South Sudan’s transitional government will remain in power for another two years, its president said on Thursday, delaying elections that were scheduled for December this year, raising concerns among Western nations supporting its peace process.
It would be recalled that South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011, making it the world’s newest nation amid celebrations and pledges of support from world powers.
Two years later, violence erupted between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy-turned-rival Riek Machar.
Reuters reports that a peace agreement signed in September 2019, the latest in a series since the conflict began in late 2013, is largely holding but the transitional government has been slow to unify the various factions of the military into a single unit, write a new constitution and pave the way to elections.
“We have decided to prepare the soil over the next 24 months to plant the seeds of South Sudan’s elections …upon which to build a government that can complete the war on poverty, ignorance, and hopelessness,” Kiir said in a live state-run radio broadcast of a meeting that approved the extension.
Puok Both Balung, Machar’s spokesperson, said elections were now slated for Dec. 20, 2024.
The South Sudan government, led by President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar, also postponed elections to 2024 and blamed the postponement for the lack of a permanent constitution.
Civil society groups in South Sudan agree with the situation on the ground, still volatile in parts of the country, does not permit a free, fair and peaceful election.
Armed confrontations between the government forces, known as the South Sudan People’s Defense Force, and the rebels, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition, have held up efforts to unify the security forces into one national army.
Security experts say that unifying the divided security agencies would play a significant role in making the country a democracy and a stable state.
In July, the United States pulled out of the country’s peace process, saying the sides had failed to make the necessary reforms to end the political and security crisis.