South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has downplayed fears that the country’s next elections could be delayed due to failure to implement some key provisions stipulated in the 2018 peace agreement.
Speaking to a group of Dinka elders in the capital, Juba on Tuesday, Kiir stressed the need to expedite the processes to unify the military command structures.
“The people will decide, not politicians. For them, this is what is in the agreement, elections should be held at the end of the transitional period. This is why there are arrangements and the reason I keep asking others to start the screening process of their forces so that there is a unified command and forces to allow necessary arrangements as stipulated in the agreement to be met”, he explained.
The South Sudanese leaders said the ongoing governors’ forum will enable the various stakeholders involved to come up with ideas that could be instrumental in overcoming the difficulties being faced in the peace implementation process.
The forum, organized by the presidency with support from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is based on the theme; “Role of the States in the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, towards Peace, Stability and Prosperity”.
“I have not seen the report because the conference is still ongoing, but I have heard what others said. What they are citing as the reasons which could affect other arrangements, including the conduct of elections, are the issues that can be resolved and that is the reason this conference was convened,” stressed Kiir.
He added, “It is to allow all the leaders, all the governors, relevant ministers, institutions and mechanisms in the peace agreement, vice presidents, advisers, and all the stakeholders to come up with ideas that could be used to address the challenges being faced in the implementation of the peace agreement”.
The South Sudanese leader was reacting to statements attributed to First Vice President Riek Machar and Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng, who expressed fears that the country’s planned general elections could be delayed due to the lack of implementation of key provisions within the revitalized peace agreement.
Machar, while officially opening the governor’s forum on Monday, said the forthcoming elections may not be free and fair if proper security institutions and arrangements to protect the state and its citizens were not put in place.
“To have fair, free, transparent elections, you must have security forces who will protect the state, its people and not interfere in the election processes,” he said.
He added, “And therefore, it is critical [that] if we are going to go for elections, [then] we must complete in the shortest possible time, the security arrangements”.
The armed opposition further stressed that refugees and those in the internally displaced camps are hesitant to return home due to the insecurity in the country.
“I believe why our refugees are not coming is because we have not moved forward on the security arrangements. Once they know we have moved forward in the security arrangements, they will come [home],” he told the forum.
Similar concerns were also echoed at the forum by Vice President Nyandeng.
Last week, President Kiir assured a delegation from UN Security Council (UNSC) in Juba that elections would be conducted as stipulated in the peace agreement.
According to the implementation matrix of the revitalized peace agreement of September 2018, South Sudan was scheduled to hold elections in 2022, but this was pushed to 2023 after delays in the implementation of the peace accord.