In a political landscape fraught with challenges, South Sudan is facing significant hurdles that cast doubt on its ability to hold elections in 2024. A close observation of the country’s affairs reveals a series of pending issues that threaten the feasibility and legitimacy of the electoral process.
One of the foremost concerns is the unresolved matter of constituencies. The delineation of constituencies is a crucial aspect of ensuring fair representation and effective governance. However, in South Sudan, this matter remains unaddressed, raising questions about the accuracy and inclusivity of future elections.
Another critical factor impeding the preparations for elections is the state of the constitution. A constitution should be a collective effort engaging the public, ensuring that it reflects the values, aspirations, and needs of the nation. Regrettably, South Sudan’s constitution lacks this crucial characteristic, as it is perceived to be a document shaped by a select few rather than one that has undergone extensive public participation. This raises concerns about the legitimacy and acceptance of the constitutional framework underpinning the upcoming elections.
Insecurity permeates all corners of South Sudan, adding to the complexity of organizing elections. The lack of stability not only jeopardizes the safety of citizens but also impedes the necessary infrastructural developments required for conducting a successful electoral process. In the absence of a secure environment, it becomes exceedingly challenging to establish polling stations, ensure access to remote areas, and create an atmosphere conducive to the free expression of political will.
Compounding these issues is the absence of a comprehensive identification system. Without proper identification cards for voters, the integrity of the electoral process is compromised. Ensuring that each eligible voter can participate in a transparent and accountable manner is essential to fostering a genuinely representational democratic system.
The lack of progress in this regard raises doubts about the fairness and accuracy of the election outcomes. Lastly, the perceived lack of political will from leaders in the country further exacerbates the uncertain outlook for elections. Without a demonstrated commitment from key stakeholders to address these challenges, timelines for solutions remain unclear. The absence of decisive actions undermines public trust and perpetuates an environment of political uncertainty.
In conclusion, South Sudan finds itself grappling with considerable obstacles that hinder its readiness to hold elections in 2024. Addressing pending issues related to constituencies, constitutions, insecurity, voter identification, and political will is imperative for a democratic and inclusive electoral process.
The fate of the upcoming elections rests on the country’s ability to confront these challenges head-on, ensuring the participation and confidence of the South Sudanese people in shaping their future through free and fair elections
Political Space Constraints in South Sudan Silencing Freedom of Expression
The democratic principles of freedom of expression and the right to political association are indispensable elements of any thriving democracy. However, in some parts of South Sudan, the lack of political space has become a significant concern, stifling these fundamental rights and impeding the progress of democratic ideals.
One such example can be found in the county of Maiwut, located in the Upper Nile state. Here, members of the ruling party, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), are subjected to severe limitations on their freedom to move freely and express their political affiliations. Wearing an SPLM/A T-shirt has been deemed a crime, leading to harsh consequences for those who dare to defy the restriction.
The situation becomes even more disconcerting when opposition members are targeted and silenced. In Akobo, the local commissioner has taken it upon themselves to confiscate the main opposition SPLM -IO T-shirts, thereby curbing the ability of individuals to openly support alternative political ideologies. This act serves as a clear example of how political space constraints are applied selectively, further undermining the principles of inclusivity and fair representation.
The suppression of political expression and association not only infringes upon the rights of individuals but also hampers the growth of a vibrant multi-party system. The space for constructive dialogue, open debate, and the peaceful expression of diverse opinions is crucial for the development of a healthy political environment. It is through these mechanisms that societies move forward, fostering progress, and addressing the grievances and concerns of their citizens.
The limitations on political space not only restrict individual freedoms but also contribute to an environment of fear and self-censorship. When citizens are unable to voice their opinions openly due to the threat of punishment or reprisal, it hampers the formation of a robust civil society that can effectively hold leaders accountable and contribute to policy-making processes
Bringing about positive change in South Sudan requires the recognition and protection of the right to freedom of expression and the ability for individuals to associate freely. It is crucial for authorities to reevaluate these constraints and create an environment that encourages open political discourse, values pluralism, and respects the rights of citizens to support the political parties or ideologies of their choice without fear of persecution.
The lack of political space and the suppression of freedom of expression in certain parts of South Sudan, such as Maiwut and Akobo, pose significant challenges to the country’s democratic progress. Upholding democratic principles requires nurturing an inclusive environment where political affiliation can be freely expressed, without fear of retribution or punishment. It is only by fostering open and constructive dialogue that South Sudan can move closer to a society that values diverse perspectives, respects individual freedoms, and ensures a more participatory and representative democracy.
Emmanuel Malual Makuach, the author, is a South Sudanese journalist and researcher who has focused on the impact of social media triggers in the conflicts of 2013 and 2016 in South Sudan. He can be contacted at email@example.com