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UN Urges SSudan to Fast-track Election Process

FILE - Nicholas Haysom, then the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, listens to a question during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 14, 2016.
FILE - Nicholas Haysom, then the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, listens to a question during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 14, 2016.

Nicholas Haysom, head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), has called on South Sudan's government to fast-track programs aimed at ensuring free and fair elections in 2024.

Haysom told reporters in the South Sudan’s capital Juba Friday time is running out for the country to create a conducive environment for holding credible elections set for February next year.

"But it can happen if certain benchmarks are achieved this year. It will be crucial that South Sudan meet all its critical benchmarks, particularly those that are time bound and this will require a sense of urgency in the coming year," Haysom said.

The U.N. diplomat also warning that violence in parts of the country could threaten the smooth implementation of the 2018 peace agreement.

The 2018 revitalized peace agreement required the country to hold its first general elections in February 2023, but last year signatories of the deal agreed to extend the transitional period by another two years.

Haysom urged the parties to renew their efforts and ensure elections are held on time in order to establish "a legal framework and prepare the ground and environment for the conduct of elections."

South Sudan Minister of Information Michael Makuei told VOA's South Sudan in Focus the government is working to ensure all the requirements for holing free and fair elections are finalized before the elections.

"We are sure that we will conduct elections. We have already signed the law for the constitutional making process, we have signed political parties act and we have signed elections law. What else? Communal violence cannot stop elections," Makuei told VOA, adding, "They are already ending now."

Makuei said the government is "in the process" of sending forces to stop violence in parts of the country.

Haysom said he met with President Salva Kiir and discussed some of the challenges facing elections including ongoing intercommunal violence in some parts of the country.

"This violence and fighting disturbingly characterized by tribal undertones in many areas is particularly damaging; it poses a real threat to the gains achieved so far and could even derail the peace process. Every one of these conflicts leaves behind a legacy of bitterness and division," Haysom said.

Haysom stressed that UNMISS will carry out preventive diplomacy and patrols to deter communal violence.

"We have undertaken and will continue to undertake thousands, thousands of violence deterrent patrols by land, air and river to difficult areas and will establish and continue to establish temporary operating bases in all hotspots, therefore curbing deadly violence in many areas," Haysom said.

He said UNMISS has also cleared more than 4,700 kilometers (2920 miles) of roads, which he says is "protecting civilians, and enabling the U.N. and its partners to deliver life-saving aid."

UNMISS identified Jonglei, Warrap, Western Equatoria, Central Equatoria and Upper Nile states as some of the hotspots posing threats to implementation of the peace agreement and holding elections.