Sudan: Time to Begin a National Constitutional Review
In less than a year’s time, Sudan will need a new constitution – or (more likely) two. The Interim National Constitution expires on 9 July 2011. On that date, if the southern electorate votes as expected and all subsequently goes smoothly, the new Republic of South Sudan, or whatever name is chosen by its people, will come into being.
Northern Sudan, meanwhile, will enter a new political era. It will inherit many issues of national identity and governance, almost certainly unresolved.
For the last five years, the CPA has been the central pillar of Sudan’s governance. Its centerpiece is the relationship between north and south. Additional buttresses include the Abyei protocol, the Popular Consultations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreements, and a succession of attempts to reach a peace agreement for Darfur. All of these latter mechanisms and efforts are based on the assumption that the CPA bears the greater weight of the Sudanese political system. With the partial exception of Abyei, all deal with peace and governance within northern Sudan.
When the CPA passes into history, the northern Sudanese will find themselves in a new and dramatically reconfigured political landscape. The peoples of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Eastern Sudan and Darfur will be worried that the mechanisms for addressing their grievances, potentially workable as part of the overall CPA architecture, will no longer function. Without the central pillar, they worry, the buttresses will fall.
The CPA doesn’t provide strong mechanisms for addressing the challenge of what happens next in northern Sudan, following southern secession. There is just one constitutionally-mandated procedure, which is the National Constitutional Review Commission, specified in the CPA’s Article 2.12. The first task of the NCRC is to incorporate the CPA into the INC. The second is to review state constitutions to ensure their compatibility with the INC. These have been done by the NCRC’s legal team.
A third task is laid out in subsection 12.10:
“Without prejudice to the provisions of the Peace Agreement, as a subsequent task and during the course of the six year Interim Period, the National Constitutional Review Commission shall be responsible for organizing an inclusive Constitutional Review Process. The process must provide for political inclusiveness and public participation.”
This task has not begun. The NCRC needs greater capacity (it is not only a task for lawyers) and above all, high-level political backing, to undertake this task.
The inclusive and participatory constitutional review should not wait for the end of the Interim Period. Nor need it await the outcome of the referendum. The issues are known in advance. The more that the discussions can be substantively underway, the more that northern Sudan’s diverse communities, many of them fearful of what the post-referendum future holds in store, can become engaged in a national debate on their collective future, the better.