A senior official with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement In-Opposition (SPLM-IO) has expressed pessimism about the conduct of free and fair elections at the end of the transitional period next year, citing a lack of political will to have a poll that would see the participation of all the parties to the peace deal.
Speaking to South Sudanese local press, Michael Bol Gatdor, the Jonglei State SPLM-IO party secretary-general, said the lack of political will to implement provisions necessary for the conduct of fair elections is a recipe for rigging and that his party may not be ready to participate.
“As SPLM-IO, we are for and ready for elections. However, some key provisions necessary for the conduct of free and fair elections are not being implemented. They include unification and deployment of all Necessary Unified Forces, enactment of a permanent constitution, conduct of a census, and repatriation of refugees or IDPs to their constituencies,” Bol said. “If these things remain unimplemented, how will we talk of elections?”
The SPLM-IO official accused President Kiir’s SPLM party of deliberately reneging on the peace deal implementation to create a favorable election environment. He called on the International Community to intervene by pushing for the implementation of key provisions, pointing out that any elections that will see other parties sidelined will have far-reaching consequences.
On his part, Bol Deng Bol, the chairperson of the Jonglei Civil Society Network (JCSN), echoed SPLM-IO’s sentiment and expressed fears that the year 2024 could be a grim one if this status quo continues.
“For credible, fair, and free elections, one of the requirements is to have security arrangement implemented fully so that there is a unified national army. Another important thing is a permanent constitution for the conduct of elections and other democratic processes and the issue of repatriation and civic space,” he said. “If we want to talk about elections from the perspective of the peace agreement, of course, we know what is stipulated there and we cannot be pulling ropes for nothing, we have a reference. If we do not want this peace agreement as a reference, why not throw it away and agree to lead this country by common sense, whether to a river, an army, or wherever else we choose.”
Bol insists the country may descend into political turmoil if a leveled playground is not accorded to all the parties because elections may be boycotted or results disputed.
Addressing the United Nations Security Council on Friday, Nicholas Haysom, the UN Secretary-General’s Representative in South Sudan, said while demand for elections is popular among South Sudanese, there is a reservation about peace implementation because the country’s leadership has yet to pass election-related legislation or allocate budget for elections and reconstitute key electoral institutions. The UN diplomat said they are committed to assisting South Sudan conduct its first election by building capacity and expanding civic space, among others.