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Diplomat doubts elections will be held as planned

Author: Okot Emmanuel | Published: Friday, November 27, 2020

UK Ambassador to South Sudan Chris Trott at Eye Radio studios

A diplomat has expressed doubts over the possibilities of South Sudan organizing elections within the remaining timeline as envisaged by the peace agreement.

“There is no doubt that some of the delays that we have seen probably are going to delay the ability to have a free and fair election and what is really important is to ensure that when the election takes place it is free and fair,” said Chris Trott, UK ambassador to South Sudan.

South Sudanese are expected to go to the polls by the end of 2022.

But three years since the signing of the revitalized peace agreement, several institutions – including state governments are yet to be established.

Amb Trott argues conducting any elections is not a simple task.

“I think we have to recognize that preparing for the election, which is what is envisaged at the end of the pre-transitional period, is hugely a complicated task,” he stressed.

For elections to take place, the Political Parties Act, 2012 is supposed to be reviewed and approved by the parliament to enable free and democratic registration of Political Parties in South Sudan.

But there is no existing parliament and the National Constitutional Amendment Committee is yet to present such a document.

During this transitional period, the president, in consultation with the parties to the agreement and with the approval of the national parliament, is expected to reconstitute a competent and impartial National Elections Commission to conduct elections.

The agreement also expects the permanent constitution to be enacted during the transitional period.

The National Elections Commission is then required to organize elections 60 days before the end of the transitional period – per the provisions of the Permanent Constitution.

It should ensure that the outcome of the elections is broadly reflective of the will of the electorate.

However, Amb Trott explained that the remaining timeline is unrealistic, considering the challenges facing South Sudan.

“We can’t stick to the original idea which would have perhaps suggested that the election need to take place in 2021 or early 2022 because their isstill too much to do,” he added.

South Sudan has not conducted any election since 2010.

The president has been avoiding by-elections through the use of decrees to fire and appoint elected officials.

Before the 2022 elections, the 2018 revitalized peace agreement demands that the current government conducts a National Population Census.

But in October, the chairperson of the National Bureau of Statistics said it had no resources to conduct any population census if it were asked to by the government.

Activists say disputes among the parties, lack of political will, and alleged financial constraints have been the major obstacles to moving the peace process forward.

Among the outstanding tasks are: reconstitution of the national and state parliaments, completion of the formation of state government structures, the unification of forces, review of constitutional documents, and repatriation of displaced persons.

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