South Sudan is going through a precarious transition, marked by a political stalemate in Juba (i.e. Chapter 2 of the agreement has not been implemented) and a significant increase in localized violence ( i.e. communal conflicts in Warrap, Jonglei, Western Equatoria and Unity). Although it faces many implementation challenges, the Revitalized Agreement for Conflict Resolution (RARCSS) has been credited with bringing relative stability to South Sudan since 20181. The Agreement mandated the creation of a unity government, paving the way for the transition period, which must end in 2023. The moment of truth for this peace agreement is the holding of proscribed elections for the end of the Transition Period . Although the elections mandated by the peace accord are looming, very little has been done to prepare as other key phases of the accord remain unimplemented.
The mandate of the Revitalized National Unity Government (RTGoNU) is thirty-six months2. One of the functions of the RTGoNU is to hold general elections sixty days before the end of the transition period, the results of which are supposed to help the country install a democratically elected government. This means that without further extending the agreement as was done with the pre-transition period, South Sudan would have to hold the elections as scheduled. With the timetable for preparations shrinking, a debate has surfaced, with some wanting the elections postponed and others saying the elections should take place as soon as possible. While this debate has centered on the merits of holding these elections, little seems to be emphasized or understood about the process that should produce credible and legitimate results. The debate, which seems uncoordinated, although much desired, has also ignored other stakeholders, including citizens, civil society and regional and international partners.
This week’s review analyzes South Sudan’s readiness to hold elections in less than a year and reflects on the importance of these. We begin by discussing the fundamentals of election, then move on to why elections are imperative in a post-conflict context. We then end our review with policy perspectives that can improve/strengthen the process, preserve its integrity, and produce credible and legitimate results, whether or not the elections are held on time. Our position is that the process, credibility and associated legitimacy that elections must produce are the most important elements rather than a precise timetable.