By Philip Buda Ladu
As almost a quarter of the two years extended Peace Roadmap over, barely 18 months left for December 2024 highly anticipated and doubtful elections, political parties are already quietly preparing for the polls.
Though there are no official and openly declared election campaigns in the country, political parties have since last year, started indirect mobilizations, as No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper traces their records.
The ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) takes the lead in what it dubbed SPLM party renaissance that witnessed mass mobilizations across the country.
Dr. Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO), the main challenger to the ruling SPLM of President Kiir is not an exception in the undercover maneuvers.
SPLM-IO also last year embarked on organizing its party cadres and launched the establishment of its party secretariats.
The opposition party, further kick-up registration of members across the ten states and three administrative areas, although with complaints of restricted political space.
In 2022 the SPLM renaissance initiative saw the party’s acting secretary general, Peter Lam Both touring all the ten states and three administrative areas conducting huge rallies in mass mobilizations of members as well as followers.
The ruling SPLM party’s renaissance campaign concluded with the endorsement of President Salva Kiir as “Sole candidate” the only party flag bearer for the anticipated 2024 presidential elections.
In March this year, President Salva Kiir, during a rally at Western Bahr El Ghazal capital, Wau, asked thousands of citizens to prepare for elections, at the end of the transitional period.
President Kiir further said he accepted the extension of the transitional period by 24 months to give the political parties an ample time to prepare for general elections.
“We want to bring an end to transitional governments. We should have a democratically elected government, so you, the people of Wau, should prepare for elections,” he echoed.
The SPLM chairman, in a political attic, also declared his candidature on the same occasion and urged other political parties to unveil their candidates for the 2024 presidential polls.
“We will meet in the election time after the roadmap, and parties that are prepared to seek for presidency can come up earlier,” Kiir said.
“I am one of them under the SPLM to compete with others who are ready to face the election with us, they must expose themselves so that they can be seen clearer, and when the time comes, we will meet in the poll,” he added.
Over last weekend, the South Sudan National Movement for Change [SSNMC] led by Moro Isaac Genesio, held its retreat in Juba.
According to media reports, the SSNMC is also getting ready for the 2024 polls, meant to usher in a democratically elected government.
Is the atmosphere ripe for election?
South Sudan’s possibility of conducting general elections by December 2024 hangs in the air with some pending key tasks in the peace roadmap still to be implemented as the clock trickles down.
Activists and analysts weigh that the prospects and the atmosphere of conducting free and fair democratic elections are still unlikely.
And the chairperson of the election commission painted a gloomy picture.
“The possibility of conducting the election is very [questionable],” the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC) Prof. Abednego Akok Kacuol voiced to No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper in an exclusive interview.
Community Empowerment for Progress Organization or CEPO in a statement extended to this outlet said it has increased its Domestic Elections Observation engagement at the preparatory electoral stage.
CEPO underscored that political parties are issuing public statements for readiness in participation in the expected forthcoming national general elections in December 2024.
“Some political parties are ready in electoral campaign activities although they named it political party mobilization of members” CEPO noted.
However, CEPO ruled all those as pre-mature engagement in the electoral process since the required national constitutional mandated institutions for regulating the electoral process is not reconstituted.
According to CEPO, establishment of the political parties’ council, national elections commission, and national constitutional review commission are prerequisites for the 2014 polls to be justifiable.
Enactment of the proposed amendments to the national elections act 2012 (amended) bill, 2023 is also yet to be ratified.
Other prerequisites for the conduct of the election are a permanent constitution that is yet to be made, the conduct of a national population and housing census to ascertain the number of constituencies, and the supposed repatriation of refugees back to their homes.
Mr. Edmund Yakani, Executive Director of CEPO cautions that the pre-mature elections campaigns conducted in unofficial manner may trigger friction among political parties or potential candidates in a same community.
“It is essential that the leadership of this country should take urgent decision for reconstitution of the required political national institutions that are constitutionally mandated to regulate electoral processes for legitimate engagement” he urged.
Yakani observed that delaying reconstitution of the mandated institutions for the conduct of national general elections beyond the month of June 2023 may contribute to nurture electoral violence.
In early January 2022, the head of the UN mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom urged the unity government to start preparing a conducive political environment ahead of the forthcoming elections.
Mr. Haysom said much work, such as establishing a legal framework, preparing the ground and environment for the conduct of elections, needed to be done.
The unity government through its Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Martin Elia Lomuro wrote a request to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in January 2022, seeking support for conducting a free, fair and credible election at the end of the transitional period.
“The government of South Sudan hereby requests the United Nations to provide electoral assistance to the government and relevant national institutions in support for the preparation and conduct of peaceful, inclusive, and creditable elections,” Lomuro said.
Much as many tasks that can lead to the conduct of free and fair elections are incomplete, it remains to be seen if the elections will take place.