Chairman of South Sudan’s National Elections Commission (NEC) Professor Abednego Akok ( File photo: Eye Radio)

Q&A: ‘We have received some funds for election activities’-Prof. Akok

Prof. Abednego Akok, the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission, has confirmed that the institution has received some funds for election-related activities.

The man at the helm of South Sudan’s National Elections Commission (NEC), Prof. Abednego Akok Kacuol, has confirmed that the institution has recently received some funds for election-related activities.

During an exclusive interview with Radio Tamazuj, the NEC chairperson emphasized the urgency of planning for general elections with only eight months left.

Below are edited excerpts:

Question: Prof. Abednego, we have received credible information that the National Election Commission has received its budget for the upcoming elections. Could you confirm this?

Answer: Well, we have not yet received the budget because it has not yet been approved by the Transitional National Legislative Assembly.

Q: But you have received funds as the Commission in the past few days. Could you confirm? 

A: Yes, the cash our office received is not the total amount for the election process. We only get the partial payment for election activities. So we have received some funds to carry out election-related activities, but it is not part of the budget we presented to the government. 

Q: What are those activities that you need to carry out with the money you have recently received?

A: Those activities include visiting states, establishing sub-offices in the states and their mobility. These are basic and important parts of the activities. The National Elections Commission will also need mobility, including cars and so on. So, this is the money we received so that we can start immediately establishing our offices.

Q: When are you planning to begin those activities?

A: Well, we are planning to visit some of the states early next week.

Q: Will you buy cars, or will you only hire and use some money to pay for plane tickets?

A: We shall use the money for plane tickets to the states and inside here, we will have to provide mobility for commissioners. 

Q: We are currently in April, and there are only a few months left until December. When do you expect the final budget to be approved and given to the Commission?

A: The draft budget is in the parliament and they have just opened a few days ago. So we expect them to pass the budget as soon as possible. I don’t think it will delay further.

Q: What are the current activities that you are engaged in as a commission?

A: After we visit the states, we will bring the chairpersons from the states to Juba, and we will offer them training on the electoral law system and how to manage the election.

Q: Some political parties have been complaining about the lack of political space, and they claim they are not free to move around. What is your role as a Commission?

A: Although it is not my role to ensure that there should be a civic and political space, in my capacity as the chairperson of the election commission, I would ask our people or the authorities to allow equal rights to all parties to campaign for election. Elections are an acceptance process. It should be carried out in a fair, credible and transparent way. This can never be realized unless there is cooperation among the political parties, which are the last decision-makers in this process.

But for us as technical people, we would say everybody who wanted to join politics should be allowed to do so. 

Q: The other time, you said that the National Elections Commission in Juba has not paid rent for three years. Has this been cleared already?

A: Not yet. But we are trying to see solutions among the administrators at the Commission and other government officials to pay that money and then we can move to our new premises.

Q: You mean you want to buy a permanent headquarters for the Commission?

A: Yes. That is true. We are working to buy a building for the Commission.

Q: Just for transparency, what was your total budget, and out of that total, how much have you received from the government recently?

A: The budget has not been divided. What we received now is not part of that budget, but it is meant for running offices and other activities related to elections.

Q: How much is that money?

A: I don’t have the figure now, and our finance officer is out of the office. Once he comes, I will make that figure available to the public. But I am happy that this money shows that the government is serious about our work to begin with.

Q: Would you then give us the percentage of that money if the total figure is not available?

A: It is not a percentage but rather something point something.

Q: Do you consider this payment as a good gesture so far from the government to go ahead with elections in December this year?

A: Personally, I regard this a good beginning. And I would like to tell them that they should continue paying part of that money as much as it is available.

Q: What is your last message to South Sudanese?

A: My message to all the people of South Sudan is that let’s all be serious about the implementation of the project of this election and we should be ready to take part in this election. We want it to be a free, credible, and transparent election that is inclusive. Thank you.