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South Sudan conflict and fear of Elections

Interview with Kalonzo Musyoka, Uhuru Kenyatta’s special envoy to South Sudan

Meresia Aloo – Nairobi

The republic of South Sudan has consecutively, in the recent past, endured corrupt and brutal waves of violence for most of its post-independence since 2011.

Due to this, residents have developed fear of conducting elections citing severe political conflict compounded by economic woes and drought.

In an exclusive interview with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s special envoy to South Sudan Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka, the extreme political temperatures began in December 2013 when the South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit thought there was an attempted coup by his Vice President Riek Machar which came up at a time when they were nominating the flag bearer for SPLM.

Kalonzo appealed to the South Sudanese to overcome the fear of elections pointing out that overcoming such fears is what will help them legitimize governance in their country.

“In 2013 when there was something that Salva thought was an attempted Coup, the issue was; how shall we nominate the flag bearer for SPLM? Some thought it should be done by secret ballot, while others thought it should be done by show of hand. And that is what led to the conflict because they could not agree on who is going to be the flag bearer”, said Kalonzo.

“On that basis, soldiers started fighting out there killing each other and so when I talked to President Salva Kiir each of them seem to give different versions of who said what, because they were together. I think for fear of elections; they must find a way to overcome it because that is how they will legitimize governance in the country.”          

According to a study done by Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian organization, the ongoing conflict and insecurity in South Sudan has been pushing millions to the brink of starvation for years. The world’s newest nation has the third largest refugee crisis after Syria and Afghanistan with 3.7 million people having fled their homes and 6 out of 10 south Sudanese refugees being children.

The good news is, with Biden’s administration now in place, the United States government will have to re-think its engagement strategically and re-energize the deployment of previously successful tools and measures then devise a realistic peace and end a conflict that has so far claimed approximately 300,000 lives and produced 2.3 million refugees.

The current government is led by President Salva Kiir and his former rebel Riek Machar.

It is hoped that if the global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (an act that allows but does not require the President to block or revoke US visas, and US based properties and interests of foreign persons (both individual and entities)) and anti–money laundering measures are strategically deployed, it will help dissuade self-serving leaders in South Sudan from further stalling progress in implementing the peace agreement.

Speaking to the writer, Kalonzo cited that South Sudanese residents are not alone in the fear of elections as Kenyans are the same because of tribalized politics.

What their government needs to learn from Kenya’s democratic cycle of elections is coming up with new constitution and formulating an approach of coming up with the next general election.

He insisted that the South Sudanese government will need to fully implement the position of their disagreements in order to tone down their political temperatures.

The current sticking point for South Sudan he says, is appointment of governor for Upper Nile state called Olony who was nominated by Riek Machar of IO but President Salva Kiir had refused to appoint him because he says Olony is a warlord and is more likely to cause inter- ethnic conflicts between Dinkas and Shiluks which seems to be a pointer to the current dictators.

“They are not alone in the fear of elections. Kenyans are the same. Under this transitional period, what they need to learn from Kenya’s democratic way of elections is coming up with new constitution, and under that formulate an approach of coming up with the next general elections”, Mr. Kalonzo added

“One guess is that they are not into that yet and so we are engaging them right now with a view to ironing out some of the things that seem to be demystifying because they are written in the agreement and they must be dealt with. Therefore, they become subject to the UN and subject to RJMEK. We urge them to really implement the position of their disagreements”.

In a phone interview with the writer, Major Lieutenant General (Rtd) Lazarus Sumbeiywo put it out that the republic of South Sudan will need to go back to the drawing board, sit down and discuss amongst them how to live in peace together.

“They have to go back to the drawing board. Simple! (because) the way outsiders think is that you can prescribe peace. You cannot prescribe peace to anybody. People have to sit down and discuss how to live in peace amongst themselves. Therefore, they have to draw an agreement on how to live in peace together”, he said.

Meresia Aloo is a Journalist and Press Writer on East Africa and Great Lakes. She can be contacted through email at (aloomeresia@gmail.com) or directly through WhatsApp (+254798985238)

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