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Delays to Pick SSudan Election Date Raises Concerns

FILE - A man waves a South Sudanese flag in the town of Abyei, October 31, 2013.

A signatory to the 2018 South Sudan peace deal is calling for an urgent meeting to have the parties agree on a date for national elections.

Peter Lomude Francis, chairperson of National Democratic Movement (NDM) political affairs committee, asked the body monitoring implementation of the revitalized peace deal to organize the meeting, saying it wants to avoid the current status quo.

The NDM released a statement this week noting the kickoff date for the process leading to next year’s elections was supposed be two days ago.

In his letter to the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, Lomude said no steps are underway to prepare the country for holding elections early next year.

“It is important for the parties to come together to chart a way forward, whether it is possible to implement some of these requirements within the remaining period of time. It cannot be only the NDM to decide on its own, but requires all parties to the agreement to meet and see what is the way forward,” said Lomude.

With only six months to go before the end of the interim period, Lomude said prerequisites for conducting elections such as the unification of armed forces, a new population census, a permanent constitution and judicial reforms have yet to be carried out.

Some parties have deliberately blocked implementation of the agreement to ensure elections are delayed, said Lomude, adding the SPLM, headed by President Salva Kiir, has no political will to conduct elections on time.

“I should refer you for example to the national commissions, you don’t need any money in order to establish some of these commissions. Up to today we have the national commissions which are not reconstituted. How can you go for more than three years without implementing chapter one,” said Lomude.

The SPLM-In Opposition did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but SPLM-IO official Saied Bandas told South Sudan In Focus last month his party believes full implementation of the peace deal should be a priority before elections are held.

Delays in conducting a national census, security arrangements, the return of refugees and other unfulfilled provisions in the peace agreement are obstacles to holding elections, said Bandas.

“We are the ones calling for the election at the end of the interim period because we need our country to move from the armed conflict to a peaceful political situation,” added Bandas.

South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei told South Sudan In Focus the ruling party believes elections will be conducted per the requirements of the peace agreement.

Other factors such as the United Nations Security Council’s decision to continue the arms embargo on South Sudan will hinder efforts to hold elections, argued Makuei.

“There has never been any security up to now. There are still some people who are carrying arms in the bush and those groups which are still at large of course are a source of insecurity,” Makuei told South Sudan in Focus.

Sixty days prior to end of the transitional period, the peace deal requires a national elections commission organize elections — in accordance with provisions of a permanent constitution — and ensure that the outcome is broadly reflective of the will of the electorate.