Experts and civil society groups on Wednesday urged South Sudan to delay conducting general elections early next year and instead focus on the implementation of the August 2015 peace deal to end over three years of civil war.
The South Sudanese Network for Democracy and Elections (SSuNDE), a network of more than 70 civil society organisations, said the current situation in South Sudan makes it practically impossible to conduct credible elections within the remaining time frame of the peace deal, which is set to expire in March 2018.
The activists said the country has not completed preparations of legal frameworks necessary for elections as provided for in the pact known as the Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS).
“The delay to fully complete the amendments of these legislations at the moment makes it quite unrealistic for the country to conduct elections by March 25, 2018,” the group said in a joint statement issued in Juba.
“In such an unsafe environment, it is evidently difficult for National Elections Commission, political parties, civic groups and electoral candidates to perform elections operations successfully,” it added.
The East African country has been embroiled in the conflict that has taken a devastating toll on the people and created one of the world’s fastest growing refugees crisis as some four million people have been displaced both internally and externally, according to the UN.
A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under UN pressure led to the establishment of a transitional unity government in April, but was shattered by renewed fighting in July 2016, and violence has spread to areas that previously enjoyed relative peace.
The pact demanded amendment of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011, which will in turn pave way for the review of the Political Parties Act, 2012 and the National Elections Act, 2012, but all have not been completed.
Mr Michael Makuei, Minister of Information, told reporters last week that the government would go ahead with the polls as stipulated in the agreement despite the ongoing civil war and massive displacement.
Mr Rajab Mohandis, Executive Director of SSuNDE, argued that the violence would affect free and safe movement of election officials, civic groups, members of political parties, electoral candidates and all their supporters.