Can a Democratic Government extend its own Life?

By: Dr Lam Akol, SPLM-DC leader, JUBA, FEB/22/2015, SSN;

Last Thursday Feb. 19, the government tabled before parliament an amendment bill in order to amend the Constitution for the Government to extend its life for two more years. In a democratic setup, is a government allowed to extend its own term of office?

Before answering this question, let us consider our system and compare it to similar systems and experiences the world over.

Our system is a constitutional presidential democracy. In a Presidential Democracy, the president serves for a specific term and cannot exceed that amount of time. Elections too have fixed date not subject to change.

This is in contrast to a parliamentary system in which the Prime Minister may call for elections any time he sees fit but, even here, there is always a set number of years he cannot exceed without calling for a general election.

All these measures are necessary to ensure a basic requirement of democracy; and that is guaranteeing smooth transfer of power. The essence is that the political party that wins a majority does not lengthen its term of office using the same majority to deny the rest their opportunity to be voted to power by the people.

Such a move can be termed “Democracy Once” dictatorship; which is no democracy at all. If a need arises to change the terms of office, the matter must be referred to the people in one way or the other. These guarantees may be included in the constitution as explicit provisions or be understood as a given without which democracy is compromised.

We are governed through the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan 2011. This constitution provides for a presidential system in which the president was to serve for four years up to 8 July 2015. This is the same period set for the election of a new Parliament.

By tabling an amendment to extend the terms of office of the President of the Republic and the National Legislature without returning to the people, the government is breaching a fundamental principle of presidential democracy.

If we accept its claim that it was elected by the people in 2010 up to 2015, by whose mandate does it want to rule up to 2017? Does the political party that enjoys the majority in parliament have the right to amend the constitution at will to continue in power for a period more than what the electorate gave them?

If this is allowed once, what prevents it becoming a precedent to be repeated time and again? Where will such a precedent leave the democratic requirement of the “transfer of power” between political parties through the mandate of the people?

True, our constitution has a provision that allows for amendments to be made to the constitution (Article 199). But does this provision apply to all articles in the constitution without affecting the nature of the state as provided for under Articles 1(4-5) and 2 of the same constitution?

For example, is parliament allowed to amend the Bill of Rights (Articles 9-34)? It is the contention of this author that it cannot. By the same token it cannot amend the articles on the cyclical “transfer of power” (Articles 66 and 100) without seeking the consensus of the people from whose will the Constitution is derived (Article 3).

These articles cannot be amended because they form the core of the constitutional presidential democracy we have adopted. This is the crux of the matter.

This matter becomes more critical if we look at the Parliament entrusted to amend the constitution on behalf of the people. The current National Legislature is composed of 332 members: 282 members of the National Legislative Assembly and 50 members of the Council of States.

Only 170 members of the National Legislative Assembly were elected to the Legislative Assembly of South Sudan in 2010. The entire membership of the Council of States was appointed by the President in 2011, who also appointed the other 112 members of the National Legislative Assembly.

Hence, the total number of appointed members in the National Legislature is 162 members. That is, 49%, which is about half the total membership< of the National Legislature is appointed. This is the body expected to make such a serious amendment! The government was cognizant of this fact when it insisted on holding elections to renew its legitimacy. It was fully aware that it alone cannot amend the Constitution to attain that objective. If it did, that would be a breach of the Constitution on matters that are taken as given by practice and precedents. When President Museveni did amend the Ugandan Constitution to run for a third term, the move was resisted. This was the same reaction in a number of other countries which underwent similar experiences, the most recent of which was what took place in Burkina Faso last October. Beginning on 28 October 2014, the people of Burkina Faso went on the streets in Ouagadougou to protest against moves by President Blaise Compaore to amend the constitution so as to extend his rule by allowing him to stand for re-election in 2015. Indeed, the protesters did on 30 October force the MPs to suspend the vote on changing the constitution, leading to the overthrow of the President. All this goes to underline the point that there are articles in the Constitution that cannot be changed without changing the rules of the game. And the only accepted game changer is the people. We all know that the main reason why the 2015 elections were not possible is the destructive war that broke out on the 15th of December 2013 and is still raging in the country. Insecurity is also prevalent in some parts of the country that is not related to the civil war, notably in the Lakes state. The insecurity militates against conducting a free and fair election. It was, therefore, obvious that attaining peace must be the priority so that the situation returns to normalcy, after which the people will be able to exercise their democratic rights including taking part in the elections. However, both the government and the rebels could not make progress in the peace talks and, in fact, the Cessation of Hostilities agreement they signed in January 2014 was not respected and the fighting continues unabated. Despite this obvious reality, the government closed its mind and insisted on holding partial elections for the sole reason to gain legitimacy. After spending money on a futile exercise it finally realized that it cannot proceed with the elections but did not give up its determination to cling to power by all means. Hence, came the idea of unilaterally amending the constitution. The consensus of the South Sudanese to amend the terms of elected institutions stipulated in the Constitution may come about in either of two ways. First, if the stakeholders in the peace talks reach a peace agreement, then this agreement will be incorporated into the Constitution by carrying out an amendment that includes the term of office of the transitional government. Second, if the peace talks are not conclusive, then all the political forces in the country shall hold an inclusive national conference that will deliberate on how to bring about peace to the country. The resolutions of the conference shall constitute the program of the new government of national unity. It is this program that will determine the length of time it takes to get it implemented by the new government, and in turn, determine the amendments to be made to the constitution on the strength of this consensus. The amendments tabled by the government on Thursday were unilateral lacking the consensus of the people as shown above. The government should have waited for the outcome of the current round of peace talks (which started on the 19th instant), which, according to the government and the rebels in their first of February agreement, will see the conclusion of a peace agreement. If they conclude a peace agreement, then the first scenario becomes applicable. If they fail to reach a peace agreement then the second scenario becomes the course of action by default. Making a unilateral move to amend the constitution is a breach of the constitution as explained earlier since the proposed amendments are not backed by the consensus of the people of South Sudan. 22 February 2015


  1. oyhath says:

    Does anyone really believe there is a democratic Government in that geographical location in Africa called South Sudan?

    First, the way unfair conditions were set for SPLM candidates aspiring to run for President, for example, that an SPLM presidential hopeful must have been in the SPLM for at least 10 years, raised uncomfortable questions about the kind of “democracy, justice and equality” this party was up to.

    Second, the discriminatory practice of hand-picking SPLM gubernatorial candidates was a desperate abuse of power, scandalous and made abject mockery of democracy.

    Third, the way democracy was stifled, for example, some non-SPLM candidates were harassed, intimidated and in some instances blocked from campaigning in certain constituencies, was one of the first indications that the democracy the SPLM was talking about was nothing but only a lip service.

    Fourth, because the SPLM raised the ideals of democracy, justice, equality and transparency all the while during the entire period of its liberation struggle, southerners were optimistic (naively as it turned out), that a truly genuine democracy was about to be born in Africa, only for many of them to realize after independence (and indeed during the CPA-mandated period) that it was, in fact, nothing but another African story, a story of deceit, a story of disappointment, a story of dictatorship.

    You also have to wonder about the real intentions of some foreign entities claiming to be promoting democracy around the world. For example, I was shocked to hear former US President Jamie Carter say in a CNN interview a few years ago that his Carter Center participated in monitoring South Sudan elections, that those elections were fair, and that he recommended the Obama Administration to accept the outcome of those elections. Were those elections really fair? Ah, Africa betrayed.

  2. Thanks you Dr. Lam for your article. A leadership is start from the top. To clarify the fact and truly, what remains in Juba is pure Dinka kingdom. There is no government in Juba. We learn from this types of the leadership from the Salva Kiir is completely tribal leadership rule in the Country. In the right direction as a good leader, one must listen to the will of people and you must be willing to work to understand the needs and desires of others. In my understanding, there is no constitution existed in Republic of South Sudan. Is it South Sudan that we are all dreaming for? I don’t believe the government that killed his own Citizens in the Country.Salva kiir must go and he does not deserve to rule us in this Nation. We cannot achieve great Things if Salva kiir still rule us in this Nation. I highly recommend you that, it is time for you to act instead of just talk.

    • johnjerry says:

      Good to learn that you are now talking as an opposition party leader take the lead and other minor parties will follow your lead and that you together will check on the Government.It is the people who have the mandate to ask for amendments through a democratic manner.We have to learn the art of good governance in order for peace to take place in the country.Leaders come and go,but the country will remain for ever.Long Walk to Freedom “Nelson Mandela”.

  3. Eastern says:

    Dr. Lam,

    Let Kiir and cohorts continue with their illegalities. Their actions which amount to defiling the great land of South Sudanese cannot go on in perpetuity. A stop will be put to it. Time for impunity and lawlessness is about to end.

    You have spoken as a leader,


  4. jok lual says:

    hey koang dont support person is body support si mind Lam and Riek what they doing in south sudan nothing so thi time no forgive we will teach you a good lesson fi you like or not south sudan without you equal south sudan

  5. To The Author:Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin

    All things you said in your article you wrote,they are all very true to comprehend to the best of my knowledge and my true understanding! I am asking myself a question alone and I am wondering Why the legislatures in the parliament,in the country,in the government of South Sudan has done a wrong matter altogether?

    He the President Salva Salva Kirr,and his administration,and the legislatures working in the parliament,in the country,in the South Sudan,they are completely wrong.They do not know anything about the basic constitution at all at this point!

    Based on my own personal views, I am concurring with you in my own opinions more politically first,and foremost, that why the legislatures working in the parliament,adding on two more years terms for President Salva Kirr without general discussion for a constitutional amendment?What they have done ,it was not correctly because it was totally done illegally!

    They themselves the legislatures working in the parliament,they have done a serious mistake altogether!Giving two more years terms for President Salva Kirr,in office,it was totally a wrong move! They are going to make things soon from worse to worst in the entire country whether they like it or not!

    I knew political matters coming from POLITICS! Fighting on political matters in the country,coming in the government,they are always as good as bad as dangerous! This is not a mere joking! This is a serious business from politicians! President Salva Kirr, and the legislatures working in the parliament,they should bear very hard in minds as much as possible!

    There are rebellions now going around the South Sudan in the country all against President Salva Kirr administration due to the discontented over political power struggle over political power coming on over powers base on IDEOLOGIES based theories! coming on WHO IS WHO? which absolutely coming from WE IN THE SOUTH SUDAN IN THE LAND THE SOUTH SUDANESE PEOPLE PEOPLE ON THE SOUTHERNISM!! It is up to the fish to decide in the water! It is up to President Salva Kirr to decide whether he choosing force! Or he choosing Democracy! This is one way and other!Thank you very much with your eloquent! Take care yourself! Back to you to the audience on floor in the stage in the forum South Sudan Nation Discussion Board.

    Missouri, USA

  6. AGUMUT says:

    Defect for Money and Defect again to gain for money.

    • Thoman Lual Mading says:

      Is there anything wrong with his opinion? give your own input rather than just saying useless words. We want to promote democracy in South Sudan not dictatorship. Dr. Akol has shown us that he understands politics better than our dinosaurs who are definitely destined for extinction.

  7. AGUMUT says:

    Dr.Lam Akol had being praying to the Sun for years,but he didn’t success.

  8. Bol says:

    Dear Author ,

    Criticizing the government is really useful and desirable in a democratic government if and only if it constructive. you might have read the article written by Dr Luka Biong Deng on Sudan tribune website , if you have not , please endeavor to read it before you feed the masses of South Sudan with unrealistic things . No one would deny that government does not extends its mandate in a democratic country , but for our case , the electoral commission that is in charge of organizing elections was not empowers in our transitional constitution , it because of that , that explains why our parliament went a head and a mend that our article in our constitution in order to allow possibility of elections and postponement of general elections. All that was done for the sake of Peace . if the government has not done so ….you in opposition would have made another noise that , elections are useful at the times when peace is just at the corner … so please …u r dealing with an informed youth .

    • GatCharwearbol says:


      Tell us how you gauge the veracity of Dr. Luka Biong Deng’s writing compare to that of Dr. Lam Akol. You made Dr. Lam Akol seems like he doesn’t know what he is talking about; rather, your Dr. Luka Biong Deng knows better. Could it be assumed that your tendency of favoring Dr. Luka Biong Deng is rooted to your tribal solidarity?

  9. Defender says:

    Dr. Lam has proven that leadership is not just title, but charisma and ability to articulate your position so that lay people support you. The question posed here is clear and the arguments presented are straight and cites the transitional constitution in every aspect of the argument. Those who do not see this clear explanation are just blinded by the tribal support and nothing less or more. Our country and our people are good at idolizing their own kin and kith but not realize that those who are from your tribe maybe less interested in serving your interest than others who may not be closer to you. The SPLM that is dominated by one ethnic group has lost the vision that inspired many to fight and die for a cause. This cause has not been sold for the sole interest of staying in power at all cost, including extending or amending the constitution to fit their desire to suck our peoples’ blood dry.

    Does anyone believe that the current government is really interested in peace or democratic reform, even after the amendment is adopted that the life of the government is extended for another two years? No. The government is using this amendment and extension in the hope that it will defeat the rebellion. The government strategy so far is to get as many mercenaries from the neighboring countries to kill as many south Sudanese as possible. Now, M23, M7 and other ruthless paramilitaries are being brought into South Sudan in disguise as UPDF to execute the war. Will this bring an end to the current turmoil in our country? No again. These are questions that we need to answer for ourselves. These are question that those of Dr. Lam are asking. Truth must be told: if Dr. Lam is from the majority tribe in South Sudan, he will be our favourite alternative now. But that will not happen at all. Our future as a country will actually be safer at the hands of smaller tribes of South Sudan, because they know the importance of fairness, equality and ability to share the vision that is called South Sudan. But that will never happen in South Sudan, Never! As such, Dr. Lam will continue to be the best president that we will never have.

  10. alex says:

    Mr Defender
    It is true now you people are working for Khartoum. Which Lam are talking of ? Is it not the one who was opposed to S.Sudan to get independent. The man Said we S. Sudanese can not rule ourselves and he was fighting hard to block the referendum. Look for Lam speech when he was addressing the BAA Party in Syria before the referendum. This are not the type of the leaders we need. The gentlment is only smart to teach Maths in University. If you can encourage him to teach Maths so that we send a seteliet into space in the next 50 yrs would be a good development but not polotics. Even his wife better that old man brother


  11. Defender says:

    Alex, Just compare Dr. Lam and the rest of the goons that we call leaders and you will see the difference. If we measure leaders the way you are suggesting, the we are in this for a long haul. What would you say then the leaders are selling our country cheap to the Ugandans and the Kenyans? Heroes? In your estimation they carry the same significance as those who speak truth to power. And let us just go by your argument that he spoke in Syria to Baath party that South Sudan cannot rule itself. Isn’t he right now. Unless you are living in different planet, you will not be able to say what you are saying. Those who are pushing Dr. Lam to the fringe are the ones you should castigate, instead of this sure personality and is seeking to create a sense of pride with the laws that govern out country.

    What you say to those who are tarnishing the laws of South Sudan day in and day out? Do you call these people leaders? if so, what is your definition? if you are able to provide one, please share with us so that we can benefit from it. And if you are not able to come up with one, I will be able to offer you something to go to bed with everyday that will allow you to reconsider the meaning of leadership and all its constituent parts.

    If all go by the thinking your portraying here, we South Sudanese will have to create a whole set of new logic to govern our intellectual discourse around, public interest, leadership, fairness, equality, equity, governance, justice, freedom of expression, freedom of association and many more. Otherwise, we need to humble ourselves and accept that a sense of logic and reason is a universal concept accepted the world over, and must be practiced in South Sudan the way the rest of the world does.

    If we are to go be the example that people certain leaders can organize to wipe out sections of our societies just because they do not agree with those who challenge them, then why should we have a state that is called south Sudan? We should just opt in creating ethnic or tribal enclaves to live in and allow the rest with whom we disagree, live their own lives. This is just simple and straight!


  12. Dear Alex:

    What do you benefitting from South Sudan Referendum so far sir???!!!?? Dr.Lam Akol Ajawin,was predicted very true when saying Southerners could not managing themselves! It is now very true to the best of his knowledge! It is happening now!!! The south is bleeding perfusely!!

    People who are now dying in both warring parties in this current senseless crisis in the South,they are all Southerners themselves alone!! And yet more bloodshed is coming more,more,and more as long as SPLM- National Congress Party are still hanging in powers in the Sudan!!!

    The best way to halt a blood, from going further,IS TO DEMOLISH SPLM-NATIONAL CONGRESS AT ONCE IN THE SUDAN!!! Stop blaming Dr.Lam Akol Ajawin for being a mathematician Professor! All knowledge in the education,they are part of theories including political science,philosophy,biology,geography,and many other as well in general! Have a nice day! South will be REINTERGRATING someday in the Sudanese social fabric! Time will tell!! God IS Willing!
    Back to you to the members to the audience to the floor in the forum South Sudan Nation Discussion Board!


  13. alex says:

    Mr Defender
    It will be a sucide mission to give power to somebody who has decleared we are not able to rule ourselves because he may end up handing us back to the Arabs. The worst thing on the face of this earth is to allow yourselve to be enslaved that I will never agree.
    Coming to the current situation now, we all know the issue is about power struggle and because we South Sudanese still believe in tribal politics, that is why we are suffering. If you are a Nuer your mind is about Nuer leader, if you are a Dinka you want the leader to come from Dinka so unless we come out of that cheap thinking and put South Sudan in our hearts the world will continue to laugh at us. That old thinking mentality when we eridicated it then we can live in peace. In sincereity S. Sudan is not a ditetorial goverment. Did you hear somebody has been excuted or hanged? No even the criminals those who rob using guns non has been killed so we value human life.
    The other thing is we S. Sudanese think it is easy to build democracy and easy to build a country but that is not true brother. You are seeing countries like USA, Britain and many other countries but do we know how long it has taken them to build their democracy? We S. Sudanese want ready made things and that can not work brother. Look even us who think we are democrates and educated. Look our writings in the net here and the insults and how some of us are preaching about hate. Do you thing that is the right way of building democracy? If we want things to change we who at least knows what is good and bad should not be insulting our leaders but give them advice, work hand in hand with them. Do you think if you want to correct me and you start by insulting me ,Can I listen to you? Until we change our approach behaviours and the way we handle things we will not get peace.
    Uganda has right to intervein in S.Sudan because the opposition are recieving guns from Khartoum. They learnt a lesson from Konyi’s rebelion which was sponsored by Sudan. Konyi is hiding in Sudan so do think Uganda should wait until those rebels come to its back yard. When SPLA was about to cupture Juba in 1991 the same man spoiled every plan and brought guns from Khartoum to kill us. He gave losses to those friends who supported SPLA in achieving what they want. To day again we have just achived our country the same man has gone back to Khartoum does this not give conern to we S.sudanese and those who supported us. It looks like some other people are working for Khartoum’s interest so our neighbours will not accept that to happen now. Until we the civilian devoce such politician we will continue to suffer. So open yyour eyes not just supporting people because they come from your tribe or region.


  14. defender says:

    Alex, My apology for coming back to you late. You are all confused brother! See your argument seems to be all over the place. Since South Sudan gained independence, there has been at least five hangings. And i assure you, those who have been hanged may have not had the right to due process. But any how they were hanged. This is not a something that you can be proud of.

    In terms of the role Dr. Lam played in the politics of South Sudan, allying with Khartoum is the least of his trouble and reason to disallow him from having a stake at leading South Sudan from the shit hole that it is in right now. You are not even willing to accord him the rightful place he has in the transformative aspects of his political ideals. If he was like the many leaders who have committed crimes against the people of South Sudan, I will surely agree with you. But the situation is totally different in many front. Just read what has exposed here and compare it to what has been transpiring in South Sudan today. However, you are no seeing what he is doing despite government’s attempt to silence him and restrict his movement to advocate for true democratic representation of all political views.

    The government has so far tried to stop him from attending peace negotiations but are not able to silence him in juba because they are not ready to debate with him in an open platform, where ideas instead of brute force is the only means of convincing citizens. They will not allow such a process to happen because they are not capable. So, mind you and your hallow slogan that South Sudan government has some semblance of righteousness in everything that it is doing.

    Mind you though, i will love to see that South Sudan develop some kind of governance that respects peoples rights to choice, free expression and political multiplicity. Something that government in Juba is not willing to do. They have copied everything we know in South Sudan today from Khartoum, without even trying to make their copying look like something authentic. This is the reality that you must reckon with when trying to compare Dr. Lam with the vision-less “leaders” you claim to be interested in the well-being of our people.

    Lastly, you seem to focus on 1991 but failed to draw attention to 2013. Blood is blood and you cannot shortchange it just because you favor one tragedy than other. If 1991 is bad this means that 2013 is even worse. One, because 2013 was a blood attack on citizens by a sitting government. However,1991 was rebel movement bogged by tribalism decided to settle tribal scores by killing each other. This is not to compare but to show you that those who try to justify one murder and disregard another is just as bad a taste as the one advocating for another.

    So, in seeking to make sense of something, think about the global reality that explains the whole situation, less you become highly embroiled trying to justify the unjustifiable. Thus next time argue from a point of strength instead of parroting something that you have not a clue about.


  15. Itikwili says:

    Dr Akol, well said.
    However you cannot play for a political analyst or a commentator. You are a politician and cannot be too afraid to mobilize your people against what you believe strongly is unconstitutional. Citing Burkina Faso and Uganda cases couldn’t be more than an act of a political bystander. Real politicians in Africa would accept to go to jail for a cause. Show your leadership without the gun!

  16. Charles Placido Wani Lako says:

    Dr Lam Akol Ajawin,
    You are 99% right, but in Africa or in the LDC or world, a it is possible for a democratic government extend its life. Thank you for your critical analysis of our SPLM scenario in RSS. You are a leader, eloquent both in English and Arabic, Intelligent as well, as I have seen from your time of being a first foreign minister in Khartoum during the CPA GoNU Government. If you were in the place of Dr Riek, by this time you would have won the International community and peace would be achieved. I think your observations are right and we the young generation of SPLM will take note of. However, our only problems as Ruling party is that we mix aspirations for leadership and leaders individual characters that are sometimes disliked presents total outlook of a leader. You and Riek share that in common, but can be controlled through democratic exercise as said. we the young generation of SPLM will try to give you and Riek the chance to lead South Sudan only for one term. The case in court you might win, I guess.

  17. Apuk says:

    Dear readers, don’t forget to remember this short piece of information even if it means your lifetime.
    “Dr. Lam Akol will one day cut his hand with his own Knife” and if I’m wrong, try to check this with in a period of one to five years. that’s from now to 2020. Don’t take this message for granted as a simple analysis but you’ll remember. the guy is confused on how to make short-cut to power, even those who commented after this article are either his instructed supporters or himself in disguise of other people’s name. I don’t have any personal grudges with him but since i have been following his self-claimed political maneuvering, i realized that, he is just after getting power. He is just like a fox who is prone to noise and deception of other fellow animals in the jungle.

  18. Gabriel says:

    I think Dr Lam fits the description of being opposition leader,but the tribal composition in south Sudan is not favorable to him. Dr knows very too well what caused this war and what can be done to bring peace back to south Sudan. As I have take sometimes out of my busy schedule here in the western life to read his article,I come to conclude that we really have another HAssan Turbi here in south Sudan with ability to predict and explain political outcome. It always come to the which of this two moster tribes he belongs to,in order for him to be able to his political talents. The answer is that he is from small tribe like myself. In saying this I acknowledge that there are enormous people in these two we want to see south Sudan rule without tribal interest.

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