South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has started lobbying for elections to be held in 2018 despite unfavourable conditions.
President Kiir is said to be fearing for his legitimacy once the term of the transitional government expires in February 2018. The August 2015 Peace agreement provides that the Transitional Government of National Unity would last for 30 months after which elections would be held.
For the past one month, the South Sudan leader has been saying that he is consulting with other political leaders on the provisions of the transitional constitution to expedite the elections.
This is despite the country being at war over the past four years, and the environment does not allow voter registration and voting because of increased insecurity.
Additionally, President Kiir’s rival Dr Riek Machar — the leader of the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement-In Opposition — is exiled in South Africa, while the government lacks funds to register voters and conduct elections.
South Sudan’s ambassador to Ethiopia James Morgan, told The EastAfrican that President Kiir is trying to avoid a situation where his rivals claim he is leading an illegitimate government.
The transitional government brought signatories of the agreement such as the Taban Deng faction of SPLM-IO, the former detainees together.
“How will we explain to the people that we are still in government after the term of the transmittal government ends. While the rebels are not interested in the implementation of the agreement, it is the same rebels that will say that the government is illegitimate. It is necessary for us to go back to the people,” said Mr Morgan, who is also the country’s permanent representative to the African Union.
South Sudan was scheduled to hold elections in July 2015 but was aborted after the country plunged into civil war in December 2015.
In March parliament voted to amend the South Sudan Transitional Constitution, 2011, to extend the presidential and parliamentary term by three years until July 9, 2018.
However, Dr Machar maintained that President Kiir is in power illegally because his term had ended in 2015. With the fighting escalating as various ethnic militia groups emerge, it difficult for Dr Machar to participate in the election even if they are called.
Mr Morgan says the council of ministers had directed the minster for finance to set aside money for election but he is yet to come up with estimate.
He maintained that Dr Machar can take part in the elections if he renounces violence. “We are simply asking him to denounce violence and he will be free to return home. If he fears for his security, the international community is ready to protect him so long as he is in the country,” said Mr Morgan.
In the meantime, the implementation of the peace agreement is far behind schedule. It is only the formation of TGoNU that has been implemented while other requirements such as comprehensive constitutional review, national truth and reconciliation commission and the establishment of the hybrid court, have virtually been forgotten.
At the recent United Nations (UN) General Assembly, the special envoy to South Sudan, said David Shearer, lamented that the warring factions have little interest in the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement, and asked for regional leaders to find a political solution and international support to the process.
Mr Shearer said that Some 7.6 million people needed aid because of the escalating war and displacement, but so far, only 66 per cent of the funding requested had been received.