Political will needed for Free and Fair Elections

By Justin Ambago Ramba, MD

March 5, 2010 (SSNA) — As our politicians convened in Juba on 1st March 2010 to listen to the representative of the Wise Men of Africa, President Pierre Boyuya who was sent by the African Union, they did so completely aware of what to expect. It was all about what their already said, planned to do, or hope to avoid. Thus the meeting served as a good reminder and deterrent to any ill intentions should the devil also succeed to participate with us on equal foots in the coming elections.

President Pierre Boyuya of Burundi who chaired the summit meeting acknowledged the struggle of the south Sudanese people when he said:

“During the long years of war, the people of southern Sudan demonstrated that they could never be ruled against their will, and that the destiny of southern Sudan lies in the hands of the people of southern Sudan. This election will be a milestone in making that a reality.”

And he proceeded to say that

“The challenges of building democracy and development from the ashes of war are great indeed. But in our visits to Juba it is clearly evident that the people of southern Sudan, and their leaders, are making enormous strides in putting aside the suffering of the past to build a brighter future”.

Boyuya’s reassuring statements should receive the expected response as H.E showed his sincere understanding to the situation in south Sudan and the concerns of its people. If anything at all, it demonstrates how this African continent has taken strides in the right direction where one country’s problems are perceived as the problems of all the people of African, thus deeming a continental approach a necessity. It is no long the old world order where a country’s elites can decide to starve its citizens of their democratic rights while the rest of the continent goes out with business as usual.

He also understands and wants us to share with him that taking the steps towards democracy, especially holding free and fair elections, are no easy task. They are not easy for either the party in power or for the opposition. Electoral competition introduces an element of uncertainty into the political order, and with it an element of fear. This true son of the soil deserves our appreciation so much so as fellow Africans and even more especially so as south Sudanese.

Many views were aired by the different south Sudanese political parties in association with their concerns over the coming elections, which reflected the realities on the ground. It was only natural that for the meeting to be of any use, it had to adopt a conciliatory approach and hence ended up by forwarding binding documents that if adhered to the ‘Dos and Don’ts Dos’ thereby enshrined, south Sudan should be in position to pride itself with an exceptionally fair and free elections.

Below are some of the outstanding issues agreed upon and signed for by all the political parties:

The Parties shall ensure that their officers, candidates and supporters refrain from conduct which may disturb the public peace and tranquillity, including the show of force or the threat or use of violence.

Under no circumstances shall candidates and party members carry weapons or use force of any kind, during meetings, public rallies or other campaign activities, or allow their supporters to do so.

Political parties and candidates shall immediately inform the relevant authorities as soon as they become aware of any event that may lead to the outbreak of violence.

During the election period, a Party in power at any level of government shall not use its official position for obtaining unfair electoral advantage for itself or for any other Party.

The Parties, especially those in power, shall ensure that no public funds, means of transport, vehicles, government offices or facilities and authorities shall be used for the benefit or advantage of any Party or candidate to the exclusion of other candidates.

There is no much that I can do myself than to agree with H.E Boyuya that one of the essential features of democracy is that it does not go away. And indeed though these first democratic elections are historic, but they will for sure not be the last. Here lies the secret to our stability, peace, and progress once democracy and peaceful transfer of power becomes everyone’s cup of tea.

Candidates must accept that whatever past they had, will no doubt follow them to the elections and beyond. Those who messed up one way or the other and are perceived to have tortured civilians, looted their properties or ordered their subordinates to do so , or preferred to turn blind eyes while whole communities were been mistreated at will, must today stand tall in this elections to face the judgement day.

Whereas now it can be said though with some reservations that the ruling party is finally seen to be turning the right corner by not only accepting pluralism, but it has to go another step further to tolerate the free operation of all parties and independent candidates based on the code to which all parties have committed themselves.

A point of importance is that all the political parties have again signed an undertaking that they will abide by the CPA, and the right of south Sudan for an internationally monitored referendum to be held on 9th January 2010, and to accept the outcome of the votes whether the Sudan remains united or becomes two neighbouring separate countries.

As we embrace democracy, we should also pay a serious attention to a very important pillar in the whole process and that is the free media. Without freedom of expression and free flow of information, we will continue to live under a condition only similar to the old days of the cold wall where a big chuck of the world lived behind an iron curtain.

There are already complains of harassments directed at some media houses and radio stations operating within south Sudan. There is no way that the security organs can exercise the Gestapo like methods of arresting or closing down media outlets in an attempt to cow them down. Rules should have been put in place with clear procedures that can be followed when a radio station or a newspaper is suspected to have violated the law. Crude harassments reflect savagery as such and are in themselves a genuine call for change.

I would like to conclude by reflecting on the commitment of the international community as expressed by President Boyuya when he said that;

“The coming election in Sudan will be one of the most closely scrutinized in the world, as well as being the most intensely watched electoral contest in Sudanese history. The African Union will be sending a team of observers, not only for polling day, but to monitor the campaign as well.”

It remains the paramount role of our people as Sudanese and as the primary stakeholders in the coming elections that we appreciate the contributions of our friends by equally working hard to accomplish free and fair elections that can go ahead as a positive propaganda for our independent state of south Sudan, come 2010. We must prove to everybody that, we intent to be an addition to the civilized world and not the other way round as others are willing to portray us.

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” King Jr. Martin Luther

Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, M.B, B.Ch, D.R.H, MD. The Secretary General of the United South Sudan Party (USSP). The Party that stands for the Independence of South Sudan. He can be reached at either [email protected] or [email protected]. All the articles of the author are available at www.nilebuffalo.com and blog http//ussp-news.blogspot.com

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