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Africa

South Sudan lawmakers extend President Kiir's tenure to 'pursue the peace process'

Legislators in South Sudan on Tuesday (24.03.2015) voted to extend the tenure of President Salva Kiir by three years. The government said that this was necessary for the stability of the country.

For an assessment of what the extension of President Kiir's tenure means for the peace process, DW spoke to South Sudanese journalist Richard Khamis.

DW: The peace process seems to have failed but does this decision to extend President Kiir's term in office mean that all is lost?

Richard Khamis: According to my information, there are still chances. The peace process is supposed to resume some time in April under the auspices of IGAD countries and maybe some other parties may join in: the US, China or Norway – the so-called Troika. So there are still chances there.

I've talked to some members of parliament on the ground and I put the same question, asking them whether the peace process is dead. They said no. The reason why they decided to extend the tenure of the president and of the parliament is simply because they think that the government should have more time to pursue the peace process in Addis Ababa and at the same time the government needs time to prepare for elections.

Is this not a clear violation, does this not indicate that parliament can make any decision without repercussions?

Whether it's a clear violation or not, there are different arguments here: The government or parliament say they have an article, Article 55 1, of the transitional constitution of South Sudan, which mandates them as members of parliament to represent the will of the people of South Sudan. According to their interpretation, the will of the people of South Sudan is that they want peace, and the government has got to do everything possible to achieve that peace. That is why they, as members of parliament, have the obligation to extend the period of the government so that they can achieve these objectives.

Richard Khamis Journalist in Leipzig

Khamis does not think the peace process is over yet.

But the mandate to extend the term of the president, or to select the president of a country, normally rests with the people.

Absolutely. But they say because of the war situation of the country, there is no way the government or the parliament will be able to talk to the people. Because of insecurity you cannot travel into these constituencies and most people are on the run as refugees in neighboring countries or as IDPs. Given the tense situation, the war situation, the government or the parliament is not able to consult with the people on the ground and that's why they said they are using that Article 55 1 of the transitional constitution of South Sudan to represent that will of the people. That is their argument.

Is it fair to say that the parliament is just using the insecurity in the country as a reason for them to make such decisions?

The government has a more than two-third majority in parliament and they can use that for their political goals.

The United Nations released a statement on Wednesday threatening an arms embargo and sanctions against key individuals in both President Kiir and rebel leader Riek Macher's camps. Will this deter the two sides from resuming the fight?

Well, at least it is one of the ways of forcing the two sides to come to their senses, to come to the negotiating table and reach a peaceful agreement. I think this could be a kind of leverage to force these people to talk to each other genuinely for a peaceful solution to today's problems in South Sudan.

Richard Khamis is a journalist from South Sudan now based in Germany

Interview: Abu-Bakar Jalloh

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