South Sudan’s 2023 elections will not be free and fair if the country does not institute a proper security system.
First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar and Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng said South Sudan might not go to the polls in 2023 if key provisions in the revitalized peace agreement are not completely addressed as scheduled.
Speaking during the opening of the governor’s forum in Juba on Monday, First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar said the elections may not be free and fair if the country does not institute a proper security system that will protect the state and the people during the election process.
“To have fair, free, transparent elections, you must have security forces who will protect the state, its people, and that will not interfere in the elections process,” Dr. Machar said. “And therefore it is critical, if we are going to go for elections, we must complete in the shortest possible time, the security arrangements.”
He added: “I believe why our refugees are not coming is because we have not moved forward on the security arrangements. Once they know we have moved forward in the security arrangements, they will come.”
For her part, the vice president in charge of the gender cluster, Rebecca Nyandeng, said the preparations for elections cannot commence before South Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries return home.
“You cannot prepare for elections before we bring our people from refugee camps, and our people in displaced people’s camps to be settled is great work,” said Nyandeng.
She said neighboring countries are pressurizing South Sudan to repatriate her refugees back home.
“We have been pressured by host countries who are hosting our refugees, by next year they do not want to see our people in their countries and I want you the governors to know this,” VP Nyandeng said. “We will prepare ourselves early next year so that there is a committee which will be formed by us, UNHCR, and all our partners so that we can visit those host countries where our refugees are.”
Last week President Salva Kiir Mayardit called on South Sudanese citizens to prepare for the 2023 general elections and reassured a visiting delegation from the UN Security Council that elections will take place as stipulated by the peace agreement.
As per the implementation matrix of the revitalized peace agreement of September 2018, the country was scheduled to hold elections in 2022. This was pushed to 2023 after delays in the implementation of the peace deal.
Some of the areas of contention which have stalled include the unification of forces into one national army, a population census, the making of and promulgation of a constitution, and the return of refugees and IDPs to their homes.