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Press Release

New Opinion Polls Suggest a Way Forward for South Sudan’s Elections in 2024

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New Opinion Polls Suggest a Way Forward for South Sudan’s Elections in 2024
Juba, 5 July 2023 – South Sudan’s journey to nationhood has been marred by civil war, inter-communal violence, and economic adversity. As the country prepares to celebrate its 12th anniversary of independence this weekend, new opinion polling data offers a glimmer of hope, shedding light on the prospects for elections in 2024 and the broader transitional agenda.
Since 2021, Detcro, a South Sudanese research, management and advisory firm, in collaboration with the Peace and Conflict Resolution Evidence Platform (PeaceRep) and with funding from the US Institute of Peace (USIP) and the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), has conducted a series of opinion polls across 15 locations in South Sudan targeting a total of 13,325 South Sudanese. The goal is to gauge citizen perceptions of peace and monitor how people’s views change over time.
The findings from the most recent poll conducted in 2023 reveal a promising trend. The proportion of respondents who reported feeling safe or very safe increased significantly from 58% in 2021 to 75% in 2023. This finding coincided with improvements in broader perceptions of peace, with 67% of respondents saying that South Sudan was at peace in 2023, up from 53% in 2021. Despite these more hopeful trends at the national level, respondents in subnational locations that have faced intense periods of violence in recent years, including Pibor and Yei, continue to report a pervasive lack of safety.
According to David Deng, a researcher from Detcro, “Citizen perceptions in these areas have fluctuated widely, reflecting the ongoing conflict and instability that many South Sudanese still grapple with. The juxtaposition of an improving security situation in some areas and a deteriorating situation in others underscores the need to address conflict hotspots with interventions tailored to local concerns, interests, and needs.”
The findings also have significant implications for policymakers as they navigate the timing and approach to the upcoming national elections scheduled for the end of 2024. South Sudan has yet to hold elections in its 12 years of nationhood. The outbreak of civil war in 2013 and delays in implementing peace agreements signed in August 2015 and September 2018 derailed previous attempts to organize elections. Nonetheless, the opinion polls reveal a strong desire among South Sudanese to vote and hold elections as planned in 2024 despite widespread acknowledgment of the risks. Sixty-two percent of respondents expressed their support for on-time elections, and 90 percent indicated their willingness to participate.
“The decision to hold elections in a fragile and conflict-affected country like South Sudan demands careful consideration. But the history of peace agreements failing to achieve lasting stability in South Sudan suggests that a different approach may be necessary,” observed Dr. Jan Pospisil, a researcher from PeaceRep.
The opinion polling data offers insights into the way forward for a transitional process that has been mired in difficulties. It also demonstrates the importance of being responsive to people’s perceptions and experiences when making decisions of national importance, such as whether, when and how to conduct national elections. The success of South Sudan’s transition will likely hinge on the ability of policymakers to retain citizen trust and confidence in the process and its ability to deliver meaningful changes in people’s lives.

*Photo by Jonathan Brady

Related Material: Research on South Sudan Elections

Click to view Research Article

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