Elections commissioner urges parties to hold elections on time
South Sudan’s elections commission has urged the transitional government on Tuesday to complete the necessary tasks to hold elections on time, as concerns grow that they could be postponed.
According to the 2018 peace deal, general elections must take place 60 days before the end of the transitional period. There are only 12 months remaining in the transitional period.
But critical work remains to be done, with less than 10 months to go, including preparing legal and constitutional frameworks for the vote.
In an interview with Radio Tamazuj today, National Elections Commissioner Prof. Abednego Akok Kacuol said many critical tasks stipulated in the peace agreement have not been implemented fully, pointing out that it is a ‘big obstacle’ that could affect preparations for the poll.
“Elections are supposed to take place in December 2022… I expected that there are people following up on the implementation matrix keenly and engaging in serious activities to prepare for the elections so that it does not come to people as a surprise. This political move is supposed to be carried out by political parties,” Abednego said.
“So a question about the elections at this time is very important and it gives a wakeup call to leaders of South Sudan, including politicians, parliament, political parties, executive authority, and civil societies that based on the revitalized peace agreement, the election should be conducted at the end of 2022,” he added.
Asked about the repatriation of refugees in time for the elections, Commissioner Abednego said the major issue is not the refugees but the bigger issue revolves around legal frameworks for general elections.
“Everything in the country is bound by the constitution. Per the peace agreement and the National Election Act 2012, there should be a constitutional amendment,” Abednego explained. “There are some things that we have already done and submitted to the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) and it is expected to be reviewed and given to the ministry of justice, the council of ministers, and end in the Parliament. This is very important.”
He added: “Secondly, the peace agreement talks about the reconstitution of the elections commission. This is also very important and it will never happen unless the parliament approves the National Election Act 2022, following the revitalized peace agreement. Then the elections commission can be reconstituted.”
Prof. Abednego said that the third step, which lies within the responsibilities of the executive leaders, is the unification of armed forces and provision of security across the country.
“The refugees are supposed to be convinced and repatriated to their homes. This is supposed to be a joint work among the government, UN agencies, and IGAD. This is the responsibility of the political authority in the country,” he said. “They are supposed to establish strong security, police, and army to protect the country. There is something called force for the protection of election, that lies within the executive authorities’ responsibility. Secondly, if there is a political will among the parties to the revitalized peace agreement, everything will just go on well.”
Abednego acknowledged that the commission has not received the necessary funds in their account to make the preparations for the poll.
“You know what we have been discussing here needs all South Sudanese leaders to sit down and address these issues as peace lovers. They need to remind themselves that we have signed a peace agreement and we are committed to all that we have signed. They should recommit themselves to what they have signed and each party should take up the responsibility that falls under them. So if the government does not have a budget for the elections, we will not do anything,” he said.
On whether he will head the reconstituted elections commission, Abednego said, “Let me be frank with you and the people of South Sudan, this is our country if I am heading this commission or not, everything is written clearly in the peace agreement.”
He added: “We as the commission do not have a problem. I urge the parties to the agreement that December 2022 marks the end of the transitional period in South Sudan and then we will have 60 days to conduct the elections. Let the government provide us with the necessary budget so that we begin our activities.”
On Monday, Radio Tamazuj posted a question on its social media handles on whether general elections in South Sudan could be conducted as planned or not.
Akol Miyen Kuol, a South Sudanese author and poet, commented that the South Sudanese government must redouble its efforts to implement the most important provisions of the revitalized peace deal, including the formation of a unified force before holding elections.