UN envoy says 2023 is a ‘make or break’ year for South Sudan
SMA NEWS – NEW YORK
The UN special envoy for South Sudan called 2023 a “make or break” year for the world’s newest nation that has been beset by civil war, saying Monday it’s possible the country can keep its commitment to hold elections in December 2024 but only if there is political will.
Nicholas Haysom said most people would argue that at this stage the political environment doesn’t exist “in which the country can withstand a robust political competition.”
“We need to go about creating or expanding political and civic space to enable those elections to take place,” he told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council.
Haysom said the technical conditions and institutions to manage elections must be established “to the extent that most South Sudanese would recognize that they are free, and that they reflect the way in which people voted.”
While it’s possible to make the necessary compromises and do this within two years, he said, “it’s a fast-closing window of opportunity.”
There were high hopes when oil-rich South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after a long conflict. But the country slid into civil war in December 2013 largely based on ethnic divisions, with forces loyal to President Salva Kiir battling those loyal to Vice President Riek Machar.
Tens of thousands of people were killed in the war, which ended with a 2018 peace agreement that brought Kiir and Machar together in a government of national unity. It was supposed to hold elections before February 2023, but that timetable was pushed back last August to December 2024.