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South Sudan Refugees Speak Out Against June 30 Vote

South Sudanese who fled fighting in their country wait in line to be registered as refugees in Uganda in March 2014. Some refugees in Uganda have spoken out against plans by the Juba government to hold elections in June 2015.

South Sudanese refugees in Uganda are calling on the government in Juba to shelve plans to hold June elections. Several South Sudanese refugees told South Sudan in Focus that with their youg nation mired in a year-old conflict, the time is not right for a vote.

“I need peace before (elections) because when peace comes, election will be there. But without peace, no election because there is nobody now in South Sudan and all people, they are inside UNMISS camps," said 34-year-old Martha Nyawuora.

134,000 refugees in Uganda

Nyawuora is one of more than 134,000 South Sudanese who have fled to Uganda since December 2013, when fighting erupted in South Sudan. United Nations and African Union officials have said the violence very quickly took on ethnic overtones, mainly pitting the two largest tribes in South Sudan -- the Dinka and the Nuer -- against each other.

The South Sudanese government said last month that it has earmarked $517 million for general elections this year. Last week, the National Election Commission set June 30 as the date for the voting to take place.

Nyawuora said she would not vote if the elections are held in June. "If I vote for someone I like, the government will kill me. How can you vote when there is no freedom unless you are Dinka?" she said.

Another refugee said holding an election would not be appropriate when many South Sudanese are mourning loved ones killed in the fighting. The refugee asked to be referred to only by the name Gatluak.

“At the moment we are at war. So many people are displaced, so many people lost their loved ones," he said. "There is serious trauma. People need to be reconciled first so that they can think about elections."

Vote will worsen violence

Weileek Liom, another refugee, said she thinks holding elections will worsen the violence and displace more people. Instead of organizing elections, she said the government should focus on helping the nearly two million people who have been displaced by the fighting to return home.

“The country is in crisis. I don't see that it should be a good idea for elections to be carried out in 2015 because more people are now in U.N. camps and the situation in South Sudan is so volatile that it could not encourage the election to take place," she said.

Liom said she is aware that opposition politicians are also against holding elections in June. "Other parties are condemning the way the government is trying to insist to conduct the election," she said. "when the stakeholders, those who are going to play a major part in the elections, are not convinced the election should take place. I think the government should have to rethink not to continue with election."

The opposition has said it is against holding elections while the country is in turmoil, but the ruling SPLM party says it supports the elections and is getting ready for them.

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