Kiir, Machar differ on 2023 poll plans
The proposed 2023 general elections, expected to allow South Sudanese to vote in a democratically elected leadership, continues to suffer from an unclear fate, with President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar exhibiting mixed views over its feasibility, especially on the logistical arrangements.
At the end of the transitional period, as provided by the September 2018 revitalised peace agreement, South Sudan will be expected to conduct the first democratic general elections as a sovereign state.
However, critical provisions of the agreement have remained unimplemented, causing disagreements among parties about whether or not elections should be held in 2023.
As it is, mixed views continue to emerge from the lowest cadres of government to the summit of the country’s leadership, as leaders weigh in on the matter differently and read from different scripts.
On several occasions, Kiir has reiterated the plan to hold general elections by the end of the transitional period and called for his ruling party’s members to prepare for the race come 2023.
“We need to embark on peace. When we are done with the interim period in which we are in now, we shall straight away go for the elections,” said the President during an engagement event with the SPLM Youth League.
However, Machar, a peace partner, who has been silent on demands for elections by 2023, hinted at the infeasibility of such a critical event, casting doubts that realizing it at the stipulated timeline could be a hard nut to crack due to the chain of pending tasks.
Speaking at the opening session of the five-day governors and administrators’ forum at the Freedom Hall in Juba yesterday, Machar called for the expedition of the implementation of the security arrangement and other provisions should parties want the election to take place on time.
“This transitional period is supposed to end with elections, [and] for us to have fair, free, transparent elections; we must have security forces who protect the state, its people and will not interfere in the elections’ processes. And … if we are going to go for elections, we must complete in the shortest possible time the security arrangement,” said Dr Machar.
According to the First Vice President, besides security arrangements, elections cannot be held without implementing several other critical aspects of the agreement to back free, fair, and credible elections in the country.
“Some of the prerequisites for elections are: the security arrangement completed, the refugees come back, the displaced go back to their places, you have to conduct a census as a requirement of the agreement, and you must have a permanent constitution.”
“The security arrangement, which is the backbone of the peace agreement, we are now facing some difficulties because of the non-completion of the security arrangement. You recall the agreement divides the transitional period into pre-transitional and transitional periods,’’ he explained.
Adding: “The first was eight months, we did not produce unified forces, then we extended it six months and extended again for a hundred days and we didn’t. We established the government on February 2, 2020 [when] we still have not yet produced the unified forces.”
Dr Machar further expressed optimism that South Sudan was now taking the initiative on its own to address the issue of the command and graduate the forces.
“We are trying to double our efforts to see that phase one of the unified forces are graduated, [but] we still have obstacles in agreeing on unified command. IGAD came in but Sudan went into crisis. Now we are trying to do it on our own hopefully if we succeed, then we will graduate from the unified forces.”
He called on the Members of Parliament to accelerate the passing of bills, especially the security bill, once the minister of constitutional affairs tables them for discussion, adding that it could provide the basis for the graduation of the forces.
Gap to be addressed
Machar also said refugees and internally displaced populations have failed to return home to rebuild their lives and to take part in the ongoing peace process due to a lack of security arrangement implementation.
“I believe why our refugees are not coming because we have not moved forward on the security arrangement. Once they know we have moved forward in the security arrangement, they will come. Once they feel they are secured, then they will come,” said Dr Machar.
Some members of civil society organizations and other parties to the agreement have objected to the rush to conduct the general elections ahead of fully implementing the agreement.
In September this year, the Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Adigo Anyoti, urged parties to first implement peace and hold elections after.
“Yes, it is in the agreement that we are to hold elections at the end of the transitional period, which is before 2023, but that does not mean that if tomorrow is 2023 we have to go for elections. We have a lot to do first”.