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Rights defenders call for constructive electoral participation

By Charles K Mark


Human Rights Activists in South Sudan said true democracy must ensure voices of both the poorest and most marginalized citizens are amplified.

The activists were addressing an event attended by some 60 participants in Juba, hosted by the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

The participants include academicians, lawyers as well as members of human rights commissions, faith-based groups, and representatives from political parties.

The forum purposed to enhance human rights through inclusive participation of all stakeholders in South Sudan’s first post-independence elections slated for December 2024.

A Women, Peace, and Security Officer for the South Sudanese Network for Democracy and Elections (SSuNDE), Zahra Said Ali, revealed that amplifying the voices of the groups above would allow them to make meaningful decisions on issues affecting their lives.

Another activist, the Chairperson of Juba County Women’s Association, Margret Jore, is looking forward to a post-election period where every citizen would live in peace and be economically self-sufficient.

“I am waiting for a day when there will be no land-grabbing or cattle rustling, women and girls will never have to fear sexual violence, and communities will farm their lands and trade without fear of looting or being killed,” she revealed.

For Justice Ajonye Perpetua Paya, a South Sudanese constitutional lawyer, democracy lies in the willingness of politicians to embrace one another as members of one family while holding differing opinions.

“Democratization of the electoral process entails tolerance among political parties, inclusion of women’s voices at all levels of government, plus free and fair representation of youth, civil society organizations, people with disabilities, and, finally, decide on modalities needed to ensure transparent elections,” Justice Ajonye said.

Central Equatoria State Deputy Governor, Sarah Nene Rodento acknowledged that in all democracies, credible elections help empower citizens to express their opinions and will at the ballot boxes without fear or intimidation.

She expressed that it is the only acceptable way of giving political leaders the requisite legitimacy.

“Elections, which are a human right, are a true democracy’s heartbeat. The will of the people must be respected, and rights enjoyed by every citizen. To achieve this, voter registration and voter education must be conducted in a timely fashion,” she added.

Meanwhile, Idrissa Kamara, an Electoral Affairs Officer with the UN Peacekeeping mission, stated the importance of a unified national army.

“I encourage you to put your differences aside and expedite the deployment of the unified army to help provide the security and protection necessary before, during, and after elections,” he stated.

The director of the Human Rights Division at UNMISS, Musa Gassama, echoed some sentiments.

“Elections and human rights, though unique and distinct in their own rights, are inseparable and interwoven, as electoral processes offer citizens the opportunity to participate in public affairs and contribute to their governance system,” he averred.

Mr. Gassama added that “elections are about participation, inclusion, voting and being voted for, coupled with fundamental freedoms of assembly, speech, and opinion without they would be a mere tokenism.”

The forum also sought to develop resolutions to govern the conduct of business before and during elections in the state.

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