By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
August 22, 2013 (BENTIU) -The US-based International Republican Institute (IRI) has conducted a joint initiative between political parties and youth representatives in Unity state in a bid to encourage young people to play a more active role in politics.
- IRI South Sudan Program Officer James Turitto (goss/Matata Safi)
The purpose of the workshop was to encourage youths aligned with different parties to engage more in political processes, particularly on constitutional development in South Sudan’s 10 states.
The three-day workshop, which ended on Thursday, brought youths together to discuss the role of political parties, youth in politics and the contribution of political parties towards developing democracy in the country.
LACK OF UNDERSTANDING
IRI programme officer in South Sudan James Turitto said a public survey of youths conducted by the organisation from 2011-2013 found there was a general lack of understanding about the transitional constitution and national constitution review commission policy.
“Well in our republic opinion research, we found that a majority of citizens were not very knowledgeable about the constitution to begin with, so they didn’t know about transitional constitution”, he said.
“[The] majority said they knew nothing about the national constitutional review commission which is the body [that] has been formed by the president to develop a permanent constitution over the next two years, so there is a lot of lack of knowledge about the process”, he added.
Turrito says measuring public opinion on matters affecting the country can help pave the way forward or the government.
“The government - both [the] executives branch, council of ministers and the state assembly have welcomed the IRI to present the findings on the citizens because it allows them the opportunity to see what the citizens are saying [and] understand more about what the citizens need and want”, said Turitto.
Simon Majak Deng, a youth representative from the African National Congress (ANC) in Unity state, says he had learnt more about the role youths and political parties can jointly play in nation building
Deng says several political parties are finding it hard to participate in nation building efforts, saying they continue to face threats and intimidation from the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
“For us, our role is very open but it seem sometimes there is intimidation … I see there is a very restricted roads forward to us, we the political parties”, said Deng.
CHANGE MUST COME FROM GRASSROOTS LEVEL
Mama Jany Gorey, a member of the Union of Sudan African Parties (USAP), says constitutional amendments must come from grassroots movements rather than from officials designing laws before they are recognised by citizens.
“What we want most as citizens from the Republic of South Sudan, all laws must be made by citizens on a grassroots [level]. We cannot accept a constitution that come from top to bottom, it will have a lot of violations and break us”, said Gorey.
Andrew Gatjang Yar, a South Sudan African National Union (SSANU) member, accused the SPLM of violating laws and threatening political opposition in South Sudan.
“The SPLM are the one who are doing the job by themselves and they are not authorising the political parties to operate democratically, so that the people should be free and fair, so we don’t have any freedom of speech”, said Yar.
“If we give the right [to free] speech to the citizens, so you are the enemy of the SPLM, so that is now another problem, [which is how] we should advocate our messages to the citizens of South Sudan and to know who they are”, he added.
The majority of youths who took part in the public opinion survey conducted by the IRI in Unity state capital Bentiu said the training had helped encourage them to participate more in progressing their country.