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Opinion South Sudan

What is expected of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly after its Reconstitution?

By Hon. Juol Nhomngek Gec,

Juba, South Sudan,

South Sudan President Kiir speaks to parliament in 2015 (Fie photo)
South Sudan President Kiir speaks to parliament in 2015 (Fie photo)

May 14, 2021 — In answering the question posed in the title of this article which doubts the ability of the Reconstituted Transitional National Legislative Assembly (R-TNLA) to deliver, there is a need for us to analyze the laws and the Revitalized Agreement which gives functions and mandate to Members of R-TNLA to do their work in implementing the Revitalized Agreement. 

To begin with, the R-TNLA is established under the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), 2018 in Article 1.14.1. This Article provides that the TNLA and the Council of the States are to be established. The R-TNLA and Council of States, are Lower and the Upper Houses respectively. 

The Lower House and Upper House play complementary roles and it is the purpose they are treated jointly as if they are one House. Article 1.14.2 of the R-ARCSS of the Revitalized Agreement provides that the TNLA shall be expanded to five hundred and fifty (550) members and then reconstituted.  It should be noted that the Council of States, which is part of the R-TNLA has recently been increased by adding additional 100 members, which pushes the total number of the R-TNLA to 650 Members in total. 

In pursuance to Article 14.2 the President expanded and reconstituted the TNLA on Monday, May 10, 2021. The expansion and reconstitution of the TNLA came after a long delay that took about one year and half. After expansion and reconstitution, the Country now has the National Parliament of 650 Members. Nonetheless, as the country is still waiting for the members of the National Parliament to be sworn in and assume their duties, other issues from the citizens are arising and they are flooding the social media.

Citizens in many of their comments express skepticisms concerning the ability of the R-TNLA to deliver.  Majority of them don’t believe that there is a Parliament in place though they praise individuals appointed recently. Their doubt has arisen on whether the R-TNLA will address the issues or numerous problems affecting the country given the serious failures of the previous Transitional National Legislature (TNL). 

Besides, the matters are further complicated by the big size of the membership (650 members) of the R-TNLA, which the public doubts whether it can help the country in fighting for transparency and accountability on their behalf to achieve the reforms as provided in the Revitalized Agreement. This doubt has been aired out openly by attacking the R-TNLA and also ridiculing it that the present Parliament (RTNLA) is just intended to accommodate the politicians. 

The public has even gone ahead to ask several questions to bring out their disappointment with the R-TGoNU. One of the questions they are constantly asking on social media is, will it not be the business as usual for the R-TNLA? This question shows that citizens don’t trust the National Parliament of the Republic of South Sudan. In my view, the public is justified to be skeptical because once bitten twice shy. 

The public was injured by the previous National Parliament and it is not ready to assume the risk voluntarily. Members of the public therefore want to show their disapproval openly so that they have the ground to argue in future. In fact, the public is aware of the fact that Members of the National Parliament have never effectively represented the Country and their Constituencies since 2005. 

The failure of members of the Parliament has come as a result of their resignation to the truth that they cannot do anything and opted to cooperate with the Executive in destroying the country. This caused their failure to uphold their oversight role and by implication abrogated their duties towards the country and citizens. 

Members of the previous National Parliament did not cooperate with the Executive voluntarily and freely but they allowed themselves to be securely placed into the pocket of the Executive and uncontrollably began to dance to the tones of the Executive. Therefore, allowing themselves to be paid in lump sum with foreign currency that is not part of our money as a way of practically negotiating their silence was the beginning of the governance crisis in the country.

The worse thing was that accepting the payment without any column in the national budget was also the beginning of blunder by the National Parliament. What the Members of the previous National Legislative Assembly did not understand was that they were indirectly being bribed. 

The fact of bribery only came out after receiving money that made them fall into deafening silence. With hard currency talking they could not gather courage to speak freely during the Parliamentary sessions though they know very well that the members of Parliament enjoy immunity to speak as they wish in the Parliament. 

The silence of Members of the previous National Parliament gave the executive a leeway to ruthlessly run amok in ransacking the country of all its resources with impunity. In addition, the Executive destroyed the economy of the country by creating hyperinflation in the country through their uneconomic activities that were not healthy for the national economy. 

The above problems are stated in this work so that the incoming members of the R-TNLA should know that they have an enormous duty to save this country from collapsing under both economic and war crises. The country has been left in tatters as we are experiencing now and it needs the sacrifice from the R-TNLA if it is to move forward. 

The question is what will the R-TNLA do to move the Country forward? This question requires us to discuss the functions and mandate of the present Parliament which brings in the question whether the R-TNLA can make any difference from the past National Parliament. To begin with, Article 1.14.6 of the R-ARCSS provides that the duration and term of the reconstituted TNL shall run concurrently with that of the R-TGoNU, as per the terms of the R-ARCSS, until elections are held. 

In connection to Article 1,14,6, Article 1.1.2 of the R-ARCSS provides that the Transitional Period shall be thirty-six (36) months preceded by eight (8) months of a Pre-Transitional Period. The Transitional Period began on February 22, 2020 when the Vice Presidents were sworn in. Thus, the R-TNLA is now one year and Two (2) months and about twenty-two (22) days into the thirty-six (36) Months of Transitional Period. 

According to the R-ARCSS or the Revitalized Agreement, the R-TNLA has a lot of work to do during its duration and term. The R-ARCSS provides that the reconstituted TNLA, shall, in conduct of its business, support the Agreement and enact legislation that enables and assists the transitional processes and reforms as described in the Agreement (Article 1.14.8, R-ARCSS, 2018).

Article 1.14.8 of the R-ARCSS therefore gives us a summary of what the R-TNLA is supposed to do between now and the end of the Transitional Period. The R-ARCSS imposes several duties on the R-TNLA to perform several duties and mandates. The R-ARCSS and Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 as amended impose duties and mandate on the R-TNLA, which I will summarize into four in this article. Hence, the main duties and responsibilities of the National Parliament (R-TNLA) are—

First, to make laws and policies. The members of the National Parliament of South Sudan during the Transitional Period have the duty to enact new laws and policies that can enable the process of reforms to go on smoothly. Members of the National Parliament can do this by participating in review of the existing laws to be in line with the R-ARCSS and debate in the Parliament the process of making laws such as the Permanent Constitution. For instance, the Revitalized Agreement requires that the R-TNLA be transformed into the Constituent Assembly on the 27th Month of the Transitional Period for the purpose of adopting the Permanent Constitution (Article 6.11, R-ARCSS). 

Second, Members of the National Parliament have the duty to scrutinize the work of the Government or the Executive. The scrutiny of the Executive’s work includes the assessment of the government expenditure in line with Chapter IV of the Revitalized Agreement on the general principles on resource, economic and financial management. Thus—

The political leaders and stakeholders shall ensure that the R-TGoNU is transparent and accountable in dealing with legal, institutional, policies and procedures, which must be made fully functional for sustainable development (Article 4.1.1, R-ARCSS, 2018). The sustainable development mentioned in Article 4.1.1 of the R-ARCSS requires the members of the R-TNLA to actively engage the concern National Ministries to make sure that the management of resources is transparent and Ministry and other bodies in charge are accountable purposely to improve the welfare of South Sudan citizens, to ensure good governance and achieve sustainable development of the country. 

In achieving proper management of resources, the R-TNLA is very important and R-TNLA can be the real engine for the success of the reforms, which the Revitalized Agreement expects them to do. The R-TNLA does its work of scrutinizing and analyzing the work of the Government Ministries and Presidency by asking questions of ministers and debating. The R-TNLA will have to do this through the specialized parliamentary committees in the Parliament. 

Third, another duty of Members of the R-TNLA is to effectively represent their Constituents. They do this by seeking to address concerns, issues, questions and ideas raised by the people they represent in their electoral region, states and counties. Members of the R-TNLA may ask a question of a minister in Parliament or contact a public sector agency to raise an issue about a constituent concern. They may also provide information directing a constituent to the appropriate department to try to resolve an issue. 

The duty to represent their constituents means that members of R-TNLA have to visit their constituencies as frequently as possible and inform them on all the issues being handled by the Parliament. This will include seeking for their views on issues affecting them. The other duty to represent their constituents is that the MPs have to make sure that the reconciliation and national healing process begins within their constituencies before the end of the Transitional Period. 

The fourth and finally duty of members of the National Parliament is to represent their Parties as the majority of members of Parliament belong to a political party and contribute to the views and policies of their political party. 

Members of R-TNLA are required by the R-ARCSS to robustly engage in their work of transforming the system to ensure the delivery of effective services that will increase employment opportunities, eradicate poverty and as a result reduce income inequalities in the country. The R-TNLA has to work hard to transform the government system to ensure that it is responsive and accountable to the citizens.

Before I conclude this work, it is important to note that the R-TNLA imposes greater responsibility to fight for the system to be transparent and accountable. This means that the R-TNLA has to work hard to strengthen their oversight, scrutiny and evaluative roles. The R-TNLA will have to develop a stronger oversight ability by requiring deeper scrutiny by committees, more effective public involvement and hearings, and more effective recommendations and resolutions by the Houses and then strong follow mechanisms.

The role of R-TNLA is to allocate more time for the oversight role and activities while enhancing the capacity of its members to ensure effectiveness, deeper insights into issues at hand, and to actively involve the public through submissions on issues of public importance. 

In summary, the answer to the question as to what is expected of members of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) after the reconstitution? Members of the R-TNLA are expected to perform three main roles as parliamentarians, as representatives of their constituents and as members of their political parties. In that capacity, they have to do the following according to Article 57 of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011: 

(a) oversee the performance of the National Government institutions; (b) approve plans, programs and policies of the National Government; (c) approve budgets; (d) ratify international treaties, conventions and agreements; (e) adopt resolutions on matters of public concern; (f) summon Ministers to answer questions of members of the Assembly on matters related to their ministries; (g) interrogate Ministers about their performance or the performance of their ministries; (h) approve appointments as required by this Constitution or the law; (i) cast a vote of no confidence against the either President or Vice Presidents and any Minister. The vote of no confidence must be the last resort and for the benefit of the country; (j) enact legislation to regulate the conditions and terms of service of the Judiciary and its oversight mechanisms; and (k) perform any other function as determined by this Constitution or the law.

NB//: The writer is a Member of Parliament (R-TNLA), Juba. He represents the County of Cueibet County, Lakes State, South Sudan. He can be reached via: Tel: +211922772165. Email: nhomngekjuol@gmail.com; Facebook: Juol Nhomngek


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