Nation Talks

Parties should not veer off the 2023 polls’ roadmap

By Kiden Stela Mandela

The journey to the 2023 elections has been characterized by uncertainty emanating from propaganda and rumors in the press and social media. Politicians have seized every press conference to amplify all manner of toxic and empty promises.

Most politicians have converted the press conferences into forums for uttering lots of unfounded promises, especially on the thorny issues of graduation of the forces, the National Elections Act and the Political Parties Act.

The old narrative on the supposed graduation of the forces has been peddled since March and to date, citizens are left wondering whether these promises will ever come to pass despite the fact that the transition period is fast running out.

The proposed roadmap to the elections as presented to state governments and publicized, is supposed to be a guiding tool in the implementation of the remaining provisions of the peace agreement.

The agreement should ultimately lead the country to hold its first general elections to be branded a “democratic state governed by an elected government”. In other words, a government of the people, for the people and by the people. It also means a government that draws legitimacy from its citizens because its leaders are elected by the people after thorough scrutiny of the kind of leadership they prefer.

We are only left with seven months to the expiry of the transitional period, which essentially should pave way for democratic elections in 2023.

So far the country doesn’t have an electoral commission, a key plank in any roadmap to free and fair polls in any democracy. The independent body should be headed by persons of high integrity for purposes of not only ensuring free and fair but also credible polls.

 As it stand out now, political parties are yet to hit the campaign trail even as some have threatened to boycott the polls altogether.

Citizens have the right to know the existence and the conduct of the electoral body, should there be any for now. The body needs to transparently conduct its business by keeping the electorates updated about any plans related to the 2023 elections.

The electoral commission requires ample time to prepare for the polls if it has to do a good job. The commissioners need to properly know their mandates in relation to overseeing credible polls.

The commission has a moral responsibility of using the elections to foster for a more united nation than allowing it to threaten our jealously needed unity as a nation.

The commission should ensure efficiency if it expects to be counted as an institution that advocates for nationalism.

It is worth indicating that the same commission will oversee a voter registration exercise, which has a direct bearing on the conduct of the polls.

If we were to stick to the elections calendar as spelt out in the transition constitution then we are hard pressed with time as 2023 is beckoning and certain things have to be done now not tomorrow.

Expert opinion has it that any results are as good as their processes and so we cannot afford to get it wrong, the polls body has to get every stage right from the beginning.

It is not lost in our minds that the 2018 Peace Agreement clearly spells out the timeframe for the implementation of the key planks of the accord including the elections that should be held in 2023.

For now, there is need for intensive civic education and advocacy campaigns if citizens are to exercise their democratic rights as enshrined in the transitional constitution. There is need for massive turnout and this can only be done if the whole process of preparing for the elections is accorded ample time and attention.

I urge all leaders, civil society groups, civil servants and my fellow great citizens to work together, join hands in this historic journey to a greater South Sudan. After all, the elections will come and go and South Sudan will live to stand tall, do not give up in this amazing coming elections, our unity is our weapon to success

God Bless South Sudan.

Be right there!     

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