The South Su­dan cri­sis

CityPress - - Voices -

We were two of the many who played small roles in South Su­dan’s jour­ney to in­de­pen­dence as ob­servers of the sem­i­nal elec­toral events in the world’s new­est coun­try. It is with dis­may, there­fore, that we state that con­di­tions for cred­i­ble elec­tions do not ex­ist there. An in­clu­sive political process needs to be sought now – be­fore a new con­sti­tu­tional and political cri­sis oc­curs. In April 2010, na­tional elec­tions, though flawed in sig­nif­i­cant as­pects, in­tro­duced the first ad­min­is­tra­tion South Su­danese demo­crat­i­cally elected in decades. Dur­ing the cam­paign, the rul­ing party abused its po­si­tion of in­cum­bency and frus­trated com­pe­ti­tion in some ar­eas. Still, for most South Su­danese, it was a first, thrilling ex­pe­ri­ence of par­tic­i­pa­tory democ­racy. In Jan­uary 2011, an over­whelm­ing num­ber of South Su­danese voted to cre­ate an in­de­pen­dent coun­try. This was a re­mark­able, free ex­pres­sion of pop­u­lar sen­ti­ment judged cred­i­ble by all who ob­served. It is easy to for­get that, at the time, there were doubts as to whether the elec­tions and referendum could be held. It was only through the de­ter­mined ef­forts of the South Su­danese and in­ter­na­tional part­ners that both events were con­ducted. Across party, re­gional and eth­nic lines, the South Su­danese demon­strated suf­fi­cient unity to en­sure par­tic­i­pa­tory pro­cesses were pur­sued and ful­filled. We left our task in no doubt that the next elec­tion, then due in 2015, would face sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges. Rel­a­tive to the referendum, it would prob­a­bly be more prob­lem­atic. Hav­ing watched elec­tions through­out the world, we know that the sec­ond elec­tion is of­ten more dif­fi­cult than the first – con­sol­i­dat­ing and en­trench­ing demo­cratic val­ues and open com­pe­ti­tion is eas­ier said than done. The out­break of civil war in late 2013 made sched­uled elec­tions im­pos­si­ble. The peace agree­ment signed in 2015 re­struc­tured the timetable for elec­tions, which are now due in Au­gust next year. Un­for­tu­nately, the peace agree­ment has largely col­lapsed. To pro­ceed with elec­tions in the present en­vi­ron­ment would only en­sure fur­ther tur­moil, vi­o­lence and dis­rup­tion. Any out­come would most likely be il­le­git­i­mate. At least a year is needed to ad­e­quately prepare ad­min­is­tra­tively for a suc­cess­ful elec­tion. Much has to be done – con­stituency de­lim­i­ta­tion, adop­tion of a le­gal frame­work, new voter regis­tra­tion and pro­cure­ment of elec­toral ma­te­rial. Even this com­pressed time frame re­quires much political will and fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment. It is a sad ab­sur­dity to speak of elec­tions when hu­man­i­tar­ian fore­casts project that half of the pop­u­la­tion will face dis­place­ment or star­va­tion by the end of this year. An ex­ten­sion of the term of the present gov­ern­ment is being con­sid­ered. The re­cently launched na­tional di­a­logue may well make this rec­om­men­da­tion, which would de­lay elec­tions. Any de­ci­sion to de­lay polls should be trans­par­ent and in­clu­sive of a wide spec­trum of South Su­danese ac­tors, both civil­ian and armed. While it is not our place to tell the South Su­danese how they should gov­ern them­selves, we do be­lieve that elec­tions at the right time remain necessary. All South Su­danese have the right to de­cide how they are gov­erned. We look for­ward to the day that the South Su­danese freely go to the polls for the third time. But, long be­fore then, a new, cred­i­ble, political process is needed so that South Su­dan can end its cri­sis and get the lead­er­ship necessary to em­bark on a gen­uine political tran­si­tion to­wards peace, pros­per­ity, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and jus­tice. Sanne van den Bergh was the di­rec­tor of Carter Cen­tre’s in­ter­na­tional elec­tion ob­ser­va­tion mis­sion to the South Su­dan referendum in 2013. Ravin­dran Daniel was a se­nior staff mem­ber with the UN Mis­sion in Su­dan – 2005 to 2008; 2010 to 2011

Salva Kiir Ma­yardit

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