JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — The head of the U.N. mission in South Sudan said the country is “not yet ready” to hold its first presidential election in the coming year. Nicholas Haysom, head of UNMISS, during a meeting of The Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, said he shared “frank views” expressed by some
JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — The head of the U.N. mission in South Sudan said the country is “not yet ready” to hold its first presidential election in the coming year.
Nicholas Haysom, head of UNMISS, during a meeting of The Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, said he shared “frank views” expressed by some government officials, political parties, and civil society that the country was “at this point not ready” for “free, fair and credible elections.”
The mission head cited the lack of a reconstituted electoral body and a political parties council as reasons for skepticism.
The presidential election is viewed as a culmination of the peace agreement signed nearly five years ago to pull the world’s youngest nation out of fighting that killed some 400,000 people.
Haysom said “a conducive political and security environment is non-negotiable” for a free election.
“South Sudan can however make significant strides towards this December 2024 target with political will, adequate resourcing, and a commitment to create an appropriate political environment,” he said.
President Salva Kiir and his rival turned Vice President Riek Machar were at loggerheads in recent days over the sacking of the defense and interior ministers. The peace agreement signed in 2018 stated that Kiir was to appoint the interior minister while Machar was to appoint the defense minister. But the president has unilaterally fired both ministers.
In addition, the country is yet to deploy its unified defense forces, made of former rival groups, an integral part of the agreement. The government says deployment is delayed due to lack of funds, but critics say it is due to a lack of political goodwill.
“Time is of the essence as key components of the Transitional Security Arrangements remain behind schedule,” Haysom said.
Kiir on Tuesday said his country’s long-delayed elections will take place in 2024 and has thrown his hat in the ring. He is expected to face off with Machar, who is yet to confirm his candidacy.
The opposition has accused the government of lacking the political will to hold elections, but Kiir said he was committed to free and fair elections.
Deng Machol, The Associated Press