BY: Machien Luoi, SOUTH SUDAN, NOV/29/2013, SSN;
Dissolution of SPLM Party structures by its Chairperson domineered news, social media and discussion headlines in the past few weeks. SPLM Party leaders have also thrown some political jabs at each other openly through the media over the matter.
Some writers have called the move by the SPLM Chairperson, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, a “step in the right direction” and others called it “arbitrary”. This article investigates SPLM Party’s constitutional issues that allowed for recent conflicts to occur and recommends that Party’s matters could best be resolved by handing the decision making power back to its members as enshrined in the SPLM Party Constitution of May 20, 2008.
Chairperson and Dissolution of Party’s Structures
There is no explicit expression in the Party’s Constitution that empowers the Chairperson to single-handedly dissolve Party structures except with recommendations from NLC, PB and approval by NC.
But, in Chapter X (25) (g) and (k), the Chairman has authorization to “supervise all the organs of the SPLM and ensure that they perform their functions and duties in an effective and efficient manner,” and “perform any other functions as he or she deems necessary for the proper implementation of the Party’s policies and programs.”
In these regards, nothing is obvious on dissolution of Party structures its Chairperson. These provisions however, may have been interpreted to implicitly imply Chairperson’s competence to dissolve his Party’s Structures if such a move ensured effectiveness, efficiency and performance of the Party organs.
National Convention (NC), National Liberation Council (NLC), Political Bureau (PB)
SPLM Party constitution relied on the National Convention (NC) meeting which happens once in every five years. Surprisingly, the Party’s law did not contemplate challenges in NC sitting schedule.
There is no clause on what the Party would do in case NC meeting could not take place within NC lifespan (five years).
However, the National Liberation Council (NLC), Political Bureau (PB) and General Secretariat could deal with any discrepancies that threaten party effectiveness, efficiency and overall performance of the Party before NC meeting occurred.
General Secretariat meets once a month, PB meets every four months and the NLC meets once in a year. Why couldn’t these Party organs act before the expiry date of the Party constitution and its structures? Explanation of what transpired is only possible from members and actors in those organs.
Party Activities & Meetings
The SPLM General Secretariat in Juba has the mandate to run party activities on the daily basis according to the Constitution. Chapter IX (22) of SPLM constitution outlines the functions of the General Secretariat.
Its responsibilities includes and not limited to “initiation of policies, programs and plans to be approved by the PB,” implement “policies, programs, decisions and resolutions of the higher organs of the Party,” and takes care of the “day to day activities of the SPLM.”
If the party could not function as some referred to as “lack of performance” or “paralysis,” by others, the General Secretariat could be culprit, for inefficiency and lack of performance could have been dealt with prior to expiry date of the Party’s Constitution/Structures.
How the General Secretariat remained after dissolution of other structures is a subject of another debate.
According to the constitution, Chapter X (25) (d) (e), the Chairperson is the “head of the SPLM and the Chairperson of the NC, NLC and PB” and presides “over the meetings of the NC, NLC, PB and the General Secretariat as the situation may require.”
The Chairperson could call on the SG of the party to organize a meeting of any of the top organs of the Party to resolve any matters prior to the expiry date of the Party Constitution or structures.
Why the Chairperson did not use this power and instead opted to wait until the constitution expiry date to dissolve Party structures?
Moreover, Chapter VIII (20) (Meetings of the PB) (1), PB meetings can be convened by the “Chairperson on his or her own initiative.”
For constitutional amendments, Chapter VI (National Organs) (13) (1) says National Convention (NC) “is the supreme political organ of the Movement.” Whereas the same Chapter VI (14) (a) and (c) concede NC has the mandate to “endorse policies and programs,” of SPLM Party and “review, ratify, alter or rescind any decision made by the National Liberation Council (NLC),” And (d) asserts NC elects the “Chairperson and members” of the NLC.
Although not explicitly mentioned in the constitution, as the “supreme political organ” of the Party, through NC consent only, could the Party’s structures be dissolved.
To qualify this, Chapter XX (78) (the Amendment in the Constitution) (1)(2) and (3) adds, “the Constitution may be amended by three-quarters (3/4) majority of all members of the NC; A motion for amendment of this Constitution shall be tabled before the NC by the Chairperson or on the written request by at least one third (1/3) of the NLC members” and that motions for amendments of constitution “shall be distributed to all the members of the NC, by the General Secretariat one month before the NC meeting.”
Obviously, NC does have the mandate to approve of amendments including the dissolution of Party Structures.
The SPLM Party Constitution may have expired with its structures on May 20, 2013, but appears to be referenced. After all, the office of the Chairperson and General Secretariat were surprising exceptions in the dissolution pronouncement.
SPLM Party still has an office to act in the remaining structures. It is to be noted that SPLM Party Constitution of May 2008 could have been strict on tasks to avoid internal conflicts in the Party, even though it is has many loopholes that got interpreted to fit political games and gains.
Hopefully, a lesson has been learned by the leadership and members. For the party to be back on track, SPLM Party leaders need to return the Party to the ‘people’, the “We” referred to at the beginning of the SPLM Party Constitution of May 20, 2008 Preamble.
NC and NLC sittings are the closest organs with national mixed that could resolve the impending internal Party wrangling and to approve the new Party Constitution of the post-independence South Sudan.
Author is a South Sudanese, Former SPLM North Dakota Chapter Chairperson (2006-2008), former member of the dissolved SPLM State Congress (Unity) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.