South Sudan postpones elections for two years

Vote was scheduled for December

South Sudan President Salva Kiir's transitional government has been slow to write a new constitution and pave the way for elections. AFP
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South Sudan's transitional government will remain in power for another two years, its president said on Thursday.

The move delays elections that were scheduled for December and has raised concerns among western nations supporting the country's peace process.

"We have decided to prepare the country over the next 24 months to plant the seeds of South Sudan's elections, upon which to build a government that can complete the war on poverty, ignorance, and hopelessness," President Salva Kiir said in a live radio broadcast of a meeting that approved the extension.

South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011, becoming the world's newest nation amid celebrations and pledges of support from world powers.

Two years later, violence erupted between troops loyal to Mr Kiir and his longtime rival and vice president Riek Machar.

A peace agreement signed in September 2019, the latest in a series since the conflict began in late 2013, is largely holding.

But the transitional government has been slow to unify the various factions of the military into a single unit, write a new constitution and pave the way for elections.

The 2013-18 war left about 400,000 dead and millions displaced.

The US, Britain and Norway, which have played important roles in mediating South Sudan's peace process, expressed reservations about the transitional government's extension.

"The road map must demonstrate how another extension would differ from previous ones and include steps for clear progress in setting up the institutions and mechanisms necessary to hold elections," the three countries' ambassadors said in a letter to Mr Kiir.

The UN gave a warning earlier this year of grave concerns among many politicians and civilians in South Sudan that the country may be heading back into conflict.

It pointed to political disputes between Mr Kiir and Mr Machar.

In May, the UN Security Council renewed an arms embargo against South Sudan, as well as a travel ban and financial sanctions for certain people, amid continuing unrest in the country.

South Sudan is rich in natural resources and one of the most diverse nations in Africa, with more than 60 languages and dozens of ethnic groups.

But 11 years after independence, visitors to the capital Juba will see a country suffering from underdevelopment and extreme poverty — the direct result of five years of civil war that stymied the transformation of the young nation into a viable state.

Updated: August 05, 2022, 10:49 AM
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