South Sudan's opposition wants elections postponed

Rajab Mohandis (left), Lual Dau, Pagan Amum, William Pay and Stephen Lukaja address the press on the sidelines of the peace talks in Nairobi on June 13, 2024. [Robert Tomno, Standard]

South Sudan opposition leaders holding peace talks in Nairobi have expressed reservations about the upcoming elections.

They said that South Sudan is not prepared for a fair and credible election for various reasons including, the need for a permanent constitution, funding, resettlement of displaced people, an army with a national face, police to protect the poles and the current political environment in South Sudan.

"There are no conditions for elections now. Our people are still divided. We need to reconcile our people. We need to put and meet all the prerequisites of holding a free and fair election before we hold them, because if you hold elections in an environment where people are divided, where you don't have one single army and the political parties for testing elections have their own militias and forces, any electoral dispute could lead us back to conflict and war, which we want to avoid by all means," said Pagan Amum.

Pagan who was addressed the Press on the sidelines of the peace talks, is the leader of the opposition delegation in the process.

He said South Sudan is having a deep national crisis, with a torn social fabric and failure in the talks was not an option.

"Its economy is in ruin, reeling under the toxic effects of state capture and runaway corruption. The service delivery system across the country is totally broken with the people of South Sudan denied any social and developmental services. The state is unable to pay the salaries of civil servants, the army, and the police," said Pagan.

He expressed confidence in the ongoing South Sudan mediation process rebranded by President William Ruto as the "Tumaini Initiative."

"Soon after the restart of the process, the parties signed the declaration of commitments to the Tumaini Initiative- the agenda for the peace talks constituting the third milestone. The mediation and the parties added another success by nurturing and building trust and confidence. This was a landmark and unique accomplishment in stark contrast to the previous South Sudan peace process. All that has created a conducive environment and positive spirit to address the root causes of the conflict and crisis in South Sudan," said Pagan.

He said the initiative is expected to lead to a national constitutional conference in Kenya and South Sudan.

"To achieve this, we must have all the South Sudanese stakeholders, the political parties in the government and in the opposition, our religious leaders, our traditional leaders, our women leaders, our youth leaders, our civil society leaders must all come together and come to that inclusive national constitution," said Pagan.

Lual Dau, Secretary of the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), said the mediation talks in Nairobi should culminate in the transition of South Sudan to peace and democracy.

"But more importantly, there is a need for strong institutions. If you are going to have credible and fair elections, we all know that elections in any country, have disputes. If that is to happen in South Sudan, how do you handle that? You need to have an independent Judiciary system that will make sure that courts protect the constitution, and everyone will be convinced that if you win or you lose the election, we need to concede and support whoever wins the election," said Dau.