Note: The region of Southern Sudan referenced here is now the Republic of South Sudan, since gaining independence in 2011. BRIDGE activities such as these provided valuable support to communities as they made the transition to independence.
As the members of a newly formed Community Action Group in Abyei Village in Southern Sudan lined up behind their chosen leaders, they took a stand for themselves and planted seeds for their community’s future. Never before had the citizens of this community participated in an election.
The Building Responsibility for the Delivery of Government Services (BRIDGE) project, a USAID-funded integrated development program operating in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap and Unity States in Southern Sudan, came to Abyei Village to foster hope, build the skills and leadership capacity of community members and local government, and link the community to basic services that they so desperately need. BRIDGE facilitated the formation of a Community Action Group, comprised of local representatives who would lead efforts to assess, prioritize and engage in initiatives to address the community’s needs.
Group members participated in a voting process to nominate and elect Community Action Group leaders. One by one, each member got out of their seat to stand behind their preferred candidate. It was a powerful moment for the men and women of this community who, for the first time, were able to actively participate in an election and see a peaceful outcome. A seed was planted as community members began to experience the spirit of democracy.
The seed grew. After this first successful election, the Community Action Group contacted BRIDGE staff to assist with another election, for the position of village executive chief.
Joseph Akuei Yak, Payam administrator, took notice of the election process and stressed its profound importance. “Elections are really appreciated, and they are also preparation for the democratic transition in South Sudan, or in Sudan in general,” he asserts. As the news of the BRIDGE-facilitated election process reached the state level, the Director General of the Ministry of Local Government praised it as “the best model,” one that is easy to replicate and one that could be adapted in every county. BRIDGE is working hard to make this happen.