By Dhor-Abun Aher,
January 9, 2015 (Nyamilepedia) — The recent South Sudan’s government decision to hold an election comes 30 June 2015 is an ill-fated decision. The government’s argument in the context of fulfilling stipulation in the constitution; holding election after every four years is legitimate, and not debatable. Right now, the country is in the midst of a brutal civil war that has claimed many lives, destroyed properties, disrupted way of lives, and forced many citizens out of the country. This sorry state of the affairs in the country is what leaves many people skeptical of the prospect of an election in the country.
Let me start with the obvious reason, the entire upper Nile region literally one-third of the country is a battlefield at the moment. Security for the citizens is a nightmare leave alone holding election in that region. Supposedly we put an optimistic face, there is a possibility we might have a “peaceful” election in the major cities like Malakal, Bentiu, Pibor, and Bor, but most of the citizens in the rural areas, seeking shelters in the United Nations compounds, displaced to the neighboring countries, and obviously those with the rebels will not partake in this election.
Democracy is not necessarily in holding election, it is about building credible institution of good governance. After four years, we haven’t been able to have a permanent constitution that establishes the structure of the government, separation of powers, and what kind of government is suited for the country. In addition, census exercise to prove an exact population of the country, determines the number of constituencies haven’t been done so far. Throwing in an election which is a single part of a democratic process in this unfinished business is not feasible.
Participation and legitimacy:
Election is a civil duty of the citizens of a particular country to voice their concerns in the affairs and direction of the country. This ongoing civil war inhibited the citizens to take part in this exercise as we have already seen statements from the major opposition party, the SPLM/DC objections to the election without achieving peace process in the country. The opposition parties, civil society groups, although they are not party in the government, still are stakeholders in the affairs of the country. The government needs to partner with them in steering the country out of this civil war towards peace and paves the way for national healing and reconciliation process. That’s the goal of the government at the moment while pursuing IGAD’s sponsored negotiation with the rebels.
The government can unilaterally hold election, but without an involvement of the stakeholders in the exercise, it will diminish the legitimacy of the election. Legitimacy is not in the election per se, but in the process of holding a credible election respected by the citizens and the international community. Holding an election that we will ironical forced to sell its legitimacy to neighboring countries like Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, the African Unions, United Nations, and our friendly allies in the west will complicate our relationship. The prevailing conditions in the country will not allow them to support South Sudan in this exercise; hence many will choose not to recognize the legitimacy of the election. Furthermore, the current conflict has an element of power struggle, and only holding credible election will mitigate it.
We can waste all these resources, but at the end of the day, proves futile efforts. Note the government has allocated $517 million for this exercise. I know the government is under pressure to legitimize the tenure of the current government because the mandate ends in July 2015. Legitimacy of the government is very important for stability of the country, and without a doubt it is imperative upon the government to do it in a cooperative approach with other stakeholders in the country.
I believe an election is not the only way the government can get legitimacy. My suggestion is the SPLM led government can address this question through South Sudan’s parliament. The lifespan of the country government needs an extension for one year to allow breathing space for the ongoing peace negotiation between the government, and the rebels to continue. Members of the Parliament are people’s representatives, and they can use that mandate to deliberate, and mandate the government until July 2016. Choosing this path will be more convincing to the international community and citizens of the South Sudan than the election process we are about to embark on.
This is the kind of compromise the government can strikes with the political stakeholders in the country to focus political capital, and resources for the taunting task of resettling refugees, rebuilding the war-ravaged states, and many other reforms after the peaceful settlement of the current civil war in the country.
Dhor-abun Aher is a south Sudanese citizen currently living in the United States of America, and you can contact him at email@example.com