South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Monday reconstituted the National Legislative Assembly, one day after he dissolved the 400-member parliament in accordance with the revitalized peace agreement.
The new parliament must now accommodate 550 members, including additional lawmakers from the formerly warring parties of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Government (SPLM-IG), the SPLM-In Opposition (SPLM-IO), the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), Other Opposition Parties (OPP), and Former Detainees.
The former transitional government nominated 332 members, the SPLM-IO nominated 128, the SSOA got 50, the OPP got 30, and the Former Detainees nominated 10.
Lam Akol, head of the National Democratic Movement, a member of the umbrella opposition group South Sudan Opposition Alliance, said the parliament should have been reconstituted last year under the peace agreement, noting opposition parties submitted their nominations several months ago but Kiir’s ruling SPLM-IG party delayed the process because they had not nominated their members.
Akol told South Sudan in Focus that Kiir dissolved parliament now in order to impress U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Ambassador Donald Booth and UK Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Ambassador Robert Fairweather, both of whom arrived in Juba on Saturday.
“We are now implementing the activities of the pre-transitional period rather than implementing the activities of the transitional period, so 18 months have gone and we are still talking of formation of government — what we should have done about 15 months before that. There is no political will to implement the agreement, and the time is ticking and they were talking about extending the transitional period,” said Akol.
Responding to the agreement’s obligations at this late date is not helpful, according to James Okuk, a senior research fellow at the Juba-based Center for Strategic Policy Studies. Okuk is not optimistic about the prospects of an oversized parliament working in the interests of the South Sudanese people, noting that the lawmakers are appointed, not elected, and that most of them are holdovers.
“We know their attitudes and we know their behaviors. The best they are going to tax from their country is demanding for loans — you may call it car loans or also for medical bills — and this will really consume a lot of money from the government, given the fact that this parliament has been expanded to 550 members,” Okuk told South Sudan in Focus.
Okuk said if the parliament wants to be taken seriously, it must impeach ministers and fire other top officials “who do not respect public property and who do not respect the laws in the country,” adding, “that’s the only time I will say we have a real parliament.”
Although the parties to the peace deal took a long time to reconstitute parliament, Juba resident Oliver Joseph said he is glad it finally happened.
“We need those appointed to look at how we can co-exist again. They should raise up those issues in parliament and how we can come up with the strategies to calm the situation in those different areas. Second of all, we need to look at education as a whole, we need to add more budget [dollars] into the education system,” Joseph told South Sudan in Focus.
Data Gordon, an activist with the OKAY Foundation, a nonprofit that deals with policy advocacy, said he wants the new parliament to take up policy decisions that were left hanging by the previous parliament.
“There is also the youth policy, the youth enterprise development fund, the nurses and midwifery policy, as well as the HIV/AIDs policy because this conflict has made interventions in most of these areas a nightmare, so if they can focus on these it’s very important. Secondly, let’s have a national budget because for almost a year or so the country is running not on a national budget,” Gordon told South Sudan in Focus.
Analysts have said the lack of a functioning legislature over the past several months has made it nearly impossible for lawmakers to pass laws or approve sweeping reforms stipulated in the revitalized peace agreement.