AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - Elections scheduled for December 2024: Archbishop of Juba expresses confidence

Wednesday, 10 January 2024

Juba (Agenzia Fides) - "What could prevent a democratic election at the end of 2024? I hope let us be men and women who bring hope to others; we are people who can be challenged; we were challenged when the Holy Father came to our Country in January 2023 (see Fides, 27/1/2023). It was barely two months to prepare for the coming of the Holy Father and the event was a great gift for all of us". This is the reflection that Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, Archbishop of Juba, shared with the population, inviting South Sudanese to have hope in the elections scheduled for December 2024.

The occasion was the Christmas Mass celebrated in St Theresa's Cathedral in Juba during which Cardinal Mulla expressed confidence that South Sudan can hold free and fair elections by the end of 2024. "Many have challenged me on why I say we can hold elections, and I told them in these remaining 11 months, many things can happen". The Cardinal also confirmed the local Church's full support for the 'revitalized' peace agreement, urging for the implementation of outstanding issues in the agreement due to the ongoing disputes between the two rival groups. The so-called 'revitalized' peace agreement was signed on September 12,2018 to end the war that began in 2013 between rival groups led by Salva Kiir, current president, and Riek Machar, the Country's first vice president.

South Sudan was meant to conclude a transition period with elections in February 2023, but the transitional government failed to meet key provisions of the agreement, including drafting a constitution and unifying the army. The parties to the agreement extended the transitional government's time in office for another two years, meaning general elections would be held in December 2024. But many observers believe that the Country currently is not in a position to conduct credible elections as more work remains to be done to prepare for the polls. "We are at the end of the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement, and all of us as church people are supportive of this revitalized peace agreement, but there are outstanding issues that we would like to implement together," said the archbishop of Juba.

Some of the critical tasks required before elections could take place includes opening of political and civic spaces, funding of electoral institutions, drafting of a permanent constitution, determining voter eligibility, the voting process, and the deployment of properly trained and equipped unified forces.

Before the conflict broke out, ten million people in South Sudan were dependent on humanitarian aid. Since its independence in 2011, the country has been the scene of repeated armed conflicts and humanitarian crises. Since the outbreak of the civil war in 2013, there have been 400,000 deaths and millions of displaced people, and inter-ethnic tensions and conflicts continue to this day. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 10/1/2024)