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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs