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By James Bilal - 7 Jul 2023

Opinion| South Sudan elections: A crucial step towards stability and prosperity

As South Sudan prepares for its upcoming elections, the nation stands at a critical juncture in its young history. These elections hold immense significance not only for the country itself but also for the wider region. South Sudan has faced numerous challenges since gaining independence in 2011, including internal conflicts, economic instability, and humanitarian crises. However, the forthcoming elections provide a glimmer of hope for the nation to move towards a brighter future of stability and prosperity. Elections can offer several opportunities for a nation, including:

Strengthening Democracy, free and fair elections are a cornerstone of any vibrant democracy. For South Sudan, a nation still grappling with the legacy of decades-long civil war and ethnic tensions, these elections present an opportunity to consolidate democratic principles. By allowing citizens to choose their representatives, the elections can foster a sense of ownership, participation, and inclusion in the political process. It is crucial for all stakeholders to ensure a transparent and credible electoral process, guaranteeing the will of the people is accurately reflected.

The wounds of the past continue to haunt South Sudan, and the upcoming elections can serve as a catalyst for reconciliation and healing. Political campaigns provide a platform for different factions and communities to engage in peaceful dialogue, address grievances, and build bridges across ethnic and regional divides. Through open discussions and debates, candidates can demonstrate their commitment to national unity, inclusivity, and the pursuit of common goals. The election process itself can serve as a symbol of the nation's determination to move beyond its troubled history.

The successful conduct of elections can have a profound impact on South Sudan's economic prospects. A stable political environment, marked by the peaceful transfer of power, will inspire confidence among domestic and international investors. Such confidence can lead to increased foreign direct investment, job creation, and economic growth. The elected government should prioritize the diversification of the economy, focusing on sectors such as agriculture, oil, infrastructure development, and tourism. This, coupled with effective governance and anti-corruption measures, can unlock the nation's vast potential and improve the living standards of its citizens.

South Sudan has been plagued by one of the world's most severe humanitarian crises, with millions of people displaced and in need of assistance. The upcoming elections offer an opportunity to address these challenges more effectively. By electing leaders who prioritize the welfare of their citizens, South Sudan can enhance its ability to respond to humanitarian needs, improve access to basic services, and foster a sense of security and stability. The elected government must work hand in hand with international partners to ensure the delivery of aid reaches the most vulnerable populations. In the journey towards a stable and democratic South Sudan, it is imperative to recognize the critical role that an open civic and political space plays. By fostering an environment where citizens can freely express their opinions, participate in political activities, and engage in democratic processes, South Sudan can pave the way for credible and inclusive elections. Opening up the civic and political space not only strengthens democratic institutions but also ensures that the voices of all citizens are heard and valued.

A fundamental aspect of an open civic and political space is the guarantee of freedom of expression. Citizens must be able to voice their opinions, ideas, and concerns without fear of repression or intimidation. This requires the protection of journalists, activists, and human rights defenders, allowing them to operate independently and without restrictions. A vibrant and diverse media landscape is vital in providing accurate information and facilitating an informed electorate.

Political pluralism is crucial for the healthy functioning of any democracy. It allows for the existence of multiple political parties, enabling citizens to have a choice in their representation. South Sudan should promote a level playing field for all political parties, ensuring fair access to resources, media coverage, and political platforms. By fostering healthy competition and encouraging a variety of political ideologies, citizens can engage in robust political debates and make informed decisions during elections.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a vital role in advocating for the rights and needs of citizens. Their involvement is essential in ensuring that the government remains accountable and transparent. South Sudan should create an enabling environment for CSOs to operate freely, providing them with adequate legal protections, access to resources, and opportunities for collaboration with governmental institutions. By valuing and encouraging civil society engagement, the country can strengthen its democratic fabric and promote citizen participation in the political process.

Opening up the civic and political space also entails promoting inclusive voter education and participation. An informed electorate is vital for credible elections, as citizens need to understand their rights and responsibilities, as well as the platforms and policies of different political parties. South Sudan should invest in comprehensive voter education programs that target all segments of society, including marginalized communities and women. Moreover, efforts should be made to eliminate barriers to participation, such as voter suppression, discrimination, or violence, ensuring that every citizen has equal access to the electoral process. The need to open up the civic and political space in South Sudan cannot be overstated. By promoting freedom of expression, encouraging political pluralism, enhancing civil society engagement, and fostering inclusive voter education and participation, the country can create an environment conducive to credible and democratic elections. Such efforts will not only ensure the legitimacy of elected representatives but also strengthen the bonds between the government and its citizens, fostering a culture of trust and accountability. It is through these collective endeavors that South Sudan can realize its aspirations for a peaceful, inclusive, and prosperous future.

The forthcoming elections in South Sudan hold immense promise for the nation's trajectory toward stability, prosperity, and a brighter future. It is imperative for all stakeholders, including political parties, civil society organizations, and citizens, to work together to ensure a transparent, inclusive, and peaceful electoral process. The elected leaders must prioritize national reconciliation, economic revitalization, and humanitarian progress to address the deep-rooted challenges that South Sudan faces. By seizing this opportunity, South Sudan can move closer to fulfilling the aspirations of its people and realizing its immense potential as a peaceful and prosperous nation in the heart of Africa.

The author, James Bilal is passionate about defending Human Rights and is a researcher. He is currently working as the Coordinator of South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network –SSHRDN. He can be reached via email

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