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UN: Elections in South Sudan Next Year Would be Catastrophic

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - Rebel fighters hold up their rifles as they walk in front of a bushfire in a rebel-controlled territory in Upper Nile state, South Sudan, Feb. 13, 2014.

United Nations experts warn that elections in South Sudan next year would be catastrophic and lead to more violence in the conflict-torn country. A report on the humanitarian consequences of civil war has been submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan describes the humanitarian situation of millions of South Sudanese refugees and internally displaced people as almost unmanageable.

The experts, who visited Ethiopia and South Sudan between September 4 and 15, report shocking scenes of desperate refugees fighting to be registered. The experts said they saw people waiting in line collapse from hunger.

FILE - The United Nations' protected camp in Wau, South Sudan, now the most congested internally displaced camp in the country, May 14, 2017.
FILE - The United Nations' protected camp in Wau, South Sudan, now the most congested internally displaced camp in the country, May 14, 2017.

In South Sudan's capital, Juba, they interviewed women who had been raped by soldiers and were unable to receive justice or recompense for their suffering.

The commission says officials, including President Salva Kiir, told them they wanted to hold elections next year once the transitional government comes to an end.

FILE - President of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit speaks on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of his country's independence at the presidential palace in Juba, July 9, 2017.
FILE - President of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit speaks on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of his country's independence at the presidential palace in Juba, July 9, 2017.

High number of dispaced

Commission member Godfrey Musila tells VOA this would be disastrous because such a government would lack legitimacy.

“It will not be legitimate because a third of the population is displaced. Some of them are out of the country. It cannot be legitimate because political leaders who are part of the opposition who are abroad, some of them have been arrested and rendered back to Juba. They are not able to access the people to campaign.”

Musila says the dormant peace process must be revitalized and a cease-fire put in place before an election can even be contemplated.

Members of the commission agree a hybrid court, which was approved by the African Union in 2013, must be established swiftly to hold perpetrators of serious abuses accountable for their actions. They say the people of South Sudan also need a commission on truth and healing.

South Sudan became independent from neighboring Sudan in 2011 after decades of conflict. Less than two yeas later, the new nation descended into civil war after President Salva Kiir fired his deputy, Riek Machar. The ensuing conflict has raged mainly along ethnic lines, with thousands killed and about 4 million people out of a population of 12 million displaced.

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