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South Sudan: Carter Center Urges Broad Participation in Assembly's Hearing on Political Parties Bill

CONTACTS: Juba: Owen McDougall, + 211 955 705 582; Khartoum: Jeffrey Mapendere + 249 902 323 847; Atlanta: Deborah Hakes, +1 404 420 5124

The Carter Center commends South Sudan's National Legislative Assembly for its decision to convene a public hearing on the draft Political Parties Bill and solicit input from political parties, civil society, and citizens. This is an important opportunity for South Sudanese to provide input and demonstrate citizens' interest in the political process. The Carter Center urges interested stakeholders to review the bill and participate in the public hearing, which will be held Feb. 9-10 in Juba.

With the passage of the Political Parties Bill by South Sudan's Council of Ministers and the submission of the law to the National Legislative Assembly in December 2011, the Republic of South Sudan took an important step in establishing a framework for political competition in the world's newest country. After the completion of a first reading of the draft bill in parliament in early January 2012, the assembly recently decided to convene the public hearing.

The Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs, led by Hon. Dengtiel Ayuen Kur, will convene the hearing at Home and Away Business Center. The International Republican Institute is assisting in its facilitation. Interested political parties, civil society groups, and citizens should contact the Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs regarding participation in the hearing and the possibility of obtaining a copy of the bill beforehand. Informed and reasoned debate on issues affecting governance is critical to building a democratic society in South Sudan. Holding such public hearings is an important means for South Sudan to fulfill its obligation to uphold the rights of freedom of opinion and expression, established by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The committee has indicated that following the hearing, it intends to review stakeholder input and enact revisions to the bill, where appropriate, prior to bringing the bill back to the National Assembly for a second reading.

The current version of the Political Parties Bill mandates the creation of a Political Parties Affairs Council (PPAC), which is tasked with administering the registration and regulation of political parties active in South Sudan. All political parties are required to register within 90 days of the formation of the PPAC. Thus, any aspiring party would have to hold its founding meeting, elect its leadership, agree on a party constitution, and obtain a minimum of 500 signatures from supporters across at least five states within 90 days. Notably, the current bill is silent on whether new parties can be formed after the 90-day deadline or whether party mergers are possible. These two issues merit further discussion by all stakeholders.

The Carter Center affirms the critical importance of incorporating input from South Sudanese stakeholders into the draft bill as part of an inclusive process to determine how the government regulates political parties. The international community, including organizations like The Carter Center, hopes to contribute to this process by highlighting international good practice in political party law and emphasizing international principles that reinforce the legitimacy of the process.

Some key principles to be mindful of when reviewing and providing feedback on the draft Political Parties Law include:

  • Transparency – In the regulation of political parties, it is important that there be broad transparency such that parties and citizens understand the system and can be confident that the rule of law prevails in regulating activities. While the draft Political Parties Bill requires parties to disclose their funding sources and outline in their constitutions how they will select their leaders, the PPAC itself could promote transparency by opening some of its key meetings to the public and releasing copies of its minutes upon request. Consideration should also be given to obligating political parties to disclose their finances publicly and regularly.
  • Inclusiveness – Ensuring that all sectors of South Sudanese society are able to found and participate in political parties is critical to facilitating democratic political competition. While the draft bill protects the right of South Sudanese to become political party members, several classes of persons are excluded, including members of the armed forces, justices and judges, legal advisors and public attorneys in the Ministry of Justice, civil servants at all levels, and diplomats of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The public hearing gives stakeholders a chance to offer their views on the appropriateness of these exclusions. In addition, the bill could benefit from more explicit guidelines for female participation in political parties. This would ensure that the government meets commitments in the constitution to defend women's rights to equal participation in public life.[1]
  • Impartiality – Creating safeguards to ensure that the PPAC acts in a neutral and impartial manner is key to ensuring that this body and the government build confidence in their independence and legitimacy. There are several ways to achieve this and in many countries a successful approach has been to include nomination procedures for the PPAC's commissioners that incorporate non-ruling party input. The current bill gives the president the power to nominate commissioners, subject to approval by two-thirds of parliament. Another approach could be considered to provide opposition parties the chance to nominate some of the members or to agree by consensus on a list of nominees.

The parliament, particularly through the actions of the Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs, has demonstrated its eagerness for citizen and political party input on the bill. It is incumbent on all stakeholders to capitalize on this opportunity and demonstrate support for future public participation regarding South Sudan's democratic laws.

Background on the Carter Center Mission 
Following observation of the 2010 national elections and 2011 referendum, The Carter Center has been working in South Sudan to monitor the transition period, including the constitutional reform process, at the invitation of President Salva Kiir and the Government of South Sudan. The international observation mission is supported by a joint Memorandum of Understanding between The Carter Center and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on behalf of the government. The mission assesses the transitional process in South Sudan based on the country's obligations to democratic practices and civic participation contained in national legislation, and on universally-recognized tenants of international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Center issues periodic statements on its findings, available at



The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. The Carter Center began working in Sudan in 1986 on the Sasakawa-Global 2000 agricultural project and for more than 20 years its health and peace programs have focused on improving health and preventing and resolving conflicts in Sudan. Please visit to learn more about The Carter Center.

[1] The Transitional Constitution of the Republick of South Sudan 2011, Article 16 (3),

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