South Sudan ratifies new constitution: minister

AFP , Thursday 7 Jul 2011

South Sudan's parliament approves a new constitution which places too much power in the president's hands

South Sudan's legislative assembly has ratified the nation-in-waiting's new constitution, the information minister said on Thursday, while denying that it put too much power in the president's hands.

"The new constitution is out," Barnaba Marial Benjamin told AFP.

Benjamin insisted that the people of the country had been widely consulted on the constitution and rejected suggestions that it concentrated too much power in the hands of the president.

"That is the choice of the people of south Sudan. They have discussed it democratically in the parliament and they have agreed to it, so that is the constitution," he said.

There has been some controversy in the run-up to the fledgling nation's full independence on Saturday, about the draft constitution, with many complaining that non-government officials had been excluded from the consultation process.

Civil society groups have warned that it could tighten the grip on power of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the ruling party of the south.

On Saturday, the Carter Centre, a monitoring group set up by former US president Jimmy Carter, repeated that warning.

"The current draft of the transitional constitution contains a number of provisions that appear likely to concentrate power in the central government," the group said in a statement.

"Carter Centre staff and observer interviews with government officials, political party members, and civil society representatives across the South indicate there is significant support for a decentralised system of government."

South Sudan's president Salva Kiir is expected to sign the constitution during Saturday's independence ceremony.

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