South Sudan Safari - Episode 16 (MP3)

Isaac Woja on the Postponement:"..I think nothing had been done to prepare the public adequately. If you went to my village and asked my parents about voting and elections, they will not understand or know what you are talking about. We need to carry out civic education for the South Sudan.."

South Sudan Safari - Episode 16


Views of South Sudanese on the Postponement of General Elections 

Yom: Welcome to South Sudan Safari. My name is Rebecca Yom Chor and I am Chris Olet.

Olet: In our sixteenth edition of South Sudan Safari series, we will be talking to the citizens about their views on how they felt about the postponement of the long-awaited general elections to next year. For South Sudan Safari, Clement Lochio Lomornana met some citizens on the streets of Juba.

Woja: My name is Isaac Woja and I come from Central Equatoria State. Well, I was first disappointed when I got the information, but after understanding the reasons for the postponement, I was happy. First, because if there are reasons as stipulated, I agree because we cannot hold our elections due to the fact that the border between South Sudan and North Sudan has  not been demarcated and there are some key items on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that  have not been agreed upon for implementation. So it’s fine with me.

Secondly, there is the issue of the weather. You know work in South Sudan, especially in places like Aweil and others is quite hectic during the rainy seasons. There is no way one can move to the villages except during the dry seasons. Another thing is the issue of timing. They did a mistake to schedule the election period in July, as that cannot work in South Sudan.

Lomornana: Do you think the postponement will give the people of South Sudan room for preparation?

Woja: Sure. I think nothing had been done to prepare the public adequately. If you went to my village and asked my parents about voting and elections, they will not understand or know what you are talking about. We need to carry out civic education for the South Sudan masses. They need to know why they are voting and all the election processes so that they can do the right thing for themselves and for the people of South Sudan. To me this could give us more time to prepare and make the right choices. I would wish the government and relevant stakeholders to make use of this time to carry out a mass public civic education campaign so that people can get to know, prepare and reflect on the actual intention of the people who are voting.

Bonna: My name is Hanna Lona Bonna, the Chairperson of Public Service in Western Equatoria State Legislative Assembly and I am from Mundiri West constituency and an SPLM Member. Actually, the postponement of the elections to 2010 reflects or takes us back the agreement signed in 2005. This is so because all the 6 protocols that were agreed upon were not implemented in Sudan and especially in South Sudan. Because since then, even the border commission was not formed on time and the north – south border not demarcated. Even the formation of other things, including the census commission had not taken shape according to the CPA. Hence, those reasons resulted into the postponement of the elections to next year. Moreover, it’s not a fault we expected because we are looking forward to implementing the CPA as it is and with the partnership of the SPLM,  to sit together and see that the peace deal  is being implemented and protected as long as our people on the ground  are seeing to it that it’s being implemented accordingly. I think that is one of the reasons that led to the postponement of the elections.

Makuei: My name is Bol Makuei and I am from Lakes State. In fact, it is said that we are behind time in the implementation of the CPA. However, we welcome the postponement of the elections because there are some things that need to be done before people proceed with the elections. First and foremost, the census results had not been announced and this is a very important factor in the formation of the constituencies and the candidates who are going contest in the elections.

Secondly is the border issue. If we conducted the elections now, which borders will we observe? Therefore we need the border demarcation exercise to be cleared. Thirdly, there are certain laws that need to be revived such as the freedom of the press, general security and human rights that are not being observed by the constitution that existed before the CPA. To me it’s a disappointment because the National Congress party (NCP) has been dragging its feet not to implement these laws. If we had demarcated the borders earlier, declared the census results earlier and also revived the laws against the freedom of the press, we would have done things on time. We just accept the postponement just because all these things have not been done.

Furthermore, more rains are coming, especially the period after July and this time will not be good for elections as accessibility will be quite a challenge.

Philip: My name is Elias Philip. I am a pastor, teacher and a missionary in the church. I come from Western Equatoria State, born in Maridi but grew up in Northern Sudan before the Lord’s call to serve the church. For the people of South Sudan, those who were not aware of our history and the cause of the 21-year civil war between the north and the south, they should know that the postponement of this election was purposely done. I don’t think if this was done for a good reason but all I know is that there is a reason behind it.

First of all, I would start with the signing of the CPA. If we go back to our history, we used to have in the period from December to February as the time for elections all over Sudan like that of Nimeiri. It took place during the dry season both in the South and in the North mainly because in July, the North is always flooded and rainy in the South. Thus movements in places like Yambio and Malakal was impossible during this tome of period of the year. For instance, in Bahr el Ghazi State, how would the ballot papers be transported? So as per the CPA, the elections we not scheduled rightly and as such we are not surprised by the postponement.

So we have to look back to see as to why the elections were postponed. They knew in July there would be rains to manipulate and to kill democracy. If they postponed it to January, then they knew that from April next year it will not be possible because there are certain things that have not been done in the CPA.

Lomornana:  Do you think this will give the Government of Southern Sudan room for enough preparations?

Philip: First and foremost I will say the Government of Southern Sudan is not serious, as you can see now. Bayam Agom was supposed to stay in the south and move to his state, but I don’t know why he is afraid of all these states. But if you asked him to visit all the other states, he will be quick to talk to the media but not visit the ten states, then how and what will you tell the people we have elections in January?

Yom: But what is the stand of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) on this election and the postponement of the election which was supposed to be conducted in July this year as stipulated in the CPA but now pushed to April next year? Clement Lochio Lomornana put this question to Dr Anne Itto the SPLM Secretary General Southern sector.

Dr Itto: The SPLM being a signatory to the CPA wants the schedule of the agreement to be maintained and the CPA plus the interim constitution provided for an election that should be held not later than the end of the fourth year of the interim period that is actually to end by July. So to us what is important is keeping the schedule, but also keeping it in mind that the scheduling of dates is not the responsibility of the either the SPLM or the NCP, but it is the responsibility of the National Election commission.

Therefore they have come up with these dates and we will respect the decision of this body as long as it is provided for by the CPA. Now what we have to do is work very hard and make sure that the elections that we are waiting for are free and fair.

Lomornana: What is the first priority of the SPLM as far as these elections are concerned?

Dr Itto: The first priority for us in the SPLM in the agenda was to complete the registration at the political council. Now that we are registered and ready to participate like any other political organisation, like those who have existed for over 20 years, we are now equal with them. We have completed our registration and I think that is a very important thing which you need to know and I also want to suggest our interest to participate in the forth coming elections.

With that done and also the announcement of the election calendar by the National Election Council, SPLM now feels more comfortable on how to organise ourselves to have our members ready for the different stages of the elections starting with the voter registration then voter education but mostly importantly the nomination of candidates until April next year because it makes it easier for us to prepare ourselves even though we acknowledge that has delayed so much and by the time the elections are to conducted, the time left between the formation of a new government and preparing for the referendum will be very short. It is easier to deal with a situation whereby you have dates rather than when you do not know anything at all.

Alongside the announcement of the election calendar, I would like to take this opportunity to announce that SPLM has put up a strategy committee which is chaired by the Deputy Chairman of the SPLM His Excellency James Wani Igga, and they have already held one meeting which came up with many programmes on how to mobilise resources for the elections and developing a criteria on selecting candidates. You know elections are like a front line where you either do it right or fail. Quite often people fail not because they are bad but due to the fact that they did not adopt the right strategy and we do not want to fail in an election just because we did not prepare well. We also need to put up a campaign plan and strategy on how to present ourselves and use the media effectively. If at all you didn’t have market, I am sure this time round people will be around you like honey and sugar and so many to follow. Therefore, the media is a serious body and we are looking to working with it positively.

Lomornana: What is the committee chaired by His Excellency James Wani Igga doing currently?

Dr Itto: This committee has already started a one month’s trip. His Excellency James Wani Igga started from Yambio before proceeding to other states and he is accompanied by a small group. Their plan is to cover all the 25 states of the Sudan since he is the National Chairman of the Election Committee.

Lomornana: How supportive is the Southern Sector to this committee?

Dr Itto: In the support for the election committee, the Southern Sector has launched a one month campaign that will take us to the 12 sectors including Abyei, the 12 states which will include the 10 from South Sudan, Blue Nile and South Kordofan. We have launched a campaign with the main objective of taking SPLM to every hut. This is very important and in fact if you were following the SPLM organisational processes, we have managed to establish ourselves in every part of the Sudan and we have over four thousand boma offices in the Sudan, more so in every village. However, that is not enough for us because we are a party for change and to be an effective party for change one has to get to the hearts and minds of the people who are going to be campaign agents.

Additionally, you cannot talk about something you don’t believe in but for us in the SPLM if our vision is in the mind and heart of the person they will never able to talk and appreciate so this particular campaign is to be taken to all parts of the Southern Sector and will be focusing on various key aspects of the movement. We have about four key messages we are taking to the people. Many people have known the SPLM as the party that brought the CPA, that is right but that is not a dead end but actually news to an end because it is an agreement that gives Sudan the way to lay a foundation for finally achieving a Sudan that is free and prosperous.

So we are going around telling people that that despite what other people have been saying about the party and lately many articles in the newspapers describing the party as corrupt or saying it has elbowed out other parties or has failed to provide, we are to explain to the people what SPLM really stands for so that they can see whether we have kept our promise or not.

Lomornana: What is your message to all the SPLM supporters?

Dr Itto: My first message is to inform everyone that we are a democratic party that seeks freedom, peace and prosperity for all Sudanese. Along these lines and partners in the implementation of the CPA, we have ensured greater freedom for all citizens and therefore there is no one now doubting the freedom than before the CPA signing in 2005. There are people who have been living here in Juba who can remember how it was impossible to go to the Juba bridge and how almost impossible it was for one to visit his or her relatives in Yei or just near here in Lanyai. That is not freedom when you are not able to move and talk. So what we are saying is we are working for freedom that we can see and feel a bit. We may not have reached where we are but it’s the search for freedom.

We stand for equality and justice. Equality where allocation of the government budget is allocated according to grants where each state gets a grant to show that every body deserves some little money for development and this is laying a foundation for equality.

Justice means having a justice system such as the police and court system that you can actually go to court and sue somebody. If one does wrong, then the police can arrest you and then we have prisons to lock the wrong doers.

Olet: That was Clement Lochio Lomornana talking to Dr Anne Itto about the SPLM stand on the forthcoming election. But with the nagging problem of the LRA in Western Equatoria State and child abduction practice among some communities of South Sudan, how will the government control such practices in regard to the coming general election? This is the question Clement Lochio Lomornana put to Dr Riek Machar Teny, the Vice President of the Government of Southern Sudan on arrival from Jonglei State with abducted children, handed to him by the Murle women leaders.

Dr Machar: Child abduction is a very unfortunate phenomenon practiced in the common border between the north and the south with the Arab tribes abducting South Sudanese children. In the South, the Murle tribe is known for abducting children and unfortunately lately we have some cases of child trafficking by people who may not even be Murle and who go on to sell them to the Murle. Child abduction can be stepped out by law with peace coming to South Sudan and Sudan in general; this is going to stop now with the provision of law and order and so we are hoping that with regional conferences that we are holding between tribes, ethnic communities will be enlightened to avoid child abduction and avoid violence to put to an end to this practice.

(Pointing to a boy in his company).This young boy here was abducted by the Murle and we are now tracing his parents. He was abducted last December with five other children. Apparently we are tracing and can’t find his parents and we don’t have to blame the parents at times for not taking care of their children. For instance, there was an incident in Gumbo where a woman lost her children who were playing in the house as she attended to some domestic work.

Lomornana: Is there any mechanism the government is enforcing to see to it that all the abducted children are returned to their right communities?  

Dr Machar: We are making an effort and particularly we are holding conferences to discuss child abduction and hopefully in the conference all the chiefs and governors will participate. In the Government, the Ministry of Gender and Social Welfare is formulating consents because some ethnic communities really have a problem like the Murle and coupled with the insecurity in the area, they involve in illegal child abductions. So, we in the government are doing our best to bring to an end these activities.

Lomornana: You were in Jonglei State, what mechanism did you derive to return these children back to their community?

Dr Machar: We talked to the general population and apparently it was only the ladies cooperating and they were also the ones who identified the whereabouts of children, through the help of the chiefs. The system is on and the Murle are also becoming fed up and getting a stigma of shedding it off thus they are now cooperating with the government and the traditional leaders in returning the children. We hope that with this cooperation, next time they will be able identify the children who where abducted before, even if they were raised by the Murle. They may also be useful in creating better relations with the neighbouring ethnic communities.

Lomornana: Will the presence of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) in South Sudan have a big impact on the smooth running of the forthcoming general elections.

Dr Machar: I think in Eastern Equatoria State the LRA presence has not lasted two years. In Central Equatoria State, the LRA have been sighted in Morobo, Yei and Lainya counties. In Western Equatoria the rebels are in their numbers and have re-grouped towards the Congo border. However, we have found out that a good number of them are surrendering and want to be disarmed and the United Nations is working tirelessly to sort that out and thus the LRM issue will be resolved.

With regards to the elections, that might affect some areas in Central Equatoria and Western Equatoria States.

Lomornana: Is the Government carrying our civil education in regards to elections?

Dr Machar: Yes. A workshop has been held in Juba on voter’s education by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and other NGOs have been holding extensive workshops in all the ten states. The voters in South Sudan are going to vote 12 times and this is the most elaborate electoral system all over the world. We are going to have 12 ballots for a voter which means a voter may spend at least 20 minutes at a polling station. This will be very difficult for South Sudanese in particular, because there is a big generation that has not participated in election due to the war.


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