Chairperson of the National Elections Commission in South Sudan, Prof. Abednego Akok (File photo)

Uncertainty surrounds plan to start voter registration

The registration of voters for South Sudan’s long-delayed elections has been pushed to next month, the head of the National Election Commission, Prof Abednego Akok, has said.

The registration of voters for South Sudan’s long-delayed elections due to take place in December this year has been pushed to next month, the head of the National Election Commission, Prof Abednego Akok, has said.

Akok told Radio Tamazuj on Wednesday that the commission had since March planned for the exercise to begin in June, but had encountered some constraints that caused a month’s delay. However, he did not announce a definitive date for the voter registration next month.

He explained that the exercise was supposed to start this month, but when the commission submitted the plan to the president and the different parties for approval, they failed to agree.

“The good thing is that the training of the commission members will begin so that they start the voter registration next month,” Akok said.

The commission, Akok went on, had secured offices in 10 states and was only left with three administrative areas, which they will visit next week.

“Next week, we shall form commissions for elections in the 10 states because these are the places for the voter registration. Our greatest achievement so far is training of our commission members and we brought in experts from Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. Another achievement is that we toured the 10 states and we will make sure those offices start work next week,” he said

When asked whether the registration will include the South Sudanese in diaspora, the official said: “We have a plan with the government to give us a chance to register the South Sudanese in the camps and the diaspora. If approved, we shall start but the registration will start from within South Sudan. At the moment, we have many South Sudanese in Nairobi, Uganda and Ethiopia.”

On the challenges, the poll agency boss said financial problems had slowed down their work and called on parliament to expedite the bill for the success of elections.

The major challenge is the provision of the finances. We were only given small amounts of money that enabled us to tour several states, but the real budget is still in parliament, he explained.

Akok disclosed that they had requested US$236 million in the budget that they presented to parliament, to complete the whole process.

According to the law, voter registration has to begin six months before elections. At the moment, the residents in the 10 states and the administrative areas also need civic education.

When asked about the demands for a census, the security arrangements, the civil servants’ salary arrears, hunger in the country, among other challenges that might affect the elections in December, the official said: “I cannot answer that question because food security is the responsibility of the country, my responsibility is to register, to tell the people that elections have come and it is your responsibility to vote.”

The election official urged the citizens to take advantage of the elections to put into office the people of their choice.

South Sudan has not held an election since it gained independence from Sudan in July 2011 and the country is plagued by violence, poverty and political disputes.

A peace deal was signed in 2018 between President Salva Kiir and key opposition factions that laid out a transition period to pave the way for elections.