South Sudan’s Constitutional Genesis in the Context of Legal Pluralism

This billboard is part of the on-going 'constitutional dialogue' campaign conducted by (I)NGOs, Juba/South Sudan 2013

Katrin Seidel's current research focuses on ‘South Sudan’s constitutional genesis in the context of legal pluralism’. South Sudanese plural legal reality leaves the emerging state with the demanding task of negotiating the idea of the ‘sovereign territorial state’ amongst the manifold social actors and to formulate a common legal framework incorporating existing local normative orders. In order to better understand how new forms of statehood emerge as the result of negotiation processes between and among local, national and international actors, central research questions are: What is the institutional design for the negotiation spaces in which manifold legal perceptions and values interact? How and to what extent are the South Sudanese plural normative realities reflected in the legal frameworks, in particular in South Sudanese pluralistic judicial bodies? How does the state acknowledge diverse local judicial institutions and represent itself ideologically and organizationally in relation to them?

Ministry Road, Juba, April 2015

The research project is directed towards three intertwined issues:

Constitutionalism in emerging South Sudan 

The study focuses on constitution making efforts of emerging South Sudan in light of the struggle to find a societal consensus on norms and values of the state. An assumption in my study is that, in spite of existing power relations, processes of utilizing spaces in order to negotiate different beliefs could lead to an identification of mutual values in light of and respect for the different moral beliefs.

The constitutional drafting process and the institutions or negotiation forums established for this purpose form a unique mixture. In order to grasp the complexity of activities that accompany this process, attention is drawn not just to negotiations by the manifold South Sudanese actors, but to influences of regional and international actors as well. Who negotiates the constitution, when and in what way? At constitution-implementation levels the research looks into the creation of normative and judicial constellations. 

State-recognized local (“customary”) law and dispute resolution mechanisms  

Since the emerging state has to deal with existing local normative orders, one focus of the study lies on the de jure and de facto efforts of integrating “customary law” and “traditional authority”, including their dispute resolution mechanisms and negotiation forums, into the state legal order, and in particular into the South Sudanese judiciary. In the emerging judicial forums, the interfaces of local and statutory legal thinking will be examined. Special attention is directed towards the effects that the de jure legal plural arrangement has on the actors involved and on the various normative orders.  

Post-conflict reconciliation efforts and nascent citizenship policies and practices

The study is further concerned with the complex processes of negotiating ‘citizenship’ or ‘nationality’ since South Sudan’s declaration of independence in July 2011. In the context of imagining and constructing the new state, citizenship policies are embedded in complex power relations, shaped not only by South Sudanese collective and individual actors, but also by regional and international political actors. How does the emerging state de jure and de facto deal with existing plurality, e.g. with the challenging question of citizenship for cross-border and pastoral local communities as well as displaced persons and descendants of intra-African migrants?

Go to Editor View