In the face of looming elections in December 2024, South Sudan finds itself at a critical juncture in its democratic transition, with only 17 months left on the Roadmap timelines. Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) stressed the situation's urgency during a press conference in the capital city of Juba.
Haysom emphasised that 2023 is a “make or break” year, urging prompt action to address foundational tasks necessary for the South Sudanese population to participate confidently in the upcoming elections. The nation's journey toward democratic stability has been marred by inter-communal violence and the aftershocks of the crisis in its northern neighbour, Sudan.
A central concern is the incomplete reconstitution of crucial bodies: the National Constitutional Review Commission, the National Elections Commission, and the Political Parties Council. These bodies play pivotal roles in shaping the democratic process, but their reestablishment remains pending. Furthermore, drafting a new Constitution must be expedited to ensure consensus among political parties.
Haysom stressed that successful elections go beyond just holding the polls; credibility, transparency, and inclusivity are essential to establish legitimacy. The freedom for political parties to register and campaign, a vigilant civil society for civic education and observation, and a media that fosters diverse voices are all crucial components.
The ongoing crisis in Sudan further compounds South Sudan's challenges. The spillover effects include increased food prices, impacting vulnerable households' access to basic necessities. Tens of thousands of refugees have entered South Sudan, fleeing violence in Sudan, and this influx could potentially exacerbate existing tensions.
Haysom underlined the immediate risk posed by potential attacks on the oil pipeline that transports South Sudan's oil to the international market through Port Sudan. Any disruption in this supply chain could severely cripple South Sudan's economy, which is already vulnerable. The international community's support is essential in navigating these challenges.
UNMISS, in collaboration with regional partners such as the African Union and IGAD, continues to support South Sudan's electoral and constitution-making processes. However, there is a pressing need for local leaders to swiftly make critical decisions about electoral, constitutional, and security structures. The success of these efforts will demonstrate to donors and international partners that a peaceful and secure South Sudan is an attractive destination for investment and support.
Haysom stressed the importance of building mutual trust among communities and leaders, fostering a shared vision for the future, and taking tangible actions to ensure the success of the peace process and upcoming elections. As South Sudan navigates this crucial period, the world watches with a collective hope for a stable and democratic future.
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