By: Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Kampala, Uganda, DEC/04/2015, SSN;
As citizen of a great nation like South Sudan, it is imperative to add my voice to the various dissenting voices over the credibility and viability of holding the forthcoming general elections in South Sudan in on June 30, 2015.
I was really outraged and totally put off when I saw the chairperson of South Sudanese Electoral Commission proudly announcing the date of elections. His action amounts to democratic mockery, which ultimately amounts to sham procedural democracy that perpetuates abuse of South Sudanese democratic rights.
It indicates the persistent and insistent nonchalant attitude of our leaders towards South Sudan sufferings and miseries. Our leaders have not put in picture the fact that South Sudanese children and youth need reforms in the system and development but not political power as the government in the person of the chairperson of electoral commission is trying to achieve.
Holding elections at this time is an attempt to evade the greater crisis that South Sudan is facing, which is a sign that South Sudanese authorities are living in self-denial of the fact that South Sudan in which we are living in today is different from what was expected during the liberation war.
During the liberation war, many people not only leaders harbored the belief that if South Sudan would become an independent nation, there were going to be no any problems. This belief was deducted from the fact that there was a unity among South Sudanese, which made leaders to imagine that South Sudan would be a peaceful country when it got independence, which is not the case now.
Contrary to that belief, there are more crises in South Sudan than in any time of history of Sudan. Therefore, the government is just pushing on with elections despite the atrocities that have been committed to impose the picture of South Sudan it imagined to be during the war.
Besides, by announcing the elections at this time yet what’s needed are security, peace and development, it appears that South Sudanese government has forgotten why South Sudanese people took arms against the Khartoum government in 1983.
If I can very well remember (as the preamble of the Transitional Constitution of 2011 and the Revised Edition of SPLM/A Manifesto of 2008 still carry them), the SPLM/SPLA took arms against the government of Sudan to achieve lasting peace, democracy, rule of law, justice and social justice in particular, respect for, protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights for all South Sudanese, and in South Sudan as a country.
The constitutional principles as listed above were ones that pushed the SPLM/A to engage into long and deadliest war that lasted for more than twenty years. Scars of that war are still fresh as we often see disabled, orphans, widows and widowers around us, and in addition, its memory is still fresh and bitter in the minds of the living in South Sudan.
However, despite the above facts and to my surprise, SPLM government within less than a decade (since the independence of South Sudan) behaves as if it has forgotten completely why South Sudanese took up arms against Khartoum, and this makes one wonder, “how soon has SPLM forgotten the cause it took arms against Khartoum government in the first place!”
In fact, one of the SPLM’s slogans when it was fighting the liberation war was “freedom and democracy for all South Sudanese.”
Hence in this article, I will try to explain why I do not support the idea of holding general elections in 2015, because if the SPLM presses ahead with the elections as planned, democracy may lose its real meaning in South Sudan, and also, it may result into more chaos which may further aggravate an abuse of human rights of all South Sudanese.
One of the reasons I do not support the idea of holding general elections at this time is that South Sudan needs not to hurry to be at the same stage with the USA or UK in democratic practice but it must be, if it desires to achieve lasting peace, slow in cultivating the values of democracy.
This is because democracy is a culture whose values must be given a cultural medium to grow in slow pace undisturbed.
Otherwise, if we practice democracy like marriage we may end up causing injustice as insensitive majority dominates minority with their ideas and self-centred interests.
The real political system is not one that is only built on political values but it should also be built on human values.
Democracy that is answerable to human needs is the true democracy other than the one that is regularly conducted which is devoid of morals and full of political, economic and social injustices.
For democracy to be called democracy, it must be done in accordance with the international and national standards as recognized by all citizens. This means that democracy should not be carried out as a way of which one plans to retain or maintain himself in the power or cheating one’s way through the power.
Democracy must be in line with the interest of all citizens as a way of promoting peace, justice, rule of law and national stability or their welfare in general. These are factors which determine and guide democracy and peace in the country.
Democracy is the game rooted in the rule of law and security, and without the rule of law and security, democracy will never make any sense and it will or may lose its original meaning.
Originally, democracy was defined to mean the government of the people, for the people and by the people, which means that democracy was specifically intended to satisfy the people or citizens’ desire for good governance in the country in which it is practiced.
Good governance has its distinct features that are characterized by the respect of human rights, strong rule of law, true democracy and strong security system, which is explained by the existence of the rule of law.
Strong security system should not be understood to mean having a lot of security personnel but it should be understood to mean one where fewer crimes are committed and also many citizens have confidence in the system. In other words, the rule of law must exist and protect all citizens equally.
As understood in the definition of democracy in the foregoing paragraph, democracy was purposely developed as a means of which citizens of a country express their freedoms and personal liberties in secured arena to choose who to govern them and how they should be governed.
Secured arena in this context means the situation in which people or citizens live a life with no fear or threat of their lives and future.
It, therefore, implies that all citizens that exercise democracy must do so with absolute or minimal restricted liberties.
The reason is that excessive restriction or impairment of personal liberty in exercising democratic rights is “a social time bomb”.
The “social time bomb” means the existence of strong tensions between groups within the country, which is dangerous to the stability of a nation since citizens all times feel insecure, cheated, betrayed and abandoned.
There are several ways of restricting democratic rights. Democratic rights can be impaired directly or indirectly. Direct impairment of democratic rights may come about like what happened in 2010.
The manner in which the 2010 general elections were conducted was dubious and unprofessional. In reality, there was a direct interference with the exercise of democratic rights of South Sudanese by the SPLM GOSS as it was conducted under the slogan “Vote for the SPLM”.
However the credit should be given to the 2010 elections since it was understandable as it was conducted to the substantial question of the “national interest”.
This was because 2010 general elections were acceptable to the majority of South Sudanese which, by implication became another form of democracy though it was illegal in the eyes of the international standards governing elections.
Nonetheless, since 2010 elections were accepted by the majority, it was in line with the meaning of democracy which is in line with my understanding of democracy.
Democracy, in my understanding, means legal and factual conspiracy of the majority to dominate minority with their opinions and ideas through legalized methods and procedures. That was exactly what happened in 2010.
Hence, whatever outcomes of those general elections, they were and are still legitimate including the government which was elected through that methods and procedures (the current SPLM Government).
However, the time and the situation in which South Sudanese and South Sudan are now, are totally different from 2010, and if the SPLM hopes that the elections of 2015 is going to work in its favour, then, it is a mistaken belief that the SPLM Government is bound to regret in future.
The SPLM is going to regret in future because instead of 2015 elections are going to unite the country, they are going to divide the country even further and more uncertainty still awaits South Sudan ahead.
This is because many politicians who feel cheated will either join Riek or stage their own rebellion like what Late Athor or Yau Yau did if elections will not go in their favour, which will lead into more bloodshed and rampant deaths.
For that reason, the best way to maintain peace and unity in South Sudan is not to rush into premature and premeditated elections which will produce automatic results for the cliques in the ruling party who planned the elections, first things must be done first.
What South Sudanese need first are not elections but they need: the permanent end of war, development, justice, rule of law, education and improvement in health, which the money allocated for elections, can do.
In addition, the formation of interim government should be the first priority of the government. The role of interim government is to govern the country for the next three years in order to reform the whole governance system.
Besides, the interim government will help in writing and passing the permanent constitution that will guide the government on how to govern the country by providing term limits; preferably, two terms and how the national government should relate with the state governments.
The Permanent Constitution can also control the powers of the president, bearing in minds how the excessive powers granted to the president now have affected the country and its politics.
After the adoption of the permanent constitution, the security reforms should be the next on the interim government’s agenda. Security in this respect includes reformation of judiciary and all organized forces in South Sudan.
Why security reform is important in this regard is because it helps in restoring and maintaining the rule of law in the country.
Rule of law means that all persons whether government officials or ordinary citizens must respect law and work in accordance with the law, and moreover, all people should be treated equally before and under the law, that is, the law should be above all the people in the country.
Rule of law is the most important and fundamental element, which every country that is striving to achieve good governance must adopt, respects and maintain. For instance, some of the states are in crisis in South Sudan today because the governments therein have ignored the rule of law.
The major example is that of Lakes, which is in indefinite political, economic and social crises today. In actual sense, I do not accept the contention of the government of South Sudan that people of Lakes State are not law abiding citizens. In indeed, they are law abiding citizens but the State itself is in leadership crisis.
For instance, the current governor is the military ruler who has got used to grabbing money from the army and therefore he has just transferred such tendency of grabbing anything to Lakes State, hence, allowing the rule of law to slip away as he is busy struggling to acquire wealth from the poor citizens of Lakes.
Coming back to our discussion as to why I do not accept the idea of holding elections now, it is important to point out that there is a need for the development and maintenance of the rule of law in South Sudan before any meaningful democracy is conducted.
As explained above, there is a lot that need to be done before the elections are held and those who came up with the idea of holding elections in South Sudan at this time have done it in bad faith.
They are in actual sense on a wild goose chase as they attempt to sooth the present crisis in the country with the idea of tyrant and blind democracy that does not see the reality of South Sudan.
The reality of South Sudan at present is that there is immense human sufferings of South Sudanese citizens due to poverty and insecurity caused by the virtually absence of the rule of law in the country.
To elevate human sufferings in South Sudan now and in the future, first things should be done first and elections should be the last stage in solving South Sudanese crisis because it is not the real solution to out problems.
Based on the foregoing discussion, it is important to add that our government should be concerned with protecting the interest of the nation and the citizens.
It should not only look at the side of political advantage but should protect human values although it means violating the existing laws to achieve it.
The government often puts forward an argument that it would like to legitimize the existing government and this is one of the reasons why it is carrying out elections.
Such an argument does not hold water because South Sudan has a parliament which has an authority to change the law to accommodate any changes that may affect legitimacy of the government.
Moreover, the doctrine of state necessity can be used to make something that is otherwise would have been illegitimate legal in order to achieve or maintain the welfare of the citizens.
This means that where the welfare of the citizens is in danger due to the national crisis, the state can change the law to bring change and stability as it was witnessed in Uganda in 1966 in Ex Parte Matovu case.
Notwithstanding the argument in the foregoing paragraph, such an argument should not be taken as a general rules that will be used in future to violate the rule of law. Otherwise, the fact remains that the welfare of the people is the general principle as one of the proponents of the doctrine of state necessity advocated for.
In summary, for the government to escape future crisis and restore peace, justice and stability, it must adopt proposals as discussed above before holding any elections, otherwise if the government depends on the advice of individuals who have specialized on how to get, maintain and retain power, then, South Sudan will indefinitely dwell in crises.
The Author is Concern South Sudanese citizen living in Uganda and can be reached through: