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South Sudan president delays 2015 general elections

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May 12, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has announced that the next general elections scheduled to be held next year will be pushed back until 2017 due to continued instability and violence in the country.

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South Sudanese president Salva Kiir speaking at a press conference at Khartoum airport on 5 April 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdalla)

The 2015 elections were to be the first since the country gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

The president made the announcement on Sunday following his return from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he signed a framework agreement with former vice-president turned rebel leader Riek Machar, aimed at ending the nearly five-month-old conflict.

Kiir said the decision would allow time for national reconciliation and pave the way for peaceful and transparent elections in the country.

“Elections will not be held in 2015 because reconciliation between the people will have to take time,” Kiir told supporters at a rally organised to welcome him at Juba airport.

The president said while he preferred to hold elections in 2015, he had accepted the advice of Western leaders that the country needed more time to prepare.

COMMITMENT TO PEACE

Kiir, meanwhile, reaffirmed his government’s commitment to implementing a peaceful settlement to the crisis, which has killed thousands and displaced more than 1.3 million.

He said the proposed formation of a transitional government, which will include all political parties and civil society groups, would be carried out after the signing of a final peace agreement.

The transitional government will be tasked implementing critical reforms negotiated as part of the peace process, overseeing a permanent constitutional process and preparing the country for new elections.

“These tasks require time and participation of all our people, so it will not be possible to hold elections in 2015. The processes will need not less than two years, so we decided that the next general elections [will] be held in 2017 so that there is [enough] time for preparations,” Kiir said in a public broadcast.

International observers have previously expressed concerns about South Sudan’s ability to meet the deadline for the poll.

A national census required to define, demarcate and distribute geographical constituencies has also yet to be conducted.

The last census was conducted in 2008 when the region was still part of the united Sudan from which it seceded in 2011 following a 2005 peace accord which ended a brutal civil war spanning more than two decades and swept the then rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) to power.

The results of the 2008 census remain in dispute, although it continues to be used as the basis for the distribution of wealth and allocation of political seats in both the executive and parliament.

The current composition of the national parliament includes those who were elected to the national parliament in Khartoum in 2010 prior to the country’s split in 2011.

Simmering political tensions within the SPLM since last year have been blamed for triggering South Sudan’s latest crisis, in what is the worst violence in the country’s post-secession era.

Machar has accused the president of dishonouring their gentlemen’s agreement as running mates during the 2010 elections in which he campaigned for the president to get elected.

Kiir subsequently removed his long-standing deputy after Machar signaled his intention to contest the party’s chairmanship, which would have seen him become the likely presidential candidate in the 2015 elections.

PUBLIC REACTION

Simon Majok, a native of Unity state’s Parieng country, said he was not surprised by the announcement.

He suspects some politicians in the country of using the fighting as leverage to hold onto positions of power.

“A part from this conflict, which some of us think was instigated and which could be used as a reason to extend the general elections, I think the announcement does not surprise at all, because it was one of the objectives of some of the politicians in the current government,” he told Sudan Tribune on Monday

“They (the current government) have wanted all along the elections to be postponed to either 2017 or cancelled them indefinitely. My other reading of the whole objective behind pushing the year is to keep away the potential political opponents, especially those who have presidential and gubernatorial ambitions,” he added.

But Alfred Deng, a native of Western Bahr el Ghazal currently based in Juba, said delaying the elections would allow time for a review of the constitution, which originally gave the president excessive powers, including the right to remove elected governors and dissolve the state parliament.

“These powers will now be modified in the next constitution and the powers of the president will be clearly defined and limited. It will also mean revision of the entire constitution,” said Deng.

Some political and legal experts have argued that not all social and political reforms need to be enshrined in the constitution.

However, Juba-based political commentator James Okuk said it is critical for the country’s future that the foundation for reforms be laid down in the constitution so as to create a legally enforceable obligation that must be respected, citing women’s rights and land tenure as examples.

EXCESSIVE POWERS

Activists say there has been a tendency in African countries of developing a constitution which gives more powers to either the president or parliament, resulting in the roll-back of constitutional provisions and unlimited terms for elected heads of states.

In many cases, African leaders have also diluted the impartiality of the courts and independent organisations created in part to act as a government watchdog, as was the case in Kenya five years ago when former president Mwai Kibaki handpicked the members of what was meant to be an independent electoral commission.

“When the elections in December 2007 took place, the commission was quick to confirm that President Kibaki had been re-elected,” said Samson Duku, a law student at Uganda’s Makerere University. “Everyone else, the opposition parties and large parts of the international community, viewed the election as rigged. Can you expect members of the electoral commission who owe their appointment to the president to be independent-minded when it comes to his survival in office following the elections? I think this is an example our country should take a serious note,” he added.

Similar situations have also occurred in countries where one party dominates the presidency, parliament and judiciary, thus curtailing any system of checks and balances.

PEOPLE’S CONSTITUTION

As is the case in many African countries, the power to introduce legislation or alter the constitution lies with the president or parliament, although some countries have borrowed from the South African example of holding the government to accountable to a constitutional court that can hear complaints and rule against government policies.

Changes to the constitution require a two-thirds majority in the national assembly and the support of a majority of provinces.

Provisions in Kenya’s 2010 constitution allows citizens to initiate reforms as long as they do not affect key issues such as the supremacy of the constitution, the bill of rights and the terms of the president or the territory of the country.

“This is what our people want to be reflected in the next constitution. It should be a people-centred constitution so that they would be able to hold accountable their representatives and those elected to represent them at any level of government,” said Deng.

Political scientists say that making a constitution too easy to change could potentially undermine the development of democratic institutions, saying an open and inclusive process for the creation of a constitution that can evolve over time is key.

(ST)

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  • 13 May 07:30, by Malou Manyiel

    Indeed it is what every ordinary citizen of this country expected. My question is, will Riek Machar and president Kiir in the next 3 years do something tangible for South Sudanese that will bring them together as one people one country? Will they prioritize tarmac roads in the next 3 years that will convinced S.Sudanese to vote for SPLM? Am still doubting even if they extended elections to 2020!!!

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    • 13 May 07:48, by Augustino

      yes it is obvious time is needed for national reconcilliation BUT will SPLM official stop their corrupt nature of governing the country? Salva Kiir we need peace, Unity, forgiveness and development. Riek Machar we need the same from you too. You two are lucky enough to kill people and are still being praised by south Sudanese as leaders of their choic. Please go back and sign peace for people.

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    • 13 May 09:49, by Rami Tot

      Who is the one responsible for the national reconciliation? That Daniel Deng Bol has the deadly hand in killing of Nuer with stupid president Kiir,you guy are thinking with previous mentality wakeup things Change if you don’t know you guy are proud of the present of UPDF and sudanese rebels which u rely on no we fine the equation to get them out of south sudan I am sure you will change the languag

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    • 14 May 02:51, by NgorKur Mayol Chier

      Dear colleagues, I want to let you know that I have nothing to say more about this idea of president Kiir being push a head of the 2015 election to 2017. However, I want all of our citizens in the ten states of South Sudan, and in around the world to be able to prays more for peace to come there to South Sudan for all. Therefore, I wise them the best by saying thanks and God bless in all you do!!

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  • 13 May 07:45, by Joseph Canada

    That’s what I was talking all this time here! Clinging into the power is the habit of the African presidents. They will do anything in their power to be elected. Now how can you start the coup, kill many and kill more in the processes as well as reconcile at the same time?

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  • 13 May 08:18, by Mr Point

    No surprise here that Kiir delays the elections for two more years. Why did he not extend his term indefinitely?
    It is obvious that the situation in South Sudan is too unstable for democracy. The terrible tribal revenge killings and warlord culture that rewards violence make it impossible to have a national dialogue.
    And who was it who made the country unstable on Dec 13 2014?

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    • 13 May 08:31, by Gangura

      look at this stupid and selves president of our. I think Kirr is mad how could he pused election by 3 years and yet we need Machar to come an rule us from this idiot dinkas who only know eating money. and by the we Equatorians we need federalism so that each state will have chance to get this oil money.

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  • 13 May 08:22, by Son of Ngundeng

    Dear citizen of South Sudan.
    Salva Kiir and his SPLM wrong members need to take this country to the hell, eventhough he make election in 2015 who is gona elected him? only his son and his wife Ayandit, what he have done to this poor nation it is a darty job, which some one will not thinking of election while he is killing the nation which are going to elect him, what the fake leader like this?.

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  • 13 May 08:26, by Mr Point

    After Garang was killed Kiir was chosen above the SPLM #2 as a leader to bring all the different groups together.
    Machar became VP in a power sharing and reconciliation arrangement. This ended when Kiir sacked then tried to kill his deputy, starting this senseless war.
    What’s the solution? Power sharing. An extension of Kiir’s term.
    SQUARE ONE!

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  • 13 May 08:29, by Mr Point

    After Garang was killed Kiir was chosen above the SPLM #2 as a leader to bring all the different groups together.
    Machar became VP in a power sharing and reconciliation arrangement. This ended when Kiir sacked then tried to kill his deputy, starting this senseless war.
    What’s the solution? Power sharing. An extension of Kiir’s term.
    SQUARE ONE!

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    • 13 May 11:01, by Jewish Ally

      NO ONE IS INTERESTED IN BOTH RIEK MACHAR AND PRESIDENT KIIR TO RULE THIS NATION AGAIN, BUT WE NEED KIIR TO LEVE THIS OFFICE IN A VERY ORGANIZED FORM, NOT BY FORCE. MACHAR IS NOT FIT TO RULE THIS COUNTRY BASE ON HIS BACKGROUND. APART FROM THIS TWO THREE ARE MANY OTHER ELITE OR EDUCATED SOUTH SUDANESE THAT CAN LEAD US.

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    • 13 May 11:14, by mathem jech amer

      Mr point
      Square one is better, it should had been square zero, because you Nuer are the ones taking people back by destroying our infrastructure, the little we did, you destroy it, so why cpmplainoing of what your people did, ask Nuer to rebuild Bentiu, Bor & Malakal with their resources, maybe money they looted in banks.

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      • 13 May 19:55, by Mr Point

        @mathem
        Do try to improve your reasoning!
        My people are not Nuer.
        My people are Dinka.
        And I repeat my point. This war was started by Salva Kiir to increase his term in power. And now he says there is a war - so he must have a longer term in power.
        He has done enough already. Let him rest!

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  • 13 May 08:33, by Son of Ngundeng

    Dear Citizen of this bless land.
    Salva Kiir he is killing us while he requeting the election.
    There is an Arab example (Killing hen and taking the eggs) he killing South Sudanese citizen and requesting them to elect him, who will accept this? while 1.3 million are in refugee camp.Who will come home to stand in his side? only Warrap people will come up with their stupid son to be a sultan in Warrap

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  • 13 May 09:28, by Majongdulthii Anyang-majongduldit

    The decision take by president is a welcoming move, and i urge other political parties to a bid with it election can be done after all South Sudanese people reconcile among themselves regardless of their tribes and region, and when people understand that powers can be transfer through ballots boxes but not bullets and guns as some of us think.

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  • 13 May 11:00, by mathem jech amer

    We know delaying & IGAD but will these 2 to 3 years bring any meaningful reconciliation?Fighting has been there since 2005 but governemnt did nothing to stop it, will there be any developmental activity or just wasting money for unachievable national reconciliation.

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  • 13 May 17:16, by Kim Deng

    The Dinka Kingdom ordered Uganda army to bomb Mighty Nuer Warriors with banned weapons known as "Cluster Bombs."
    What if the Uganda army did not invlove in this war? You know the answer.
    http://www.southsudannewsagency.com/news/top-stories/uganda-used-cluster-bombs-in-south-sudan

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  • 13 May 23:10, by Philosopherking

    While I agree with the postponement of the general elections, the president should stop behaving as if his decisions are the ones that matter most. He should not make that call, for it will seem as if the president is buying more time. That decision should be decided by parliament! Mr. President, you either begin consulting with parliament is risk dishonoring the constitution.

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  • 13 May 23:17, by Philosopherking

    Now that elections have been postponed, Kirr needs to make way for an interim government without him or Riek this will ensure the playing field for the forthcoming elections is fair to all South Sudanese. An interim administration lead by Kirr or Riek is not interim...its is the same rubbish recycled without being cleaned.

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  • 14 May 15:39, by Emporio

    Pushing election to 2018 only will achieve the dream of President to extend his term boyend 2025 is kirr the chiosen men to bring peace for poeple of south sudan or is just an extension of another chaos for the poeple our people and intellectuals need to wake up and do somethinv about it

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