South Sudan President Kiir says election to be held on schedule

Saturday September 23 2023

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit. PHOTO | AFP


South Sudan President Salva Kiir says the country’s elections will run on schedule, potentially providing certainty around the timelines of the country’s transition but raising a new storm with his rivals.

President Kiir expressed frustrations that he is tired of the transition government because there are too many vice presidents (five from various rival factions), making it a cumbersome government in the world.

“If my deputies are the ones who go and encourage people who talk about no elections, I can tell them that there is no extension of the agreement or roadmap,” he said during an economic conference in Juba last week.

Read: S. Sudan transition stuck in mud of floods, politics

He maintained his commitment to ensure elections are held, ruling out any possibilities of extending the current transitional government. He said elections would take place, despite delays in implementing key provisions in the peace agreement.

“We are going for elections, and you should prepare yourselves. There is nothing left behind unless you want to run to the bush, and you have to look for the person who will go with you to the bush. Nobody will follow you to the bush again,” he said.


South Sudan has been facing another extension of the transition period with key stakeholders expressing doubt on the country’s ability to hold elections in December 2024. Kiir’s stance could resolve the question but not entirely end the dispute.  

President Kiir and his first Vice President Riek Machar appear to be working at cross purposes with Dr Machar arguing it would be impossible unless the security situation is addressed.

The transition period was extended in August 2022 by 24 months after the signatories to the 2018 peace agreement, formally known as the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), realised that the implementation of key ingredients for elections were behind schedule.

Read: South Sudan readies for its first election

However, Dr Machar maintained that elections would not be held if key prerequisites were not met. He said the prerequisites include screening training and deployment of the necessary unified force; return of the internally displaced persons to their home areas of origin and return of refugees from neighbouring countries.

John Duku, a former South Sudan Ambassador to China and close ally of President Kiir, the election must take place in 2024, but the distraction comes from what he calls “briefcase political parties” who are afraid of elections.

Mr Duku says that the conditions given by the opposition parties such as the return of refugees and resettlements of IDPs before elections; the census and the new constitution before the election are not realistic.

“The return of refugees and resettlement of the IDPS is done globally under the Geneva Convention. No refugee can be forced to return to their country of origin. The repatriation is a voluntary decision. Therefore, it cannot be used as a precondition for election,” says Duku.

He maintains that census is not a requirement for election and the country needs the election law, which is in the third reading of parliament that will enable the establishment of a credible independent national election commission.

“The election act will empower and mandate the national elections commission to conduct national voters' registration before the election,” he said. President Kiir has managed to weaken Dr Machar by engineering defections of key lieutenants, and it would be pretty difficult for the vice-president to start a new rebellion.

Read: Numerous hurdles ahead of South Sudan’s first-ever general election

Yet opposition to the Kiir leadership appears to be on the rise. Despite the 2018 agreement, there holdout groups that involve the leader of the National Salvation Front, Gen Thomas Crillo, the exiled former Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Secretary-General Pagan Amum, and the former chief of general staff, Paul Malong Awan.

In a recent development, Minister for National Security Oyai Deng Ajak has promised to mobilise troops and march to Juba on account that that President Kiir alleged hijacked leadership structures within the ruling SPLM for personal gain, undermining the original vision and ideals for which people twice took up arms.