News / Africa

South Sudanese Prepare for Complex Polls

The regional research group Rift Valley Institute describes Sudan's new electoral system as "one of the world's most complex," saying it is "hard to understand for voters, observers, and even election officials."

For many South Sudanese, April elections will be their first ever.  A network of officials and volunteers are racing against time to educate a mostly illiterate populace on how to vote.

Sitting along the White Nile River on a blistering Sunday afternoon, Edmund Yakani talks of the challenges facing his people as they head to polls next month.

Yakani is the national coordinator for the Sudan Network for Democratic Elections, a civil society coalition of more than 70 South Sudanese groups supported by the Washington-based National Democratic Institute.

Complex electoral system

His network of volunteers has deployed across 50 of the region's 78 counties to educate voters.  The message is election know how at its most basic.  What a ballot looks like, how one votes, where one votes, and for what positions one is choosing candidates.

Yakani says his team has faced a unique set of obstacles. "To be honest, it is difficult, because for more than 50 years we have been in war and have never experienced an election like this election, so it is really very difficult.  Also, the system of elections itself is very complicated.  One citizen casting 12 votes at once is really a challenge," he said.

The regional research group Rift Valley Institute describes Sudan's new electoral system as "one of the world's most complex," saying it is "hard to understand for voters, observers, and even election officials."

Voters in the country's north must cast eight different ballots, but southerners will be casting 12 ballots, three each in four separate boxes, a voting process that could take as long as a half hour for each voter.

Each southerner will be casting votes for two different presidencies, one state governorship, and members of three different legislatures.  Additionally, a portion of the new national, regional, and state legislators must be women, requiring three special ballots, and some legislative seats will be allocated from party lists, also requiring special ballots.

With around three-quarters of the South's population illiterate, election officials are using a system of colors and symbols to mark the political position each ballot represents and who each candidate is.  Each politician and party must make sure their uneducated supporters memorize their specific color and symbol. 

Voter education


A senior official of the South's ruling SPLM party, Anne Itto, is overseeing the party's campaigns in the South.  She says voters on the campaign trail are expressing confusion as election day nears.

"Many people, in fact 80 percent of the people, are still concerned about - not who to vote for - but how to vote," said Itto. "Many, many people are scared when they hear they have to vote 12 times. They say, 'How?  That is too many. I have only one little slip.  Do I tear it up into 12 pieces, or what do I do?'"

Itto called for voter education programs to be ratcheted up before election day, saying the job done so far has fallen short of the need.

The South Sudan election high committee member charged with coordinating voter education, Jabi Jack Ngalamu, rejects claims most of the populace still needs to be educated.

"Most of the areas, in particular the urban areas in South Sudan, have been reached.  Our main problem is the rural areas, the extreme rural areas, where roads are impassable at times, where some areas have to be reached only by boats.  And sometimes our staff have to use bicycles to reach the extreme rural populations to offer voter education," said Ngalamu.

The last multi-party vote in Sudan took place in 1986, while much of the South was at war with its northern rulers.  

Sudan's other years of multi-party democracy all occurred during the 1950's and 1960's - but the South's first rebellion against the North did not end until 1972, when the country was under dictatorial one-party rule.  

While privately a number of outside advisors say the polls will be far from perfect and that serious issues are likely, a number of South Sudanese officials have expressed optimism the vote will for the most part go smoothly.

The election committee says staff at the polling stations will be trained to assist voters who need help, and Sudanese will have three days of voting to find their way to the correct location.

A Government of Southern Sudan voter education official, Afram Wani Peter, says the expected challenges in the poll are not likely to deter southerners from voting.

"You see, southerners are ready to go for elections, because they have suffered and they have seen that the way to freedom is through all these difficulties," said the official.

Although it has been decades since people across the South voted in an election, southerners are to participate in another vote less than one year away.  At that time, the region will choose whether to remain part of a united Sudan or to form its own country.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs