Strengthening Engagement with Stakeholders on Freedom of Expression, Assembly, and Association ahead of the General Election in South Sudan

Overall, of the project 

Civic space in South Sudan is severely restricted, so the project funded by Freedom House will run from April 1st to August 1st, 2024. According to Freedom House’s Freedom in the World Report 2024, the country is rated “Not Free” with a Global Freedom Score of only 1/100. Sections 54 and 55 of the National Security Service Act 2014 Amendment Bill of 2023 are particularly worrisome for freedom of association and assembly (FOAA). These sections grant security personnel extensive powers to arrest, detain, monitor individuals, and search and seize property without a warrant. These provisions are used to suppress civil society organizations (CSOs) and activists whenever they publicly criticize current policies and practices. In addition, general elections are scheduled in South Sudan for December 2024, making it crucial to amend these restrictive laws before the elections. During this time, CSOs and the public will actively voice their concerns and work towards democratic transitions in the country. It is also important to establish open lines of communication between civil society and security forces so that both sides are aware of the legal protections in place for FOAA. This will also encourage security forces to respect civil society and public demonstrations, especially leading up to the elections. Strengthening relationships between civil society and decision-makers is necessary to gain support in reducing legislative restrictions on FOAA, particularly before the 2024 general elections.

These measures are crucial for South Sudan’s transformation from a war-torn nation to a peaceful democratic state. South Sudan was supposed to hold its first general elections in 2015 after gaining independence from the Republic of Sudan in 2011 through a referendum. However, the country has faced challenges in implementing key provisions of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS). Despite these challenges, the leaders are hoping to organize an election in less than seven months. One key question is whether the leaders are willing to implement Chapter Five of the R-ARCSS, which focuses on transitional justice, accountability, reconciliation, and healing.