JUBA - Civil Society activists in Central Equatoria state on Tuesday announced the launch of an initiative that they hope will get state lawmakers to spend the three-month parliamentary recess in their home constituencies, instead of traveling abroad.
Edmund Yakani, the director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) told a news conference in Juba that his organization is teaming up with other local groups to monitor the number of public events and meetings that state lawmakers organize and attend in their constituencies between July and September.
Even one meeting a month would indicate that a lawmaker was involved in his or her constituency during the recess period, Yakani said.
The head of CEPO said there is plenty for MPs to do in their constituencies during the recess: they can explain to their constituents what steps are being taken to end South Sudan’s conflict or "think of talking to our citizens about the continued economic pressure as the rate of dollar is so expensive," he said.
Most state MPs unreachable
Six days after Central Equatoria's parliamentary recess began, most state lawmakers were unreachable. South Sudan in Focus was able to contact the state speaker, Nafthali Hassan Gale, who said he was in Uganda on a private visit.
Central Equatoria member of parliament Jacob Aligo is in South Sudan, but not in his constituency of Yei. Aligo said not all lawmakers leave South Sudan during the three-month recess. He said that, just because he is outside of his constituency, does not mean he is shirking his duties.
"Some of us have extra duties, and you have to balance between extra duties and the MP's role. So if I've not been now in my constituency, it doesn't mean i don't go there," Aligo said.
Under the CEPO plan, which is a first in South Sudan, members of the public will be able to phone a hotline - 095-552-9003 - or send an email to email@example.com to report what constituency work a member of parliament is doing during his or her break.
Yakani said he hopes other states will follow Central Equatoria's lead and start similar initiatives.