A senior government official has hinted on state television that the thousands of internally displaced persons (IDP’s) under the protection of UNMISS must be restricted from taking part in the 2015 elections because “they are mostly supporters of the SPLM In Opposition” who pose a serious threat to Pres. Kiir’s re-election if given the opportunity to vote. According to the official, legal proceedings and plans are on-going to put in place voter requirements that would make it almost nigh-on impossible for those IDP’s to register and participate in the elections.
“We all know that most of the IDP’s are rebels or rebel supporters. Allowing these rebels in camps to vote is like re-arming them to carry out another coup against President Kiir – this time through the ballot box…. this must not be allowed to happen.”
Observers believe the only reason the government in Juba wants to hold the elections is to revalidate and extend the legitimacy and reign of Pres. Kiir – a notion that appears to be threatened by hundreds of thousands of IDP’s. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that there are around 1.5 million IDP’s and 600 thousand refugees in neighbouring countries. Around 68% of these are potential voters, the rest are children under 18 years. Despite international calls and other obvious challenges to postpone the elections until peace and stability is restored, the government in Juba is adamant that it will hold the elections by the end of June this year. The United States has already expressed its stand saying it will not support the elections if Juba goes ahead with it as planned. According to Dr. Kak Akwa, a South Sudan expert and a highly paid private therapist of some of Kiir’s most loyal supporters, these IDP’s could have a significant say in shaping the next government if politicians could convince (and allow) them to vote.
“Imagine a city like Juba where the IDP’s get to elect not only the President, but also the governor of the state! In any free and fair elections, their votes could bring the peace we all so much want through the ballot box. To do that, they will have to choose the right candidate – or not re-elect that person they do not like.”
Since the conflict stated over a year ago, the government has tried but failed to convince the majority of the IDP’s to return to their home. Government officials have gone on record saying those still seeking UN protection are rebel supporters. It is still unclear at this time whether the sizeable population of South Sudanese in the diaspora or in refugee camps in neighbouring countries will be allowed to participate in the 2015 election process, but early indicators suggest that participation of these groups – like the IDP’s – in the 2015 elections might also be restricted if they pose any democratic threat to the current administration.