UN envoy cautions that South Sudan confronts a “make or break” year in 2023

The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, has a proviso government that must execute a peace agreement in order to hold “credible” elections in 2024, according to the UN envoy there.

“We see 2023 as a ‘make or break’ year and as a test for all parties to the peace agreement,” Nicholas Haysom, the United Nations envoy to South Sudan, told the UN Security Council.

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The transitional government’s “commitment to execute the peace agreement in accordance with the timelines” was praised by the South African diplomat in a roadmap outlined by the parties vying for control of the nation, which was created in 2011 with the division of Sudan.

Haysom emphasized that Juba had “stated explicitly that there would be no further extensions of the deadlines” for the elections that must be “inclusive and credible” by the end of 2024.

The UN mission to Sudan — one of the most expensive in the world with an annual budget of $1.2 billion — has been asked by the government to “assist the South Sudanese-owned and administered elections,” Haysom said, in particular by “working with civil society, political parties, and the media.”

President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar formed a transitional government in 2018 following the end of a five-year civil war that claimed at least 380,000 lives. They also decided to join forces in a single army to protect the population, which had been severely affected by conflicts and natural disasters.

The majority of the population in the oil-rich nation, where armed conflict is still prevalent, is below the poverty level.

Haysom acknowledged there are still conflicts that “increasingly present an ethnic or tribal dimension, and, as President Kiir noted… threaten to unravel hard-won peace gains.”

At Haysom’s side was a US representative to the UN, Robert Wood, who said he was “gravely alarmed over the rise of violence against civilians in South Sudan.”

He cited statistics demonstrating a 79 percent rise in civilian homicides and an 87 percent increase in civilian injuries over the previous year.

He added that conflict-related sexual violence increased by 360 percent and that kidnappings of women and children increased by 464 percent.

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