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Sudan Tribune

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South Sudan “not yet ready” for credible elections, says UN envoy

The head of the UN mission in South Sudan Nicholas Haysom and President Salva Kiir in Juba, May 4, 2023 (PPU photo)

July 6, 2023 (JUBA) – South Sudan is “not yet ready” at this point to roll out free, fair, and credible elections in 2024, a top United Nation official said Thursday.

“A conducive political and security environment is non-negotiable given we are in the penultimate lap of implementing free, fair, and credible elections,” Nicholas Haysom, the head of the UN mission in the country a meeting of peace monitors.

He was speaking at the 30th plenary meeting of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC) meeting in the South Sudan capital, Juba.

Haysom, however, stressed that South Sudan can still make significant strides towards this December 2024 target to hold elections with political will, adequate resourcing, and a commitment to create an appropriate political environment.

“In this regard, I echo the call made by IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] last month urging the national legislature to expedite the reconstitution of the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the Political Parties Council (PPC),” he remarked.

On Tuesday, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said the country’s general elections would happen in 2024 with him as ruling party’s (SPLM) candidate.

Kiir, who has led South Sudan since it became independent from Sudan in 2011, was endorsed by the SPLM at a rally in Western Bahr el Ghazal State on Tuesday.

The election will be the first national vote since South Sudan’s independence.

The top UN official said Sudan’s ongoing conflict has continued to drive thousands of people across the borders into South Sudan, seeking refuge and safety.

“As people arrive, transit, and move to their destinations of choice, increased competition amongst communities in congested sites over scarce resources has exacerbated existing tensions, as we witnessed in Renk,” he explained.

Haysom further said the situation in and around Malakal remains volatile following the intercommunal clashes at the Protection of Civilian (PoC) site on 8 June.

“Recent claims of mobilizations in Upper Nile State, threatens vulnerable communities and the mission has appealed to all parties to exercise maximum restraint,” he stressed during the meeting, adding, “We [UNMISS] have deployed additional peacekeepers to strengthen security in and around the PoC site”.

Haysom, however, said UNMISS will continue to actively monitor the situation in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state town, with the expectation that tensions are likely to rise due to continuing congestion and competition for scarce resources.

The Malakal PoC site was born out of the civil war that started in South Sudan on 15 December 2013. At the time, civilians were fleeing from indiscriminate and deliberate attacks and their only place of refuge was the UNMISS base in Malakal.

According to UNMISS, the number of people seeking shelter and protection at the Malakal PoC stood at over 41,000 as of February 2023.