The South Sudan Civil Society Forum has condemned the cancellation, over the weekend, of a panel discussion on the constitutional history of South Sudan by the National Security Service (NSS).
In a press release, the Civil Society Forum said the event which was slated for last Saturday, 17 July was to create awareness about the review of the constitution as stipulated in the revitalized peace agreement.
“The South Sudan Civil Society Forum condemns the cancellation of the Panel Discussion on Constitutional History of South Sudan on July 17, 2021, by South Sudan National Security Service. The event was part of a series of panel discussions aimed at creating an environment for youth to discuss, understand and own the constitution and its review process as provided for in the 2018 Peace Agreement,” the release read in part.
The members of the forum said elements of the NSS went to the venue and declared that there was no constitution in the country and only the parliament is allowed to deliberate on a constitution.
“National Security officials stormed the venue of the event just before its commencement ordering its immediate cancellation, on claims that there ‘There is no constitution in the country’ and that ‘Only parliament is authorized to discuss the constitution and reconstituted parliament is yet to resume sessions’. The NSS officers proceeded to confiscate the banner of the event but returned it later,” the press release said.
It added, “The Forum considers the cancellation of this event a gross violation of the constitutional rights of citizens to freedom of expression, association, and assembly and a deliberate move to undermine citizens’ participation in the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement. The Forum encourages the National Security Service to support citizens to engage in such peaceful and constructive activities to prevent citizen’s energy being negatively used in perpetuating violence, destruction, and social fragmentation.”
The Forum further urged the Security Services to uphold its founding principles as stipulated in Article 6 of the National Security Service Act, 2014, which emphasizes the need to be subject to the authority of the Constitution and the law; respect the will of the people, the rule of law, democracy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms; while exercising professionalism in its mandate which focuses on information gathering, analysis, and advice to relevant authorities.
“The Forum looks forward to improved relations between the National Security Service and the ordinary citizens as it endeavours to support citizens’ constructive and effective participation in the search for lasting peace in the country,” the statement concluded.
The South Sudan Civil Society Forum (SSCSF) is a coalition of more than 200 independent civic groups including civil society organizations, women and youth groups, academia, community-based organizations, and faith-based organizations from across South Sudan.
The SSCSF was established in December 2017 to provide unified contributions from civil society to the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) and now acts as a bridge between the peace process and the South Sudanese population.