South Sudan Marks 15th Anniversary of December 5th Constitutional Day

Posted: December 10, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Arop Madut-Arop, Columnists, Commentary, History, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Hon Arop Madut Arop (MP), Nairobi, Kenya

RSS coat of ARMS

South Sudan’s coat of arms, in which the eagle symbolizes vision, strength, resilience and majesty, and the shield and spear the people’s resolve to protect the sovereignty of their republic and work hard to feed it.

December 10, 2017 (SSB) — Every year, South Sudan from all walks of life, mark December 5th anniversary as their Constitutional Day. This year they marked the 15th anniversary of the constitutional day, quietly at their respective homes and places of work. Importantly, as we strive to come to term with the agonies bred by the on-going senseless civil war and how to bring guns to dead silence and re-launch democratic institutions, it will be natural for the people of South Sudan to look back at their final glorious journey to statehood. Below is the first leg to statehood.

It all began soon after the conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, when the SPLM Chairman Dr John Garang de Mabior called upon the SPLM Liberation Council to form a technical committee, composed of a team of legal experts to put together a draft constitution that would be presented to the first Southern Sudan legislative assembly to endorse it as this would guide the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the establishment of all government institutions.

It was in this light that, as soon as the SPLM moved its head office to Juba in September 2005, and became a ruling party, the legal technical committee presented its draft constitution to the newly formed government of South Sudan (GOSS). The GOSS, in turn, tabled the draft constitution before the Interim Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) to deliberate and endorse it. As every event has its history to trace, it will be important to discuss below how the approval of the interim constitution (ICSS) set the ball rolling for the establishment of all the government institutions in the Southern Sudan.

Following the tragic passing of Dr John Garang on July 30th, 2005, General Salva Kiir Mayardit, as the deputy chairman of the SPLM and deputy Commander in Chief of the SPLA, took over the leadership, of both organs provisionally.  On August 3rd, 2005 John Garang’s remains were buried.

On August 12th the SPLM Political High Command and the Liberation Council met and promoted Salva Kiir to the rank of a general and the Commander in Chief of the SPLA. In the same joint secession, the two highest organs also elected him Chairman of the SPLM Party. As a leader of the two highest organs of the movement (SPLM and SPLA), Salva Kiir automatically became the President of the interim government of South Sudan, a post vacated by the demise of John Garang. Having taken over the leadership of SPLM/SPLA Movement, Salva Kiir went down to work. The first thing he did was to revise the list of people retired by his predecessor.

After taking over from Charismatic John Garang, many people expressed doubts about Salva Kiir ability to run the war-torn South Sudan. Surprisingly, he pushed aside his shock for the loss of his charismatic leader and a friend-in-arms of the previous twenty-one years, when he remained faithful to him while many of his comrades defected. The soldier and veteran of the two liberation wars confronted the challenges with rare zeal and commitment.

Surprisingly, General Salva Kiir ability, to hold the people of South Sudan together at that most difficult time, was tested during John Garang funeral when he showed security of mind and character. Salva Kiir behaviour during the funeral relieved millions of his countrymen and the friends of the South Sudan, who had mistakenly doubted his ability.

Despite having shown his ability to run the region, there were still some doubts in the mind of others given his action in Yei District in 2004 when he, for the first time, challenged his long-time friend and comrade in arms John Garang, following a rumour that John Garang was thinking of replacing him with commander Nhial Deng, son of late William Deng Nhial, one of the leaders of the defunct Anya Nya Movement (1960-1968).

Such doubts were soon dispelled because of the way in which Salva Kiir quickly checked his action, put aside the rumour that led to his action and resumed his loyalty to the rejuvenated movement he had helped shaping, a move that enabled the SPLM/SPLA leadership to accept him unanimously to lead the South Sudan during that difficult time. It was because of what became known as the Yei hiccup that led some people to speak of John Garang supporters (awlaad Garang) and Salva Kiir Supporters (Awlaad Kiir).

While the people of South Sudan awaited the formation of the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) and the Government of National Unity (GONU), SPLM members from the Dinka Bor nationality were particularly labelled by his critics, as John Garang supporters; hence would be marginalised in all the available posts under the new leadership. If this happened, many expressed fears, South Sudan would fall into chaos because of the rivalry that would ensue between awlaad Garang and awlaad Kiir.

Critics were quietened when General Salva Kiir first appointments were from Dinka Bor nationality; hence John Garang supporters. His first four appointments to the government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) were all from Bor: Judge Michael Makuei Lueth, responsible for constitutional development; General Makuei Deng Majuj, to reorganize the police force; General Aru Man, to reorganize the prisons; and Abdon Agau Jok, cabinet secretary, to reorganize the civil service and government institutions.

In the Judiciary, another Garang stalwart, Justice Ambrose Riiny Thiik from the district of Gogrial was named Chief Justice in order to put together judicial institutions. The next move which proved that he was firmly in the saddle, as mentioned earlier was that, Salva Kiir appointed a technical committee to put together the interim constitution for South Sudan.

Aware for the need for inclusiveness in the government and other institutions, in the peacetime South Sudan, Chairman, Salva Kiir asked the communities all over the region to nominate people who would represent them in the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) being groomed.

This in the first week of September 2005, about 170 members converged in Juba and for the first time since time immemorial South Sudan had a truly representative parliament of its own. The SSLA then began to deliberate on the draft constitution of South Sudan presented by the technical select committee, and which was already on the table for discussion.

After three months of intensive deliberation, the interim constitution of Southern Sudan (ICSS) was endorsed by the SSLA and came into force on December 5, 2005, amidst colourful, popular lavish celebrations. As one citizen put it, it was for the first time that the people of South Sudan had their true legislative representative assembly. It was in this light that following the approval of the draft constitution by the SSLA, the Government of South Sudan starting establishing all the government institutions which were destroyed during the war.

Although the implementation of the CPA was confronted with seemingly insurmountable challenges, the people of the South Sudan were vindicated when they successfully conducted their referendum which paved the way for the eventual declaration of their region as an independent state on July 9th, 2011.

Hopefully, as many efforts are being exerted to bring this destructive war to an end, which would be followed by the endorsement of the permanent draft constitution by the National Transitional Legislature, the people of South Sudan will once again start the second phase of the glorious journey to a full statehood, God Willing.

Hon Arop Madut Arop, currently an MP for Abyei at SSLA and an international media consultant, holds a Diploma in Socialist journalism – International Institute of journalism (East Berlin); Advanced Diploma in Liberal Journalism International Institute of Media Studies (West Berlin) and Masters of Arts Degree in International Journalism (City University of London). He is the author of two books: Sudan Painful Road to Peace, a full story of the founding and development of SPLM/SPLA (2006) and The Genesis of political consciousness in South Sudan (2012). He is also the author of a number of unpublished books. He can be reached at

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from, plus a concise biography of yourself.

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