Voice of America (Washington, DC)

South Sudan: Fighting Delays Delivery of Permanent Constitution

The conflict in South Sudan is preventing a high-level team from drafting a permanent constitution for the young country, the chair of the commission tasked with the job said Friday.

"It is preventing us from conducting seminars and workshops in the states as models of consultation with the ordinary people of South Sudan," Akolda Maan Tier, the chair of the National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC), told reporters.

"We cannot do this because there is fighting going on," he said.

"We now have about six, seven months remaining. Is it possible to conduct civic education within this period, knowing that there is fighting taking place, knowing that this is the rainy season, knowing that there is no money for civic education?" he said.

Tier was speaking to reporters after meeting with South Sudan's top negotiator at ongoing peace talks in Addis Ababa, Nhial Deng Nhial.

Both men said that delaying the constitutional review process could work to the benefit of the commission because the outcome of the peace talks might have an impact on what is included in the constitution.

"If you take the agreement which has been arrived at with David Yau Yau, it has already impacted on the constitution," Tier said.

Yau Yau agreed earlier this month to end one of the longest running rebellions in South Sudan. Under the terms of the deal, the government will set up a new administrative area in Jonglei state that will be headed by Yau Yau.

Tier said the agreement with Yau Yau - and the terms of any peace deal that is eventually struck between the government and opposition - will be taken into consideration when the NCRC gets back to the work of revising the constitution.

South Sudan has a transitional constitution. The NCRC was supposed to have prepared a draft of a permanent constitution by January of last year, but missed that deadline because of a lack of funding.

Parliament granted the commission an extension until the end of this year.

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