BY: DANIEL JUOL NHOMNGEK, KAMPALA, UGANDA, SEP/14/2017, SSN;
For elections to be considered and declared to have been conducted freely and fairly, they must have been conducted in accordance with the law which represents the will of the people.
In respect to South Sudan, there are many speculations even from government officials that the government is planning to hold general elections in 2018. This is unacceptable and should be opposed by all South Sudanese who love South Sudan as a country.
Whereas the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan provides for the elections to be held regularly as a sign of democracy (see; Article 194) but where the elections are called and held in bad faith with the intention of maintaining power, then, such elections are in fact amounted to the breach of the Constitution itself.
In respect to “fair’ election, it means that all registered political parties have an equal right to contest the elections, campaign for voter support and hold meetings and rallies. This gives them a fair chance to convince voters to vote for them.
A fair election is also one in which all voters have an equal opportunity to register, where all votes are counted, and where the announced results reflect the actual vote totals.
The question is, if the elections are held in South Sudan, can they be free and fair? Of course not.
As things stand now, there are rampant insecurities that will not allow citizens to vote freely and fairly. In addition, many citizens are displaced within and majority are sent into exile.
As the UN report indicated since December 2013, the conflict has devastated the lives of millions of South Sudanese and more than 3.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
This shows that if the elections are held while the substantial section of the population is displaced then they will not be free and fair in the real meanings of the terms.
In other words, majority of the ethnicities making up South Sudan will not vote in the said general elections.
Thus, for free and fair elections to take place, there is a need for the government and the oppositions to come together to agree to end the conflict, bring peace to the country, return all displaced citizens and conduct true national dialogue.
Without these the free and fair elections will never take place in the country. Therefore, in my opinion, elections are not a priority in South Sudan.
For meaningful elections that are going to be free and fair to be held, the following should be done:
First, violent security Forces should be reformed; second, the amendment or repealing of the laws must be made to produce the laws that protect human rights; third the state controlled media should be made political neutral to ensure fair access for every citizen.
This will help candidates to express their views freely and be able to air out their opinions on national matters; Third, independent Election Commission should be formed to oversee the conduct of general elections; fourth, the independent interim government should be set up to help in implementing reforms as agreed by both the government and the oppositions;
Fifth, the Constitution-Making Body/Process should be formed and launched to write the constitution that will provide very clear two terms limit; after the peace is achieved, the true and genuine national dialogue should be conducted alongside the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with issues of accountability and reparation and finally the census should be conducted to know the number of eligible voters.
It is after all these are done, that is when the general elections that reflect the will of all South Sudanese can be held successfully.
In conclusion, I appeal to all South Sudanese to boycott the proposed elections by the government unless the above proposals or recommendations are implemented because allowing the government to go on the elections in the present situations, it will entrench the ineffective government that will reforms desired by South Sudanese impossible.
Consequently, if the reforms as stated above are not carried out, South Sudan will never achieve peace and the war will remain in the country indefinitely. It is therefore my passionate appeal as well as the international community, the AU, IGAD and East African Community not to allow the elections continue unless all the above mentioned reforms are conducted.
All South Sudanese should not sacrifice the future of South Sudanese for individuals’ interest to hold to power. We must stand up against all power hungry politicians to achieve the future South Sudan we want.
The Author is a lawyer by profession; he graduated with honors in law from Makerere University, School of Law. He participated in various workshops and training in community mobilization in awareness of their constitutional rights in Uganda. He is the member of Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC) and NETPIL (Network of Public Interest Lawyers) at Makerere University; he is currently doing research with NETPIL on private prosecution; he is trained in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR); he participated in writing Street Law Handbook on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Uganda. He is practicing with Onyango and Company Advocates Bunga—Ggaba, Road Kampala He is currently staying in Kampala Uganda where he is undertaking bar course training. He can be reached through email@example.com or +256784806333.