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The implications of the cancellation of South Sudan general elections

By Steve Paterno
kiir-electionAfter wrestling with impending constitutional crisis of a power vacuum relating to the elections or lack of thereof, the authorities finally decided to extend the life of the government for two more years through constitutional amendments; and in the process, it gives peace a chance, within the stipulated period.
The government decision to have gone ahead with the elections as it is constitutionally mandated was being challenged by the opposition forces. The government decision to postpone the elections is equally being challenged by the very oppositions. For the oppositions, it is like damned if you do it, and damned if you don’t, a dilemma bound to occur against their favours.
The reason is being simple that the oppositions that include, the armed militias, the political parties, and the G10+, know too well that there is no way they will gain power through a fair and free elections, for the odds are stacked against them.
For example, in the case of the armed militias, under the leadership of Riek Machar; elections present the most challenging process of ascension into power. Machar is presiding over a disorganized coalitions of a one tribe constituency of warlords. Given the lack of significant constituencies to compete over in elections, Machar only way to power is through creation of some form of government of national unity imposed from Addis Ababa by foreign and regional body, the IGAD. The Machar group are now begging for half of a power sharing deal with the government through foreign imposition as oppose to people mandated elections, where they have no chance of gaining power.
The political parties, equally have no chance to compete in any fair and free elections. All the known political parties in South Sudan are made up of individuals without membership representations, vision, structure, or even an urge to contest in a fair and free elections. After figuring out that they will miss out in the proposed power sharing deal favoured by the armed militias, the political parties turned into the supreme court to established the government of national unity, whereby, their chances can increase, just a little bit. They already launched a lawsuit against the government being illegitimate. They do so with the view that whether the government goes ahead with the elections or not, it is an illegitimate government that needs change. In other words, the aim is to dispose the government, legally and get the oppositions in.
The G10+, the most insignificant opposition to the government seems to have been squeezed between the rock and a hard place. The G10+ is made up of individuals of no contest in as far as elections are carried out. The best hope of the group came in at Arusha SPLM party reunification agreement, signed sometimes earlier this year. However, the chance of Arusha agreement quickly dissipated, since, the armed militias distanced themselves and rejected that pact, only after signing the deal. The G10+, in their recent press release, started criticizing the entire IGAD mediated peace talks as a wrong venue for the solution.
In conclusions, the challenge is now thrown back to the mediators of the peace process, who from the beginning, got it all wrong. Now, the so called stake holders of the peace negotiations are working against the multi-thronged approach initiated by the mediators. The government is left the only legitimate and responsible actor to stir the country clear of the trouble. All the eyes are on the government to make a move. As the saying goes, the government has a long arm, and it indeed has.
Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at

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