Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 23 March 2013

Security implications for elections in Lakes state

By Sunday Manyang Agok

I am writing in response to South Sudan Human Right Society for Advocacy petition to President Salva Kiir Mayardit calling for formation of Lakes state High Election Committee and for an election of governor in Lakes State as published in Citizen Newspaper Thursday, March 14, 2013 vol.7. Issue No.404. While I partially agree with their petition and treat it with utmost faith and respect, I also hold an opinion to give a chance to the current stringent policies for the restoration of peace and stability in the state.

The security situation in Lakes State earlier this year called for an appointment of a Caretaker Governor for Lakes State that would restore peace and prepare the state for election of a new governor to finish the term of service for the deposed elected governor as indicated in the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan. The decree for the removal and appoint of Governor and Caretaker Governor respectively was applauded with approval in the state and was seen as salvage to the rampant insecurity that also reached State Headquarters of the government. The nature of the conflict in Lakes state is not ordinary one, it involves armed conflict whose effects may threaten national security of this country. It warrants bold decision of the like President took.

The mandate the President gave to Gen. Matur Chut Dhuol made him confident and determined to contain the insecurity. He took a unique approach to consult with people of Lakes State citizens in Juba and indeed he toured eight counties of Lakes State on how the security situation could be contained. The consultation informed the programmes Caretaker Governor intend to undertake to overcome the endemic insecurity caused by the Cattle raids, revenge attacks, unresolved disputes over water points and cattle camps, wide prevalence of AK47 in hands of civilians, etc.
The wisdom expressed in the petition by the South Sudan Human Right Society for Advocacy reflects a mature appeal for respect of constitution and the rule of law.

However, the situation and conditions in Lakes state are still fragile and need patience to realize peace and stability before elections are conducted. The current programmes for arresting culprits and outlaws need to be implemented and the gains consolidated by Gen. Matur to prepare grounds that will pave the way for smooth democratic transition for the people of Lakes state to legitimate rule of their duly elected governor of their choices.

The social structure is psychologically traumatized to believe that revenge killing is the best weapon to inflict on opponent. Personal trauma experiences are as well horrific to tell in most part of the state. It would be good to create social safety net programs that include psychological counseling on how to make peace and live with it throughout. The communities in the state are more worried about their basic survival and safety than following the constitution. It seems the situation in the state turned catastrophic as there was little legal solution. Perhaps this is due to prevalence of weak or traditional coordinated policies and their implementation. The poor coordination between warning systems and the preventative measures for the conflict essential for monitoring conflicts and responses were also pertinent to poor containment of the conflict.

I would propose that the constitution be put aside for some time and Caretaker Governor be given public support to quell the insecurity till pocket of residence conform to law and order and the state to be set at governable state. A quick request for observing and implementing constitutional requirement in Lakes state will frustrate the achievement of peace and stability because many people in Lakes State perceive injustice and lack of transparency in the way their conflict are resolved. Mistrust is bred and ripened in these communities and there is a need for a coordinated effort to restore the people’s confidence in their state government’s ability to resolve conflicts. Some people have at some point implied that virtually everybody involved in the conflict would see himself as a victim and take the law into his/her hands that have resulted into outrageous and unwanted insecurity that deposed former elected Governor.

Yes I would agree with popular statement that democracy and political stability are closely associated with maintaining peace and preventing the eruption of violent conflict. It is also important to denote that success in preventing conflict requires an understanding of the root causes of war, local capacities and interests, and the magnitude and type of provisions made by the national government seems to address them. I would prefer as my opinion that Gen. Matur should be given more time to create stable and conducive environment so that future conflicts are prevented and the next governor does not face other major insecurity problem and sectional upheaval of the kind and condition that forced the President to remove the Governor of Lakes State.

The civil society that includes South Sudan Human Right Group should continue to engage in advocacy for peace and reconciliation in the state. Huge investment of building peace, promoting culture of peace, conflict prevention and strengthening local capacities for maintaining sustainable peace and prosperity for the people of Lakes state should top priority of the lobbying groups. ?If elections are conducted as required by the constitution, it will make it hard for security and peaceful stability to be realized given the complexities involved in the current affairs of Lakes state problems.

The Caretaker Governor has shown great potential to handle insecurity in Lakes state and I think he needs more time than what has been indicated in the constitution otherwise conducting election now will exacerbate the insecurity and make the state ungovernable that may destabilize Republic of South Sudan. Implementation of the constitutional requirement now I am afraid may be identical to ignorant of the current fragile realities of peace and stability in Lakes State.

Sunday Manyang Agok can be reached manyangsun@yahoo.com or on twitter at @newestnation. His South Sudan mobile is 0956228850.