Returnees in Wau and Raja, Western Bahr El Ghazal, say they believe that security arrangements must be in place if South Sudan is to hold timely and credible elections at the end of 2024.
Participants at two separate consultations on the constitution-making and electoral processes, held jointly by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and UN Women, were frank in voicing their concerns.
“It’s vital that all our voices and our inputs be part of our country’s permanent constitution,” stated Suzi Batista, a returnee who sought refuge at the erstwhile UN Protection Site when conflict erupted in 2016. This has since been redesigned as an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp under the sovereign control of the Government of South Sudan.
But, according to Suzi, much remains to be done to ensure that people are free to travel and farm their lands without being afraid.
“Without economic activities, we cannot usher in development, but good security is a key parameter that our leaders must provide us, especially to returnees who were once displaced by violence. For us to fully reintegrate and participate in the public life of our nation, our concerns must be acknowledged,” she added passionately.
“We want to cast our vote and elect our representatives to power without any fear.”
Recommendations from these stakeholder consultations in the state capital, Wau, and Raja County included full implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement; a focused effort to boost security and access to justice for all; widespread economic development, including for youth; and inclusive representation of all communities in South Sudan’s permanent constitution.
“Let us do what is right and dispel misinformation about the constitution-making process,” said Randa Luis Romano from the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission in the state as she encouraged participants to fully contribute to the ongoing drafting process. “This paper does not belong only to the leaders but to every citizen of South Sudan,” she added.
Christina Gabriel Ali, state Minister for Gender, Child and Social Welfare, agreed.
“The constitution is something that every South Sudanese should be intimately familiar with. It is a document that decodes how we decide to live together in peace as one nation. Therefore, everybody has a part to play in it—women, children, men, the disabled, the youth,” she stated, while assuring returnees and IDPs that their views would be presented to the government for inclusion in the final iteration of the country’s constitution.
For Adison Arcangelo Musa, County Commissioner, Raja, people’s participation in these processes distils down to a simple requirement.
“We have all suffered a lot in South Sudan. Our people need to feel safe and secure; we need a country where rule of law is upheld and those who commit crimes against civilians are held accountable for their actions.”