President Salva Kiir says South Sudan’s long-delayed elections will happen in 2024 with him on the ballot for the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement party.
Kiir, who has led South Sudan since it became independent from Sudan in 2011, accepted the endorsement of the ruling party at a stadium event on Tuesday in Bahr el Ghazal. The election would be the first national vote ever held in South Sudan.
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“I am deeply touched by your endorsement and your continued support to our historic party,” Kiir told tens of thousands of supporters at the Wau Stadium.
“As party members, let us work on the basis that there will be no extension of the transitional period and we have to go for the elections,” he said.
He added that his government is doing everything possible to ensure that what is crucial to conducting the elections is put in place.
Kiir is expected to face his longstanding rival, First Vice President Riek Machar, who has yet to confirm his candidacy.
The opposition has accused the government of lacking the political will to hold elections. But Kiir said he is committed to free and fair elections.
Almost 400,000 people died in a five-year civil war before Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal in 2018 and formed a unity government.
Since then, the country has battled flooding, hunger, violence and political bickering as the peace agreement has yet to be fully implemented. While large-scale clashes have subsided, violence in parts of the country persists. It killed 2,240 people last year, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project
In 2022, the Norwegian Refugee Council also listed the conflict there as one of the world’s 10 most neglected crises.
The United Nations has repeatedly criticised South Sudan’s leadership for its role in stoking violence, cracking down on political freedoms and plundering public coffers.
In March, the UN envoy to South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, warned that the country faced a “make or break” year in 2023 and its leaders must implement the peace agreement to hold “inclusive and credible” elections next year.
Haysom stressed Juba had “stated clearly that there would be no more extensions of the timelines” for elections by the end of 2024.