There are a lot of critical issues at stake, if South Sudan is to transit into a democratic state.
Our leaders, who are well aware of these issues and are at the center of decision making to realize this, are unwilling to steer the caravan towards that. What appears to bear for public knowledge now is an advanced maneuver to secure allegiances from various social groups and informal institutions like associations. And also, realignment of strategic public institutions that are instrumental, for control of power towards their docket.
This is to galvanize political support base for the party. And these are clear indications that the desire for full implementation of the peace agreement, and roadmap are not priorities.
However, the peace agreement and roadmap are being used to keep legitimacy floating while underground work at political party level to prevail during election time take shape until the planned time arrives.
The 2024 elections have been widely interpreted by some people as a measuring yard for democratic transformation. But not knowing that democratic transformation requires numerous inter-connectedness of things that interplay each other for its realization.
For instance, in the case South Sudan, there must be free space for democratic debates. These debates will address a lot of critical tasks resolving around the model of constitution, governance, and institution buildings. There must be freedom of the press without interference with the editorial independence of the media houses.
In addition to that, there must be activities and adherence within the political parties to institutionalize internal democratic values, procedures, and practices. This will transform the parties in to well-established political powerhouses, whereby parties’ flag bearers in any election will be subjected to competitions without fear or intimidation in parties’ primary election. And this condition is far from reality on the ground.
On another note, the tasks in constitution making processes must be fulfilled first in line with international standards. Citizens must receive civic education to bolster their civic knowledge capacities; this will shape their choices and participations. However, it’s remained untapped.
There must be a government led effort and partners to conduct census, voters registration, and education. The strengthening of the electoral system and laws, as well as operationalization of the political party act which will guarantee peaceful, and fair election conduct. But it’s also off priority as per now.
And the conducive environments for citizens to move, and for political campaigns to take place, have to prevail securely without threats.
Such conditions, if not tackled one after another by our leaders properly before 2024 planned election, the country will not transition into democracy, even if the elections will be held. And it’ll be cosmetic election to legitimize another rule without substantive democratic values.