The Constitution and Presidential Appointments in South Sudan

BY: Dr. James Okuk, PhD, Juba, SEPT/19/2013, SSN;

The mixed opinions need to be sifted so that the truth could get appreciated from the falsity. The South Sudan Transitional constitution (2011) says that the appointed Ministers by the President of the Republic shall be approved by a resolution adopted with a simple majority vote of all members of the National Legislative Assembly {See Article 122(2)}. The constitution did not say that the vote shall be on a singled-out Minister among the presented Ministers.

That is, there is no approval for a Minister but Ministers collectively. Thus, either the whole list of the appointed Ministers is rejected or passed all together without exception. There is nothing called vetting an individual Minister separately. Even Article {57(h)} talks of vetting and approving “appointments” and not “appointment.”

That is why the case of selective rejection of Mr. Telar Riing (as Justice minister) could be termed as unconstitutional move by Speaker, Rt. Hon. Wani Igga and his August House Team.

But the relevant question here is: What is the meaning and purpose of powers of vetting and approving the Presidential appointments by the NLA? It is nothing else but giving legitimacy to the appointments.

Then where do the issues of qualifications, credentials and integrity come from when they are required by the constitution in case of eligibility to the President and the Vice President Offices as well as National Legislature Membership only? {See Articles, 62, 98}.

Surely, these came from nowhere but anger and conspiracy based on ill-intentions against Mr. Telar. Hence, President Kiir should have considered Mr. Telar as approved by the NLA together with the rest of Ministers and sworn him into the office as Minister of Justice together with the rest of the approved Ministers.

As a politician, President Kiir has to know who are his political friends who should be closer to his throne. Machiavellian-ism is not separable from state politics, and those who think that Kiir is mistaken to re-appoint Mr. Telar as his Legal Advisor are unrealistic Platonists.

Another relevant question should be: Why do we write a constitution and then do strange things outside the constitutional dictates? Why we don’t put in the constitution what we would like to do constitutionally?

The SPLM members should be in the better position to answer this questions since their VIPs were the ones quarrelling over the implementation of their own inappropriately imposed constitution.

I hope the mess-ups in the implementations and violations of the current transitional constitutions are doing a great deal of pragmatic civic education on all of us so that we learn to come up with a good constitution in future.

Learning by hard ways is sometimes very good as it is said that where there is no pain there should be no gain. A lot of good ideals that are missing in the current constitution should find their right way into the next Constitution and many bad ideas that are incorporated into it should face a delete button without regrets.

Referendum and not clapping in the NLA Hall should be the way to go for legitimizing the constitution that the people of South Sudan want for their posterity.

South Sudan should start looking for a Parliament that is well equipped with the Will of its dignified the people. It is by this that what is known as the rule of law (whether it is unjust law) would start to see better light in the new Republic.

Congratulations to Mr. Telar Riing for getting back into the political boxing ring with a head high for a strong knock out on “False Friends” who are now “True Enemies” of President Kiir’s right to reign.

Dr. James Okuk is reachable at


  1. GatCharwearbol says:

    Dr. James Okuk;

    Since your arbitrary arrest few years ago, you had disappeared and avoided writing articles like you used to. I surmise that you have been cowed and intimidated to tell the truth anymore. You have indeed abandoned your path of fighting for justice. This article has proved it all. Perhaps, the murder of Isaiah Abraham and threats that were directed toward you have something to do with you recoiling back from your stance.

    Your analysis regarding the case of Telar Ring Deng is highly subjective; your emotions and your opinions have colored your thinking. There is nothing like group approval or appointment. Telar Ring Deng was proven as crook and thus, he must carry his own cross. Just because he was found unfit for justice minister post shouldn’t disqualified others who were approved. I do not find any sanity in your support for Telar Ring Deng.

    For instance, some companies do recruit potential candidates in group and if some of them are found unfit for the job, they are denied employment while those who passed the interview are employed. The way the vetting process was done in South Sudan might have been slightly different but it is in no way outlandish. It is how things should be done. In every society, there are bad and good elements. Those nominated for approval by Mr. Kiir Mayardit cannot be seen as bad or good elements all. Majorities were found to be sound and Mr. Telar was found unsound for the job. What is wrong with that?

  2. Peter Adwok Nyaba says:

    What an about-turn? Ha Ha! I am flabbergasted. Politics is really what it is. Who would have believed that PhD holder James Okuki Suleiman reachable wrote this piece congratulating Telar Riing Deng for re-capturing the Presidential Adviser for Legal Affairs. I had always believed that Okuki Suleiman was out since October 2007 to blast any decision by Salva Kiir Mayardit because Salva jettisoned Okuki mentor Dr. Lam Akol from the prestigious ministry of foreign Affairs. There must be something suspicious about all this. Perhaps something sinister for South Sudan is about to happen.

    The Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011 like any other constitutions does not spell out everything and that is why concerned competencies promulgate their own Acts and regulations as how to implement their constitutional mandates. In Higher Education, Science and Technology the NLA promulgated the Higher Education Act 2012 to spell out how to organize the higher education system. And within that system the National Council for Higher Education with its regulations; the Universities have their individual Act of Parliament vide which they are established. A constitutional provision must have laws and/or regulations for its implementation.

    Coming to the gist of Okuki’s argument against the NLA vetting an individual presidential nominee or the whole list of nominees, our constitution is vague about it and therefore subject to multiple interpretations. The practice in some countries is that any nomination to any constitutional post must be vetted and approved by the legislative authority. And I believe this is what South Sudan wanted to emulate.

    The problem than arises from the formulation of the presidential correspondence to the Speaker of the National Assembly. In 2011 the President of the Republic issued a Presidential Decree and sent it to the Speaker of the National Assembly and the August House endorsed the entire list. The August House perhaps out of courtesy did not want to cause the President an embarrassment. But in our first Council Meeting, the President had this to say “I did not expect some of you to come back to the cabinet… but you were brought by the Assembly”.

    This year, the SPLM Parliamentary Caucus met attended by the President himself. A lot of issues were raised by the honourable members and the president showing sensitivity made changes e.g. Hon. Rebecca Okwachi was reappointed (renominated) cabinet minister for Posts & Telecommunications; Hon. Simon Mijak appointed a cabinet minister was reappointed a deputy minister just to give a few examples.

    The President requested the SPLM Parliamentary Caucus to do their work and he would accept their decision.

    The Right Honourable Speaker constituted the House Select Committee to vet the Presidential nominees. The issue of Telar comes out forcefully as an anomaly. First, the SPLM Parliamentary Caucus had challenged the presidential decree re-affirming Telar as the Presidential legal adviser and another decree nominating him the minister of Justice. It was in this context that Select Committee scrutinized and grilled twice over his academic credentials as a lawyer and the other issue regarding his integrity involving mis-advising the president on the sale of a piece of land in Juba and his writing official correspondence to the Governor of Bank of South Sudan.

    As Presidential Adviser Telar has usurped the executive powers of the minister of Justice and that was the point of contention even within the legal fraternity.

    The National Legislative Assembly did the right thing and I don’t see any reason for castigating the Right Honourable Speaker for the parliamentary vote rejecting the nomination of Telar Riing Deng. It is the office of the president or the president who violated the constitution. Now this is the politics of friendship and there is some secrecy there in the relations which the people of South Sudan have to decipher.

    To conclude, perhaps the president does not his true enemies. Allah yashtur

    Peter Adwok Nyaba

  3. majongdit says:

    False friends as true enemies as stated by Dr Adwok Nyaba!
    Good views my friend and name-sake, James Okuk Solomon

  4. Kong Puok Tongluot says:

    James Okuk ,PhD, Juba
    Hi,James, you and our state’s people of Upper Nile as mother city, this Country South Sudan needed an affirmantively one coalition party for election 2015. keep it up.

  5. Arkangelo Duor says:

    Hi Dr Okuk,
    I have perused through your article with interest as usual. You, indesparations tried to argue that “there is no approval for a Minister but Ministers collectively. Thus, either the whole list of the appointed Ministers is rejected or passed all together without exception.”
    “A minister” is singular noun while “Ministers” is a plural. According to your interpretation the vetting of Telar as ‘a minister’ (individually) instead of ‘ministers’ (group/collective) is ‘unconstitutional’. Your interpretation is incorrect because the ministers had to be vetted individually (based on merit) before they are approved collectively (on collective merits), just as they were appointed (decreed) on individual bases.
    Also note that the words “appointments” and (not) “appointment” helps in interpreting the nouns I had earlier mentioned. Thus it depends on whether the President appointed one person (minister) or more than one person (ministers).
    Interpretating laws is not an easy task and requires legal skills and knowledge. It’s not like reading a street directory or a map. Sometimes, separate sections or articles of a Statute would be interpreted in isolation with other sections or articles, but at times with other relevant sections or articles in the same Statute. Acts Interpretation Act would be a very good reference and other legally recognised authorities. Alternatively, case law is another good authority.
    Dr Okuk, I appreciate you for trying your best in putting your legally weak arguemnt forward. Leave legal issues to legal experts and concentrate on your chosen field of expertise!

    • James Okuk,

      Who are the enemies of President? In every political system of any country, there are oppositions, however, the oppositions parties are not enemies of the president but they are oppositions to the presidents. For example, Democratic party of the United States is not an enemy of Republican Party. Mitt Romney, the former rival of President Obama was not an Obama’s enemy but he was Obama opposition. Mr. Mitt Romney, had no intention to kill president Obama if he would win an election. On the other, president Obama has no plan to do something bad to Republican presidential Candidate Mitt Romney. Now you are calling the oppositions of Kiir “enemies of president”. What kind of politician are you? Where did you get your PhD?

      Based on the evidences gathered from your article, I concluded that you are a Ph,D holder who is foolish, naïve, and lack critical thinking. You are a fake citizen who believes on how much you make but do not care about the suffering of fellow citizens. Your article shows that you are not a patriot citizen but just paid agent. You had been vomiting political Gastroenteritis germs, which caused your stomach upset and now you are on the brink of eating these vomits with contaminated bacteria, viruses, and parasites which caused you nausea and throw up previously.

      • Bentiu Ramaran:

        Wait a minute! Why are you insulting Dr.James Okuk? Are you aware of the fact that you have seriously violated Dr.Okuk’s rights and freedom of speech. Like everybody else, Dr. Okuk is entitled to the expression of his political views and opinions.

        When did you learn about the suffering of our people? Cousin, Your suffering and the suffering of Dr. Riek Machar and Mr. Gatcharwearbol is not a Suffering of the people of South Sudan. Our people have been suffering even when Dr.Riek Machar was still the VP in Kiir’s government. I wonder, Why you just realized the suffering of our people? Is it because your Uncle Riek Machar is laid off? At least, Dr.Okuk did not use his PHD to massacre the innocent civilians in South Sudan. He (Okuk) is much better and smarter than those who abused and massacred his own people.

        “The trust must be told even if it hurt”
        Lukudu Gatkuoth Garang!

        • GatCharwearbol says:

          Dear Lukudu Gatkuoth Garang:

          The suffering of South Sudanese is my suffering and it is the suffering of Dr. Machar. It is certainly not your suffering nor is it Kiir Mayardit suffering or at least your action does not show it. Our masses are crying for Dr. Machar to take over the Presidential Palace in Juba. They know unreservedly that Dr. Machar would give them the freedom they badly needed and being denied them by you and Kiir Mayardit. There will come time when truth will triumph over falsity.

          Have you ever asked yourself who will clean up the mess you have created in Junub? Smart up kid! It will take shrewdness to reverse this immeasurable mess. Look no further than Dr. Machar for who will clean up your mess.

          At this juncture, I am happy that Dr. Machar is not in your government anymore. When Dr. Machar was the VP, you placed the entire onus on him. You think the ubiquitous corruption is because of Dr. Machar, you also believe that the existence of tribalism is because of Dr. Machar, you also blame the SPLM’s lack of clear direction on Dr. Machar, you also think that the stealing of $4billion is Dr. Machar making, and the list goes on and on. I wonder who you will blame this time around that Dr. Machar is not there for your blunder and failure.

          I also hope you will not fault Dr. JAC Ramba and Elhag Paul for your blunders and corruption.

  6. GatCharwearbol, Veteran Dr. Nyaba and Arkangelo,

    Could you please quote some articles in our current constitution or laws that can support your argument like what I did? The purpose of this article is to see how important it is to write a good constitution focusedly, implement it accordingly and avoid violating any of its dictates willingly even if they are unjust.
    What has happened and what is happening as far as politics of power is concerned in South Sudan should be taken as an opportunity to learn better lessons for future use. I would even like to see President Kiir practising all the powers conferred upon him by John Luk’s constitution so that South Sudanese regret creating political monster out of any leader in future.
    I want President Kiir to dissolve the NLA and State LAs and send the MPs to the streets before the “permanent” constitution comes out.
    I want him to dismiss Ministers and Governors every three months so that we can regret and write a best constitution out of anger/fear next time.

    I have come to know in my jurisprudence literacy that the interpretation of law is about the concepts and not grammar of a language. “Ministers” and “Appointments” are not concepts. Be informed that constitutional matters are not reserved for lawyers, juris or judges only. They should be a concern of every civilized concerned citizen.
    I don’t have a dark heart to hate even the truth when it does not serve my interest. Sincerity is a desirable virtue. Let’s pursue it with honor.

  7. Teargas Gatluak says:

    Hahahahahaha! What an unexpected u-turn from Dr. James Okuk. So you have the audacity to write such an article in favor of imposing on the nation a justice minister who himself admits that he is not a lawyer?
    Wonders shall never end.

  8. Okuk,
    your article is reminding people of the critical and past events, what was done by SSLA was not there by then, instead applauded them for the job well done. Telar was one among the cabals around the presidency who was giving ill advices to the president. Not knowing what goes around comes around, reinstating him into political box will not help president but somewhat creates more grievances and rejections like before, because after the vetting process, the finding show that he is not fit to be a minister of Justice.
    Besides he has no legal paper to safeguard his critic and involvement in those national sensitive issues. so your argument is baseless and have no value to question the constitutional mandate of the assembly. if there is constitutional infringement in our vague TC, our president is the first man to shoulder the responsibility. otherwise there is no constitutional order in our system.
    Remember the African proverb, “he who throws stone in the market will hit his relative.” this will remind Telar of his deeds once when he serving as presidential advisor for legal matters. know that falling of dry leaves is a warning sign for the green ones.
    so president is doing all to make sure that his seat is safeguarded to the time he wants. political friends are real enemies.

  9. Michael Abu says:

    It’s very unfortunate to learn that people like Mr. Okuk whom the country can put hope on them cannot understand the way the check and unbalance work and want to mislead the masses. What was done by the parliament was a way forward for the country and was in the best interest of the people of South Sudan.
    There is nowhere in the world that you can be hired as a holder of a credential that you never have and be left untouched except may be in South Sudan where one can’t be prosecuted for lying on his/her academic credential.
    Also, ministry of justice department can’t be lead by someone without the legal background and it was very important for parliament to pay close attention to who will be the head of that department. But if Mr. Okuk think that they way the president misused the constitution is a way forward, then there might be something wrong with what he study while he was a PHD candidate at the University of Nairobi or his inability to understand the legal system which he need not to waste his time on writing and let South Sudanese with legal background take care of it.
    Bringing Telar Riing Deng back as presidential justice adviser cannot be something that one can be proud of it. Telar can feel the shame that he brought to himself and his family as well as the president who known him as a lawyer while he was not. No one trust Telar Riing Deng anymore in South Sudan and it is bad idea for president Kiir to associate himself again with Telar Riing Deng as his trustworthy right hand man.
    Telar can remain as president Kiir friend or clan mate but he is not fit to lead any government agency in South Sudan if there was good governance. But as we know that our government is led by crooks. It is inevitable those crooks are still finding their way back to where they were not needed and we don’t need to encourage their practice.

  10. chol kur says:

    a battle of titans….with Dr. Okuk, the formerly self appointed critic of SPLM dysfunctional government and our giant hero Dr. Adwok Nyaba whom Dr James Okuk is indirectly slicing at. Am a geologist by training, neither a politician nor a lawyer, so I will just spectate on this Telar Riing re-appointment circus.

    However, my piece of advice to my learned statesmen will be reconciliation. I would love the day Dr Adwok, Dr. Okuk and Dr. Lam will speak in one voice as a family with the rest of Junubin. Unity is strength, hatred/rivalry/needless differences aren’t the way forward. words from a youngster who have been reading your articles over the years. Chol, from Toronto, Canada.


  11. Issac Deng says:

    The one time sharp tongue James Okuki Suleiman, the enemy of president Kiir’s government has become timid, surprisingly. It is my hope that you are not breaking for bread by adopting the sickening African elites’ selfish attitude of “if you can’t beat them, then join them to eat.” By doign so, I am afraid that would be a betrayal of your PhD education.

    With this said, it is clear from your article you are aiding the abuse of the constitution by president Kiir and his fraud legal guru Telar Deng. The question begs itself, why at this time? Again, your narrow interpretation and analysis is simplistic. You don’t have to go to school to decipher the constitutionality of reappointment of a fraud lawyer which is going to set a bad precedent because we are likely to see the supreme document of the land continually abused, and those dismissed corrupt ministers rewarded.

    By the way, there is an old proverb that says too much of anything is bad. This is irrefutably evident in South Sudan, just in case you are scared to death to speak up your mind after being physically and emotionally molested by the Tiger boys.

    Granted, any leader given excess powers and absolute power will definitely abuse it. If our president is truly a believer and professed Christian, he must learn to share and delegate these unnecessary excessive powers he has been enjoying and abusing it. Thus, it is time to revisit this deceitful interim constitution and put it on a weighing scale. It has up to this moment served enough interests of few individuals, and being exploited for personal gains since 2005. This is the right time our peace loving people to reduce the executive powers and call for meaningful political reform now.

  12. well done, James Okuk, you have done very good Job Man, Dinka Bahr el ghazal they have no ears and eyes, what kind of people are these?
    those People with their Grand-Father Mr. Mochuth Kiir Marangdit, they are not learning .

  13. Mankien town says:

    To Dr. Okuk.
    you seem to talk like rebel spokesperson called Gordon Buay who tried to accuse Nuer Politicians in order to get job from Kirr Government,
    you claim to be a PhD while you don’t know that, when you are doing an interview, there must be a best candidate among the rest.
    I therefore advise you to recheck your academic background, otherwise it will be like Kirr’s PhD that he poached in kisumu, Kenya, in 2010 that give him a title called Dr. Kirr for some month before he discovered that it was an abuse for him to be called Dr when he did not go to school at all.

    Mankien Town.

  14. Malith Alier says:

    This argument about single approval as one body is false. The appointed ministers are individuals with varying characters and must be vetted and approved individually. There is no a hundred percent agreement in political matters and that is why we can see a few guys blindly supporting Telar, the SPLM black sheep, who cannot even earn a single vote in his own constituency of Yirol. He can only be compared to Joseph Kamotho of Kenya in the 90s.

  15. Arkangelo says:

    Dr Okuk,
    Telar is not a lawyer as proved by the vetting committee. Telar himself testified he does not have a Law Degree (LLB or JD). He confessed that he only attempted to study law course after he graduated with his BA. To date, Telar has never dared to deny or attempt to disprove this fact, and his former consistent statement remained to that effect. If Telar has a Law Degree, let him come out clear and loud, by giving his critics and the people of South Sudan details of his Law Degree.
    It is unproductive to try to argue (un)constitutionality of vetting, when he (Telar) cannot prove that he has a Law Degree as a prerequsite for his appointment. This is the first issue that Telar has to satisfy, before engaging the vetting issues.
    Telar’s case must be thoroughly investigated by a competent and an impartial body. I personally strongly believed that Telar is an imposter and does not hold a Law Degree. If my belief is true, then he is a criminal and must be prosecuted. In civilized countries, where democracy and rule of law is the norm, Telar would have been under investigations and should not be appointed in any civil position until all is sorted out. If found guilty, Telar must be ordered to repay the difference between what he has actually received while imposing as a Legal advisor minus what he would have received as a non-legal advisor (plus allowances and other benefits) to the people of South Sudan.
    Now look at what our so called President has done! His (Kiir) re-appointment of Telar as his Legal adviser is far beyong what any competent and normal person could dare to venture into. Kiir actions raises a lot of questions than answers.
    They (Kiir and Telar) are actually conniving something criminal in common. They need each other to avoid detection, but more so to play ‘scape goating’ in the future.

  16. Arangelo,

    Let’s argue with a substance of law in our hands. Could you quote any article of the constitution or law that stipulates that a minister has to have such and such qualification(s) and credentials for him/her to be appointed to any of the portfolios in the Republic of South Sudan?
    I went through the TCSS 2011 but failed to find any article contrarily to what I quoted. Even this constitution does not prohibit a foreigner to be appointed a minister in South Sudan. If you you want to argue from your beliefs and perceptions then I will rather excuse myself not to waste time with you.

  17. Issack Deng says:

    Who doesn’t know that it is illegal and a criminal offence worldwide to falsify educational qualification by presenting bogus degrees?

    Common sense dictates that it is unfair to use fake documents to obtain well-paid government or private sector jobs. Equally, Arkangelo is stating facts by saying it is morally wrong to submit phony academic credentials that did not meet that specific office standard. The fraud candidate in question, therefore, must pay a heavy price for defrauding the South Sudanese people and government millions of Pounds.

    Dr. James Okuki Suleiman, PhD, you never cease to amaze. I pity the students you are teaching at the University of Juba. As a lecturer, you were expected to write sense and hold high moral standard all the time as role model, and not aiding crooks or criminals who are abusing the interim constitution as they see fit their own narrow self-interest.

  18. GatCharwearbol says:

    Dr. James Okuk;

    Indeed, there is no article in our TCSS 2011 that says each individual shall go throught vetting process individually. On the same token, there is no law that says that a minister does not have to have certain qualifications. If there is one, please let us where it is in TCSS? I would like to read it for my personal benefit and to prove your case right.

    All this begs the question: What happens to the common laws? Shouldn’t we also use our heads to differentiate right from wrong?You have very valid argument and I do understand where you are coming from. But it is our collective duty to do the right thing rather than according to the book. TCSS is written by human and not by God.

    In my humble opinion, I think that you are just succumbing to the temptation of being a yes-man like most of the SPLM prominent figures. Yet I understand that there are no permanet friends and enemies in politic. That is understandable and it up to you to join whatever side any time whether for good or ill intentions. The decision is totally up to you. But it is true that there is no clear stipulation in TCSS that spelt the vetting process whether it should be done individually or group-wise. The argument can go both ways.

  19. malith Alier says:

    To Okuki,
    Number one is the constitution as a principal guide to law making
    Two is legislative law by parliament
    Then the statutes by courts
    Don’t fool us around with wholesale constitutional order because you do not go and lift out whatever is in the constitution and call it law for application in specific situations like the one of Minister vetting
    As for now accept the action of parliament vetting committee and subsequent rejection of one minister as law and order until changed.

  20. Dr JAC Ramba says:

    Dear SPLM Oyee zealots
    Politics with SPLM can be terribly funny and unpredictable. Not too long some of those now condemning Dr. Okuk on this forum wanted him dead simply because he was critical of President Salva Kiir Mayardit. Held in a filthy container and denied justice for couple of weeks, none of these names were anywhere to fight for him.
    Now he has written an article that some think is in support of the same President Salva Kiir Mayardit, and if I am not mistaken some of the same people who celebrated this young man’s misfortune one and a half years ago are now again attacking him, but this time for the opposite reason.
    When he opposed Kiir the whole SPLM was up on his throat, now he seems to have supported the president and SPLM Chairman, the same SPLM guys are mad at him again. Where are you heading, my dear SPLM friends!!!

  21. diktor agarab says:

    What do you expect from a third-rated PhD holder? This article just serves to reinforce my impression of PhDs who don’t conduct research not published in peer-reviewed journals. No wonder they think that their opinions are gems when their opinions are nothing but pigs’ droppings.

    Where did Okuk get the inane impression that vetting of ministers have to be collective? All over the world, vetting is done singly because candidates are different. This is a trivial fact that seems to have eluded Mr. Okuk. However, I’ll admit that since Mr. Okuk is not fluent in the queen’s language, perhaps he should write in Shilluk so that we understand him better.

    Additionally, if Mr. Okuk wants to be taken seriously he should start publishing in peer-reviewed journals where his opinions will be seriously challenged instead of publishing opinion pieces.

    Lastly, Dr. so and so, PhD is frankly an overkill. Seems Mr. Okuk suffers from a massive dose of inferiority complex that he will want to remind everyone that he is a PhD holder.

    Dr. Nyaba is right. Mr. Okuk is a PhD holder with no leg to stand on because now all he is doing is resorting to sycophancy in order to “eat” as he found out the hard way that opposition to tyranny doesn’t pay.

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