South Sudanese parties, leaders and stakeholders have until the first quarter of 2024 to agree on critical decisions if they are willing to hold free, fair and credible elections on schedule, the Head of the UN Mission in the nation (UNMISS) said Thursday (Nov. 23).
“Looking ahead, it would be impossible to envision free, fair, and credible elections in December 2024, unless all South Sudanese parties, leaders, and stakeholders grab the bull by the horns, and agree on a critical mass of decisions by the first quarter of 2024.”
If Haysom welcomed the reconstitution of key electoral bodies such as the National Elections Commission, he said they needed to be urgently resourced and operationalized to execute their mandates.
“Let me underscore that elections are not a one-day event, but a process that incorporates deliberate and thoughtful decisions before, during and after the polls. All these processes must have the full buy-in and support of the South Sudanese, and especially in the case of a country emerging from divisive conflict.”
South Sudan became independent in 2011. After a peace deal in 2018 ended a civil war, elections were due to be held in February this year. However, the government of national unity of Salva Kiir and Riek Machar failed to meet key clauses of the deal.
During the press conference SRSG Haysom also expressed concern over reports of recent violence in the Abyei Administrative Area and Warrap state, urging the government to action peaceful dispute resolution.
UNMISS is continuing to protect civilians and support state authorities Haysom said, but added that transitional security arrangements must be completed. In conclusion, he reiterated that South Sudan must complete its long overdue democratic transition.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan also focused on the nation's humanitarian emergency, which is exacerbated by the influx of returnees and refugees escaping conflict in neighbouring Sudan, reduced funding, climate change and continued risks to aid workers.