An Upper Nile election official recently expressed optimism that elections in his state would occur as planned, as all necessary preparations were underway.
These included plans for polling centre personnel, security, budgetary provisions for staff recruitment, which had been submitted to the National Election Commission (NEC) and were awaiting approval, said Philip Mayik Yor, team leader for the state’s High Committee.
Election materials for training and civic education supplied by UNMIS’ Electoral Affairs Division (EAD) and the UN Development Programme would begin arriving in Malakal in the middle of March, according to EAD officials.
But sensitive election materials such as ballot boxes and voting cards would arrive via the NEC, Mr Yor said. “It will be brought sealed by the NEC to Malakal and Upper Nile State High Committee will keep it in custody until the day of distribution to the counties.”
Distribution of election materials would be the responsibility of the High Committee, said EAD officials. But the Committee has asked UNMIS to assist them, especially to places inaccessible by road and river.
“We need UNMIS’ assistance to distribute election materials to the remote areas with their helicopters,” said Mr. Yor. In providing election materials, the NEC is assisted by UNMIS EAD and funded by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
The High Committee had also identified 420 polling centres throughout the state, according to Mr. Yor. “We identified polling centres based on the density of people in certain areas and also whether that place was used as a polling centre in the previous election.”
UNMIS EAD Training Officer Michelle Silva noted that there were 425,669 registered voters in Upper Nile State. “According to the South Sudan election formula, one polling centre should be able to facilitate 1,000 voters -- therefore we came up with 420 polling centres.”
With campaigns underway, Mr Yor said the Spokesperson of the High Committee had begun sending peace messages through local radios in the state to prevent any violence. “There was a complaint about some personnel tearing out some posters of one of the political parties and we already submitted the complaint to the higher authority.”
But he noted that no challenges had emerged so far. “If there is any security threat, I’m sure the election security committee will take care of it as soon as possible,” Mr. Yor said, adding that needed equipment like Thurayas from the NEC in Khartoum would arrive soon.
For UNMIS EAD, the main concern was security. “If there is any clash, it will affect movement, especially of the material distribution,” officials noted.