
Meanwhile, state minister of local government Diing Akol, has insisted that under the current decentralisation policy citizens no longer need to seek recognition from Juba.
“Can we really run to Juba just to have our constitution signed? What if we do it here in Bor [Jonglei’s capital]? I don’t see the reason why people from far Western Bahr el Ghazal in the west, Renk in the far north can run all the way to have such things done in Juba”, said Akol. “I am not for that idea”, he added.
In the absence of a recognised legal framework to guide the youth fraternity, Jonglei governor Kuol Manyang called for the postponement of its constitution signing and inauguration of the newly elected members until the matter was resolved.
“I am not going to give my official speech because I have been informed that the constitution is not signed by the ministry of justice in Juba”, said Manyang.
However, the youth union’s secretary of legal affairs and constitutional development - himself a lawyer - said he was surprised by the claims from his counterpart from the youth ministry.
“What happened has let the union down. This constitution will not be legal if it is not signed by the union into law with our stamp”, said Biar Gatluak.
“If we cannot make laws for ourselves, who else can come and make them for us?” He asked.
South Sudan, which became independent in July 2011 is currently guided by a Transitional Constitution, signed into law by its president Salva Kiir on the day it become a new nation. A 45-member committee was last year formed to review the constitution.