SOUTH SUDAN / CIVIL SOCIETY ELECTORAL PROCESS

07-Oct-2021 00:05:04
As South Sudan prepares itself for its first ever elections expected in early 2023, civil society organisations have begun engaging with various independent electoral bodies in an effort to create awareness amongst themselves, so that they can strengthen their voice and participation in a historic process that is lagging behind schedule. UNMISS
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STORY: SOUTH SUDAN / CIVIL SOCIETY ELECTORAL PROCESS
TRT: 5:04
SOURCE: UNMISS
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS

DATELINE: 07 OCTOBER 2021, JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN
SHOTLIST
1. Various shots, forum in progress
2. Various shots, participants
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Guang Cong, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General – Political, United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS):
“Civil society organisations can positively influence political leaders and help communities to develop values of democratic life, tolerance, compromise and respect for opposing points of view. Through various election-related activities, including civic and voter education, campaign monitoring and electoral observation, civil society organisations will be instrumental to building awareness of the local communities of the democratic ideals and values related to issues of transparency credibility fairness, fraud prevention and protection of political rise and civil liberties.”
4. Various shots, session with participants
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Professor Abednego Akok, Chairman, National Election Commission:
“The Commission shall take the necessary steps to ensure that all citizens without discrimination are able to exercise and enjoy their political rights to nominate and be nominated for the elections and to freely express their will in a secret ballot. It is very important for everybody to vote choosing their own candidate without interference.”
6. Various shots, participants
7. SOUNDBITE (English) Prof Abednego Akok, Chairman, National Election Commission:
“The constituencies are to be determined according to the census results; hence, it is a very important issue which I can suggest or I can advise the government and some NGOs to see to it that census is conducted as soon as possible to enable us to know the number of the population and then the nation would determine their constituencies, then you prepare for the elections.”
8. Various shots, participants
9. SOUNDBITE (English) James Akol Zakaio, Secretary General, Political Parties Council:
“It is necessary that all the parties must follow the requirements for registration. And for the parties to get registered, there are procedures that the parties need to follow prior to registration. And looking into the peace agreement, there is a time frame set forth for the election, and in the [Political Parties] Act [2012] itself, there are times set forth for registration prior to elections. So, you need to get registered at certain period of time before the election. So, if that period passes, then you won’t be able to register for elections.”
10. Various shots, participants
11. SOUNDBITE (English) Zainab Ousman, civil society member:
“The civil society, since the first 100 days of the peace agreement, they have always been asking – they have always been voicing their concerns. This thing is not going the way it should go. This thing is not going the way it should go. At this particular day we should have reached here. At this particular day we should have reached here. But you have seen how it has already been three years, and most of the milestones have not been achieved. Like the security arrangement is still up and down. Also, the 35 percent for women is there, but it is not fully implemented. We feel, as civil society, we are short-changed because the things which are written in the peace agreement should have been adhered to in letter and spirit, but we see there are few gaps here and there. But we hope in the future it will change; because we are talking, and we are watching.”
12. Various shots, participants at forum
STORYLINE
As South Sudan prepares itself for its first ever elections expected in early 2023, civil society organisations have begun engaging with various independent electoral bodies in an effort to create awareness amongst themselves, so that they can strengthen their voice and participation in a historic process that is lagging behind schedule.

At a two-day forum held in the capital Juba, participants heard that the civic political space is vital, despite the challenges of the elections ahead.

Speaking to more than 40 civil society representatives, UNMISS Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General Guang Cong said elections would provide an opportunity for ordinary citizens to articulate their political demands and empower people to peacefully make change for themselves and their country, and that the participation of civil society groups is important.

SOUNDBITE (English) Guang Cong, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General – Political, United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS):
“Civil society organisations can positively influence political leaders and help communities to develop values of democratic life, tolerance, compromise and respect for opposing points of view. Through various election-related activities, including civic and voter education, campaign monitoring and electoral observation, civil society organisations will be instrumental to building awareness of the local communities of the democratic ideals and values related to issues of transparency credibility fairness, fraud prevention and protection of political rise and civil liberties.”

The elections, he added should be viewed as a vital step towards building a democratic and responsive government by the people and for the people and could also mark a turning point for South Sudan where decisions are made using the ballot instead of guns.

Speaking at the forum, the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission, Professor Abednego Akok, highlighted the mission, values and vision of the National Elections Commission, an independent institution established in 2012, and said this body is mandated, among many issues, to the ensure that it delivers free, fair, transparent and credible elections results.

SOUNDBITE (English) Professor Abednego Akok, Chairman, National Election Commission:
“The Commission shall take the necessary steps to ensure that all citizens without discrimination are able to exercise and enjoy their political rights to nominate and be nominated for the elections and to freely express their will in a secret ballot. It is very important for everybody to vote choosing their own candidate without interference.”

In an interview at the two-day forum, Professor Akok said a census would determine the size and make-up of the electorate and is an important step towards ensuring a credible election.

SOUNDBITE (English) Prof Abednego Akok, Chairman, National Election Commission:
“The constituencies are to be determined according to the census results; hence, it is a very important issue which I can suggest or I can advise the government and some NGOs to see to it that census is conducted as soon as possible to enable us to know the number of the population and then the nation would determine their constituencies, then you prepare for the elections.”

Participants at the forum also heard that despite lagging behind specific electoral timelines, the registration of existing political parties with the Political Parties Council before the lapse of the transitional period, is crucial.

SOUNDBITE (English) James Akol Zakaio, Secretary General, Political Parties Council:
“It is necessary that all the parties must follow the requirements for registration. And for the parties to get registered, there are procedures that the parties need to follow prior to registration. And looking into the peace agreement, there is a time frame set forth for the election, and in the [Political Parties] Act [2012] itself, there are times set forth for registration prior to elections. So, you need to get registered at certain period of time before the election. So, if that period passes, then you won’t be able to register for elections.”

Currently, the Political Parties Council has registered only 14 political parties in a country which has more than 50 political parties.

Meanwhile, both the Political Parties Act 2012, and the Electoral Act 2012, have been tabled in parliament, and are awaiting endorsements and enactments into law.

Supported by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, the forum aimed to enhance the understanding of civil society organisations at each phase of the electoral process, with participants discussing existing legal frameworks. The revitalized peace agreement is expected to end in an electoral process.

SOUNDBITE (English) Zainab Ousman, civil society member:
“The civil society, since the first 100 days of the peace agreement, they have always been asking – they have always been voicing their concerns. This thing is not going the way it should go. This thing is not going the way it should go. At this particular day we should have reached here. At this particular day we should have reached here. But you have seen how it has already been three years, and most of the milestones have not been achieved. Like the security arrangement is still up and down. Also, the 35 percent for women is there, but it is not fully implemented. We feel, as civil society, we are short-changed because the things which are written in the peace agreement should have been adhered to in letter and spirit, but we see there are few gaps here and there. But we hope in the future it will change; because we are talking, and we are watching.”

Besides civil society groups, others present included representatives from R-JMEC, IGAD, Africa Union, Political Parties Council and the National Elections Commission.

There is currently no consensus on the exact timelines leading up to elections, although previous extensions of the transitional period would see the national vote held in early 2023. This would require completion of a voters roll by mid-to-late next year.
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