“The trouble with free elections is, you never know who is going to win”. LEONID BREZHNEV:
By: Justin Ambago Ramba
April 14, 2010 — People are flocking in their thousands all over the war ravaged South Sudan to get a taste of what it is like to vote in their ever first experience. However, it is true that, this very much anticipated democratic process itself is not free of hiccoughs and snags, which are obviously upsetting at certain times.
“Our two elections agents were each hand cuffed and chain tied to each other by the neck, an act that is reminisce of the old slavery era. They were then driven away from Riau Polling Station,...........”. Wrote, veteran politician Bona Malwal Madut Ring, the South Sudan Democratic Forum (SSDF) candidate for the geographical constituency No.8, Warrap State, who eventually pulled out from the race.
Other similar events might have been reported in other parts of south Sudan however so far no serious events have been reported and the foreign observers seem to be to seeing some credibility in the process as expressed by former Ghanaian president, John Kufour:
“People generally appreciate the elections, although there are a few glitches and flaws here and there”. John Kufour who is also the Head of African Union Observer Mission in Sudan, said.
But who are we, to avoid disappointments at this stage of our history which is marred by lots of manmade hurdles primarily intended to undermine our will to live as free people.
If you are a south Sudanese or happen to have lived or even just visited this remote area of the human civilization, you will never hold back your appreciation for the strong will demonstrated by these deprived people, who despite all the odds are set to prove all sceptics wrong should they keep their composure the way it currently stands.
Stories after stories have been told about the extreme difficulties encountered not only by the common people who turned up to participate in this historical event, but even some big boys have had their I.Qs tested. I can only say that what we have is a complicated voting process, even by foreign experts’ admissions.
So far I remain optimistic, with a very high hope that our people will continue to abide by their enduring spirits, although of course as usual, the devil always hides in the details. Things are only declared well when they register happy endings. Let us hope that we will continue to behave ourselves, while we learn our first lessons in the school of democratic transformation. It should be a pride for us to see that our people are keen to practice their basic rights by going out to choose their leaders through the ballot and never again through the bullet.
It is also the wish of the author to draw our collective attention, so that clear lessons are drawn from this very chaotic electoral process, such that similar situation are avoided in the coming referendum, especially so when we are barely left with few months at hand.
As south Sudanese we should be able to see that the chaos surrounding these elections is no coincidence. This is a calculated chaos. And those who came up with it are the same people who have spent most of their lives rehearsing these very devilish techniques in the students’ Unions since their school days. While I underline it here, I also would be appreciative that none of our people should ever try to copy it or even carry it over into our future independent nation of south Sudan. These are one of the many bad habits that are to be left behind while we cross over to the Promised Land.
Many people are on record for their persistence in calling for the forward procession with the current elections at a time when most were already fed up. Of course many on the other hand are also on record for underrating it while others out rightly boycotted it. However it is good that the voice of the mind has dominated and here we are voting and learning.
The very slow pace to the democratic transformation as well as the accompanying confusions that surround the entire electoral process are themselves no doubt the work of some political forces. The dominant National Congress Party (NCP) of the Indicted, incumbent president Omer al Bashir, who in himself is not only a human rights violator, but a typical enemy of democracy and a non- believer in any peaceful transfer of power, has a major hand in what we are seeing, however the SPLM & it’s northern opposition parties also did contribute and are still doing so.
Is it not true that he (al Bashir) got where he is now through an unconstitutional military take-over from a democratically elected government? Now at this eleventh hour, who are those out there, who want us to believe that al Bashir has converted to democracy or even that he is in any way convertible?
Al Bashir and his NCP were in no way concerned about seeing any democratic transformation is the country. Asking these coup plotters to revert to democracy is more or less like requesting an assailant to resuscitate its deceased victim. Democracy to the totalitarian Islamists is but, a forever enemy.
Who doesn’t know that, after the Oil revenues started to flow, the last thing the NCP would ever think of is to loosen its grips on power? The same applies to our friends in the SPLM, with more than half a decade of thorough soaking in the Oil money; they too would like to cling to power.
Now no wonder that elections were considered as distractions and to some extent, the government of national unity where other smaller partners are to be silence with Oil money, was seen a better option. What followed was reluctance towards the preparation for the run up to the elections. Delaying tactics became the official way of conducting business at the Palace, the GoNU, and the GoSS and almost everywhere else. Yes! And why should they ever hurry?
Lessons undoubtedly learnt are, lack of political will, poorly conducted population census, delayed naming of the members of the National Elections Commission (NEC), delayed financing, delayed printing of the ballots, non professionalism in dealing with the voters registry (lack of proper revision of the names –and much delay in producing the final registry- confused and contradictory positions of the political parties.
The current general elections, without the least doubt at all, remains the first ever since the creation, where south Sudan is able to vote in a true multi-party democracy without any outside intimidation. Look around and you can see that all the candidates, the voters, and poll managers are all from the south.
In contrast to everything we see now, in the 50’ and the 60’s, not just that the elections were controlled by northern administrators, traders, military officers, but even many of the candidates representing our people where in fact people who weren’t from the constituencies, and contested on the two major northern sectarian parties’ tickets, the UMMA and the DUP. Today it is different, better, and indigenous, though still confused and messy.
With the need to draw lessons from what have surfaced now largely in form of obstacles to free and fair elections, one is urged to call for vigilance among our people and their representatives. It is no secret that, not only the NCP which is against the very idea of the south, seceding, but the entire north can be seen at any moment from now to work up a joint strategy so as to block any fraud free referendum in 2011 or invent last minute hurdles to deprive us from remaining a united people.
The very initiative now declared by NCP to form a new government of national unity with the main task of making the referendum difficult is a clear indication that the enemy is not sleeping, and just proves the aforementioned point.
"If we are declared winners in the elections ... we would extend the invitation to all parties, even those who have not participated in the elections, to join the government because we believe this is a critical moment in our history," senior NCP official Ghazi Salaheddin told reporters.
"We are facing important decisions like self-determination in the south and would like to garner as much support and as much consensus as we can."Ghazi added.
It is in guaranteeing a fraud free referendum that, we as southern Sudanese, should play our utmost roles. The list of issues is long, and the time left is too short. If we think that the NEC has been too much in favour of the NCP, then we must strife hard with the help of the international community that we don’t end up again with a referendum commission that will readily sell us down the Nile. Many good swimmers have died barely minutes after reaching the coast!
The one other huge challenge that has clearly beaten everyone in this elections, especially so in south Sudan, is the problems with the logistics. The question is: Can a good logistics be put in place before the referendum? Can we afford to get the 66% turnout for recognition? The elections has clearly shown us the leaks and it’s now our collective duty to fix them, should we really be dreaming of a credible referendum and one that can see us across to the Promised Land.
Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, M.B, B.Ch, D.R.H, MD. Secretary General of the United South Sudan Party (USSP). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com