August 30, 2017 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese government has vowed, despite the ongoing civil war in the nation, to hold general elections next year.
The country’s information and broadcasting minister, Michael Makuei Lueth said the war will not stop the 2018 polls from taking place as planned.
- Information minister Michael Makuei Lueth (R) speaks at a media forum as presidential press secretary Ateny Wek Ateny looks on in Juba on 7 September 2014 (ST)
“When time comes for elections, they will have to be conducted because you cannot take insecurity as an excuse for not running the election,” Lueth told reporters in the capital, Juba on Wednesday.
The minister also dismissed as untrue reports that regional efforts were ongoing to ensure the rebel leader, Riek Machar, who is currently confined in South Africa, is allowed to return to the war-torn nation.
“What we know is that Riek Machar is in South Africa, and if he is coming then we have not yet known about it”, he further stressed.
The South Sudanese leader, Lueth added, would only be allowed to return to the East African nation if he denounces rebellion.
“His [Machar] return to the country as a politician must occur when the elections are about to be conducted,” said the minister, in what appears a strategy to deny Machar time to prepare for campaigns.
The official’s remarks come a week after the United Nations special envoy for South Sudan warned that the young nation could face problems if issues affecting it are not tackled prior to next year’s polls.
There is sporadic fighting and widespread insecurity across the country,” Nicholas Haysom told the UN Security Council last week.
He added, “Our engagements with South Sudanese interlocutors, including the opposition, suggest that battlefield fortunes continue to inform the calculus of both the government and its opponents.”
Early this month, South Sudan President Salva Kiir called upon the country’s opposition groups to prepare for the country’s general elections, earmarked to take place after the end of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) period in 2018.
To fast track processes leading to the polls, President Kiir in May officially declared his national dialogue initiative and declared unilateral cease-fire with rebels, albeit it has repeated been violated.
Haysom, however, said President Kiir’s reconciliation approach has not yielded gains as fighting continues in various parts of the country.
“[The incidences of violence] may well contribute to deepening and extending the conflict,” Haysom further told the 15-member Council.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than two million displaced in South Sudan’s conflict triggered by political differences between President Kiir, a Dinka, and Machar, a Nuer.