South Sudan faces significant challenges in organizing credible and secure elections scheduled for December next year, according to the head of the UN Mission in the country (UNMISS). Highlighting these concerns to the UN Security Council, Nicholas Haysom emphasized that meeting crucial conditions by April 2024 is essential to adhere to the agreed-upon timeline.
Key prerequisites outlined by Haysom included establishing a new permanent constitutional framework, finalizing voter registration specifics, devising an election security strategy, ensuring well-prepared and unified security forces, and implementing a mechanism for resolving result disputes.
Haysom stressed the importance of meeting these requirements, asserting, “A critical mass of these pre-requisites is necessary for creating the conditions for the conduct of elections that are not only free and fair but also deemed credible and acceptable to South Sudanese citizens.”
Expressing optimism contingent upon political determination and compromise, Haysom believed that, with adequate willpower and urgency, South Sudan could establish the necessary conditions for the 2024 elections.
However, Haysom cautioned that the dire economic situation, compounded by climate shocks and a fragile political environment, could lead to heightened tensions during the elections. He warned that failure to mitigate these risks might pose a threat to civilians, emphasizing UNMISS’s commitment to prioritizing civilian protection as a primary task.
UNMISS is proactively implementing measures to mitigate violence risks before, during, and after the elections. These initiatives encompass maintaining a strong presence in potential conflict zones, reinforcing peacekeeping reserves, extensive patrolling, and increasing engagement at both community and national levels.
Haysom also highlighted the severe humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, aggravated by conflicts in neighbouring Khartoum. He underscored that the country hosts a large population facing food insecurity, with over nine million people dependent on aid, including more than two million internally displaced persons. Moreover, the influx of over 434,000 people fleeing the conflict in neighbouring Sudan further strains the humanitarian situation.
Looking ahead, Haysom anticipated a challenging year in 2024 for UNMISS and South Sudan, acknowledging the anticipated difficulties. He assured the ambassadors of UNMISS’s commitment to fulfilling its mandate to the best of its abilities, emphasizing the need for safe humanitarian access and accountability for those attacking aid workers or looting supplies meant for the vulnerable population.