By Deng Machol
Juba – The proposed 2023 general elections, expected to allow South Sudanese to vote in a democratically elected leadership, continues to suffer bigly from an unclear fate with the collegiate presidency exhibiting mixed views over its feasibility.
According to the implementation matrix of the September 2018 agreement, South Sudan was supposed to go to polls in 2022 for the first democratic general elections as a sovereign state after implementation of key provisions of the agreement.
However, critical key provisions of the agreement have remained unimplemented, include unification of the former warring forces, repatriation of the refugees and displaced persons, conduct of population census and development of the country’s permanent constitution.
In addition, the Political Parties Act of 2012 must be reviewed and approved by the parliament to enable free and democratic registration of political parties in South Sudan. But the parliament is yet to enact the political parties’ bill.
This caused a disagreements among parties’ leaders from different scripts about whether or not elections should be held in 2023.
On several occasions, President Salva Kiir has reiterated the plan to hold general elections by the end of the transitional period and called for his ruling party’s members to prepare for the race.
“We need to embark on peace. When we are done with the interim period in which we are in now, we shall straight away go for the elections,” said the President during an engagement event with the SPLM Youth League.
Kiir last week told the UN Security Council delegations that the much-anticipated general elections would take place in 2023 as planned.
In what appears to be a response to Kiir’s statement, Vice president Dr. Riek Machar, and Vice president Ms. Rebecca Nyandeng, a peace partner has casted doubts that the stipulated timeline couldn’t be possible for a polls due to the chain of pending task.
Dr. Machar says implementation of security arrangements is critical for a fair, free, transparent elections.
There will be no fair and free elections in 2023 unless key provisions in the 2018 peace deal are fully implemented,” Dr. Machar told the country’s fifth Governors’ forum in Juba on Monday.
“For us to have fair, free, transparent elections, you must have security forces who will protect the state, its people and that will not interfere with the electoral process,” he added. “If we are going to go for elections, we must complete in the shortest possible time the security arrangement.”
The country’s five year old conflict has killed nearly 400,000 people and uprooted four million people from their homes – both internal and external, ruined the economy.
According to UNHCR reports, more than 2 million South Sudanese refugees in the neighboring countries.
However, million of refugees remains staying in the foreign countries despite the fragile 2018 peace deal. They don’t want to come back to an environment when they see they might run back for refuge.”
For her part, the Vice President for Gender and Youth Cluster – Rebecca Nyandeng – agrees with Dr. Machar, argues that most of the voters are still in the refugee camps.
“We have a lot of challenges, people talk about elections, you cannot prepare for election before we bring our people from the refugee camp and our people in the displaced camps to be settled,” said Nyandeng.
Meanwhile, Mr. Edmund Yakani, Executive Director for Community for Empowerment Organization (CEPO) echoed Dr. Machar’s opinion.
“The conducive environment for fair elections is not attained up now,” said Yakani. The essential provisions of the peace agreement that constitute conducive environment are centered on the followings actions, effective implementation of the security arrangements, effective deliverance of the proposed laws, policy and institutional reforms, an availability of unrestricted civic space where freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression,” he added.