Since S. Sudan gained independence, citizens haven’t exercised the right to vote for a leader in elections.-Dr. Peter Biar
A former political prisoner living in the United States has asked the international community to ensure that South Sudan has its planned elections.
This, according to Dr. Peter Biar Ajak, will legitimize the country’s leadership.
“While our first elections will be tumultuous,” Dr. Biar adds, “they will give a key reference point that the only lawful and enduring means of attaining and exercising power is through the concern of the governed.”
South Sudanese inhabitants have yet to exercise suffrage – the right to vote for a leader in elections – since the country’s independence from Sudan in July 2011.
Plans and efforts to have general elections have been ineffective due to the civil war, which was caused by power disputes among political elites.
However, the September 2018 revitalized peace agreement demands the parties to hold elections so that voters can vote for their preferred leaders.
As of today, the Kiir administration chooses leaders, including members of parliament – both at the national and state levels – by decree.
President Salva Kiir, who was not elected by the people, recently said that elections would be place in 2023.
However, other officials, including first vice president Dr. Riek Machar and vice president Rebecca Nyandeng, have raised misgivings, claiming that crucial parts in the peace deal should be fulfilled first.
Observers generally blame the delay in holding the first-ever elections on “lack of political will,” fearing that some will lose power.
Dr. Biar, who spent two years in prison in Juba for pushing for democracy, addressed why elections should be held on Wednesday evening at the Summit for Democracy sponsored by the US government.
“It [the election] will restore to the people of South Sudan the hard-won urgency and right to define their own destiny,” Biar added.
“It is time for…our neighbors, the African Union, the Troika, and other friends to ensure that South Sudanese ultimately exercise democracy by conducting internationally-supervised elections by 2023.”
The event heard from family members and advocates of persons imprisoned for peacefully exercising their human rights, as well as those imprisoned just for their race or identity.
After spending several months in jail, Dr. Biar and philanthropist late Kerbino Wol were pardoned by President Salva Kiir in January 2020.
Biar was accused with instigating and disturbing the peace by a Juba court. He was punished to two years in prison for violating Section 48/80, 2, b of the 2008 Panel Code.
However, Kiir ordered their release as a New Year’s (2020) peace gesture. They were among 30 inmates released from state and federal facilities throughout the country.
He fled Juba the following month for Nairobi, where he would live with his family until his departure to the United States in July 2020.
Dr. Biar is the founder and president of Revive South Sudan, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC that campaigns for democracy in South Sudan.
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