Parties yet to realize benchmarks for credible elections: UNMISS

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Thursday said that the parties in the transitional unity government in South Sudan are yet to put in place political and technical preconditions necessary for holding free, fair and credible elections in December 2024.
File photo of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (R) and major opposition leader Riek Machar signing on the final deal on power-sharing and security arrangements between South Sudan’s conflicting parties, in Khartoum, capital of Sudan, Aug. 5, 2018. (Xinhua/Mohamed Khidir).

By Simon Deng

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Thursday said that the parties in the transitional unity government in South Sudan are yet to put in place political and technical preconditions necessary for holding free, fair and credible elections in December 2024.

Nicholas Haysom, the head of UNMISS and special representative of the UN Secretary General, said that the African Union (AU), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) recently concluded that the necessary conditions as agreed upon by the parties themselves in the 2018 revitalized peace agreement had not been achieved on several fronts.

“While recognizing the sovereign prerogative of South Sudan to make decisions about its elections, the Secretary-General’s letter, in line with the observations of IGAD, AU and RJMEC, concluded that the necessary conditions as agreed upon by the parties themselves in the R-ARCSS had not been achieved on several fronts,” Haysom said during the plenary meeting of peace partners in Juba.

He said that the Secretary General together with AU, IGAD and RJMEC encouraged the parties to commit to take urgent steps to collectively agree a “critical mass” of implementation requirements necessary for peaceful, free, fair, and credible elections.

Haysom noted that despite the finalization of the Strategic Defense and Security Review Board’s report, the partial financing of the technical electoral bodies, and the steps taken on the transitional security arrangements, marginal progress has been recorded over the last few months.

He also disclosed that the ongoing peace process in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi since May 3, between the transitional unity government and some hold-out opposition groups has overshadowed the implementation of the 2018 revitalized peace agreement.

“The inter-party dialogue process which commenced last month with the objective of finding consensus on how to approach the end of the transitional period appears to have stalled and given way to the ongoing “Tumaini Initiative” in Nairobi,” Haysom said.

Despite expressing optimism with the progress made at the Nairobi peace process, Haysom noted that it is critical that the parties find a working formula that gives required attention and impetus to both processes.

 Haysom also said that the recent blockade on humanitarian imports have compounded the prevailing dire humanitarian and economic conditions in the country, leaving the UN agencies and UNMISS unable to carry out their activities at full potential.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), 7.1 million people are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity mostly in locations affected by climate related shocks, economic crisis, and conflict.

Haysom disclosed that so far only 13.5 per cent of the 1.8 billion U.S dollars required for the humanitarian needs response has been received as of May 20.

“The humanitarian situation was unnecessarily compounded by the imposition of taxes on trucks carrying fuel and other supplies to UN humanitarian, development, and peacekeeping operations. This affected the capacity of UNMISS to implement its mandate and humanitarian airdrops have been suspended, affecting 60,000 people in need,” he said.

However, Haysom thanked the government authorities for their cooperation in resolving the problem, adding that challenges persist in implementing the ministerial order exempting the UN from taxation.

“I call on all government authorities to allow the imports of UN and humanitarian goods and services without taxes. Indeed, on our part we continue to give assurances of implementing rules which will ensure the probity of these transactions,” he said.

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