Machar Asserts: South Sudan’s Electoral Future Hinges on Security Priorities
The path to democratic elections in South Sudan remains shrouded in uncertainty as key political figures, including First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir, engage in public discourse about the feasibility of conducting polls without addressing critical security challenges.
Dr. Riek Machar, during the closing of the national economic conference, expressed serious doubts about holding elections without full implementation of security arrangements. He emphasized that before South Sudan could go to the polls, vital tasks outlined in the September 2018 peace deal must be completed. These include the deployment of unified forces, the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, security sector reforms, and the establishment of a permanent constitution.
In a candid statement, Dr. Machar underscored the paramount importance of security. “Even if we want to hold elections, can we do so under the current security situation? Who will protect the ballot boxes? We must address the security issue first,” he asserted. He further elaborated, “The constitution is a fundamental element in conducting elections, but without security and the return of refugees, elections cannot proceed. Forming a unified army, police force, and security units are all vital reforms.”
This stance by Dr. Machar follows the decision made in August of the previous year when parties to the revitalized peace agreement extended the transitional period by 24 months. The accord obligates the unity government to hold elections two months before the end of the transitional period to establish a democratically elected government.
President Salva Kiir has taken a different approach, vowing not to extend the transitional period. Addressing thousands of supporters, he reiterated his commitment to working with other political parties to ensure the swift establishment of a permanent constitution, a critical prerequisite for elections.
However, the situation remains complex, with the history of South Sudan’s civil conflict casting a long shadow over the electoral process. Since gaining independence in 2011, the country has never successfully held a general election. The first general elections, scheduled for July 9, 2015, were postponed due to the outbreak of civil war, prompting an extension of the presidential term until July 2018.
In light of these challenges, South Sudanese citizens are left grappling with the uncertainty surrounding their political future. The delay in implementing peace agreements and addressing security concerns raises questions about whether elections can be held in December 2024 as originally planned and whether they can truly reflect the will of the electorate.
International organizations and neighboring countries continue to play a pivotal role in mediating and facilitating the peace process in South Sudan. Their involvement is essential in finding a viable solution that balances the imperative of conducting elections with the pressing need for lasting security and peace in the young nation.
As South Sudan navigates this critical juncture in its history, the fate of its democratic aspirations hangs in the balance. Whether it can overcome the formidable challenges ahead and fulfill the promise of a democratically elected government remains uncertain.