County commissioners pledge to ameliorate key peace and security challenges ahead of elections
JONGLEI/GPAA – The world’s newest nation—South Sudan—is at a critical point in its history, with citizens expecting to head to the polls in 2024 for the country’s first ever elections.
Originally slated for 2023, elections have been delayed as politicians struggle to galvanize momentum in flagging peace processes here.
Electoral preparations and necessary security conditions dominated discussions during a two-day Commissioners’ Forum in Jonglei state, supported by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament deliberated on key issues that directly impact the ongoing democratic transition, including building capacities among rule of law actors and institutions; improving road infrastructure for better service delivery and greater access for humanitarian partners and peacekeepers; comprehensive civilian disarmament; and holding perpetrators of crimes against women and children accountable.
In conclusion, resolutions were adopted on the above challenges by nine County Commissioners, witnessed by the Minister for Local Law Enforcement and representatives from the UN Peacekeeping mission.
Addressing the forum, Geetha Pious, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in the state urged county commissioners to follow through on their promises.
“We need to work collaboratively to make sure every signatory to this Resolution upholds the commitments made,” she stated.
“It is critical that all of us engage youth productively to put an end to perennial conflict drivers such as cattle raids and subsequent revenge attacks,” she added, referencing the spike in tensions in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA), where UNMISS is working collaboratively with local authorities to restore calm.
Currently, according to Ms. Pious, youth from Jonglei are still located in the GPAA and called on Jonglei commissioners to use their good offices and ensure their peaceful return to the state.
“Ensuring harmony and social cohesion is necessary not merely to avoid intercommunal conflict but also to create a conducive environment for South Sudan to hold free, fair and credible elections,” she averred.
Acting Governor of Jonglei state, Jacob Akech Dengdit, agreed.
“Elections are non-negotiable if South Sudan is to progress and develop. All of us—national leaders, state politicians, county commissioners, and communities themselves have a part to play to create an atmosphere where every citizen can vote freely and all opinions are respected,” he stated. “Furthermore, all parties to the Revitalized Peace Agreement need to be able to campaign freely. This is the time for all of us to join efforts.”
For his part, Simon Hoth Dual, state Minister for Local Government urged participants to reduce conflict and ensure communities embrace peace as the way forward to ensure a legitimate, inclusive, and timely electoral process.
“Any form of violence sets us back and I call on county commissioners to do everything in their power to prevent it,” he said.
Jonglei continues to be a difficult area for the UN family to provide protection and humanitarian assistance, given widespread intercommunal issues.
To counter possible escalations and boost community confidence, UNMISS has recently reinforced its presence in Pibor and increased patrols to affected areas, working with local authorities and humanitarian partners.