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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora