South Sudan: Official Asserts South Sudan’s Inability to Conduct Free and Fair Elections in 2024

South Sudan: Official Asserts South Sudan’s Inability to Conduct Free and Fair Elections in 2024

By Ahmad Hadizat Omayoza, Mamos Nigeria

South Sudan is facing significant challenges in preparing for the scheduled December 2024 elections, according to Nicholas Hayson, the head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). In a briefing to the UN Security Council, Hayson emphasized that the country lacks the necessary conditions for holding free, fair, and secure elections. He outlined key prerequisites that need to be addressed by April 2024 to adhere to the agreed timeline, including establishing a new permanent constitutional framework, voter registration details, an election security plan, well-trained and unified security forces, and a mechanism for resolving disputes over results.

Hayson expressed the belief that, with political will, urgency, and compromise, South Sudan could establish the conditions required for credible and acceptable elections by December 2024. He highlighted the dire economic situation, compounded by climate shocks and a fragile political environment, as factors contributing to an environment of elevated tensions during the election period. Hayson cautioned that if these risks are not mitigated, the threat to civilians remains real.

Acknowledging the challenging circumstances, UNMISS is actively implementing measures to mitigate the risks of violence before, during, and after the voting process. These measures include maintaining a robust presence in potential hotspots through temporary operating bases, fortifying deployable reserves of peacekeepers, extensive patrolling, and enhancing political and civil engagement at both community and national levels.

Hayson also drew attention to the dire humanitarian situation in South Sudan, exacerbated by the ongoing conflict in neighboring Khartoum. Two-thirds of the population in South Sudan are food insecure, and over nine million people depend on assistance, including two million internally displaced individuals. The humanitarian caseload continues to grow, with over 434,000 people entering the country since the start of the conflict in Sudan.

Highlighting the challenges faced by humanitarian workers, Hayson called on the government to ensure safe and unfettered humanitarian access, holding accountable those responsible for attacking aid workers and looting aid supplies intended for the most vulnerable. He emphasized that 2024 is likely to be a challenging year for UNMISS, South Sudan, its people, and the region.

As South Sudan grapples with the complexities of election preparation amid existing challenges, the role of UNMISS and international efforts becomes crucial in fostering stability, security, and addressing humanitarian needs in the region.

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