UN: South Sudan not yet ready for elections

UN high ranking official in South Sudan said the country is not yet ready for the conduct of free, fair and credible election next year, unless genuine political will is demonstrated according to what he receives from most analysts.

Addressing the press conference on Wednesday in Juba, the Special Representative of the Secretary General and head of the United Nations peace keeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Nicholas Haysom; said however, elections can be conducted if the transitional government demonstrate a political will to drive a country into a democratic dispensation.

“Candid and honest observation of most analysts, observers and stakeholders, is that as it stand today, South Sudan is not yet ready for elections but that elections could be held on schedule if there is adequate political will, practical approach to the arrangements and commitment of resources that are required to achieving the benchmark in the roadmap,” Said Haysom.

In August 2022, the parties to the peace deal agreed and extended the transitional period for 24 more months to allow them implement the remaining provisions in the peace agreement.

The Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan signed in 2018 is a deal between the government and the opposition parties aimed at addressing the road causes of the 2013 and 2016 conflict that put the country into a fragile state.

The transitional period has been extended thrice since the peace agreement was signed to address the conflict and lead the country into a democratic state, due to unnumbered challenges and slow progress of the implementation of the peace deal which is attributed to lack of political will.

However, the third extension which is for 24 months is accompanied with a roadmap which detailed the implementation matrix and time for the implementation of the remaining provisions and end with general elections in December 2024.

“With only 17 months remaining on the Roadmap timelines before elections in 2024, I repeat what I had said in an earlier press conference, that 2023 is a ‘make or break’ year. So, the decisions and actions must be made now, have to be made to pave the way for holding peaceful, inclusive, and credible elections next year.” Haysom emphasized.

The key tasks critical for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections which are not yet addressed includes, reconstitution of the political parties’ council to register political parties so that they can start going campaign, reconstitution of the election commission for it to begin preparing, elections laws to determine how many elections will be conducted, completion of the security arrangement to safeguard the electoral process and most importantly the permanent constitution which the supreme law of the land among many other tasks.

“There is a question around establishing a legal playing field for the elections and we would want the political parties also to engage on that important questions,” Said Haysom.”I don’t think the elections will have the effect that it should have if they are not transparence, free and fair. Simply, they will provide the vices for more conflict. So, it really important that we establish proper foundation for the elections,”

In June, the Secretary General of the National Election Commission, Yoannes Amum, cautioned the public to take precautionary measures as the country embarks on unprepared electoral process citing that “Elections must be approached carefully to avoid further instability”

“Elections are not a one day event, but a process that involves deliberate and thoughtful actions before, during and after the electoral process. The process must have the full confidence of the South Sudanese people to make it a national building activity, not a divisive or violence activity,” Haysom warned.

Among the critical steps to be taken toward next year elections, the UN official said the transitional government should give free civic space for public opinion including freedom of press to report on the process and allow freedom of expression from the members of the pubic.

Haysom calls for establishment of legal infrastructure for the conduct of transparence elections

“The country has not yet establish infrastructure to hold elections and the infrastructure has two dimensions, it has administrative dimension in other words, decision dimension and that’s management and transparency of the elections, and then secondly, the political and civil environment in which election must take place,” He said.