South Sudan: Defence of Constitutionalism May Just Secure the Power of the Powerful

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This position was echoed by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AUPSC), which at its 411th meeting on 30th December 2013 emphasised its disapproval of any possible unconstitutional change of government. South Sudan's regional partners have thus made it clear that they will not recognize any unconstitutional change of government and that any government put in place through the use of force will not gain their support.

These utterances commonly reflect a normative shift towards a logic of constitutionalism in regional and pan-African organisations since the turn of the millennium.

The African Heads of States had in the Lomé Declaration of July 2000 jointly agreed to reject unconstitutional changes of government through non-recognition.

The declaration moreover defined a set of measures, including sanctions, to counter any such developments on the continent, and to restore constitutional order wherever necessary.

The mechanism to prevent and address unconstitutional changes of government has further been institutionalised through the emerging African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), which suggests that peace and security on the continent can be furthered through the strengthening of democratic governance.

South Sudan's frail constitution

Through the invocation of constitutional principles, Salva Kiir's government has been bolstered by its neighbours and allies.

Not only have the expectations of the armed oppositions for a quick and straightforward military takeover been reduced, but President Kiir has also used the discourse of constitutionalism to strengthen his own position. In an interview with the BCC, Kiir remarked that "if you want power, you don't rebel."

Kiir continued:

"When I came here I came not through the military coup, I came because I was elected by the people. Elections are coming in 2015. Why did he [Riek Machar] not wait, so that he goes through that same process? If he wins the elections, then he comes to this office."

Drawing on the same discourses of constitutionalism and democratic governance, the presidency has been quick to dismiss the cause of the armed opposition.

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