South Sudanese President Salva Kiir pledged on Tuesday that elections, previously postponed and now scheduled for next year, would go ahead as planned, and that he would run for president.
Salva Kiir, a prominent warlord, is the only president South Sudan has known since he led the country to independence from Sudan in 2011.
The world’s youngest country has since gone from crisis to crisis, held together only by a fragile government of national unity, created after a peace agreement between Mr. Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar.
After a transition period, elections were due to be held in February 2023, but the government has so far failed to meet key clauses of the agreement between Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar, including the drafting of a constitution.
“I appreciate the support for my presidential candidacy in 2024,” Mr. Kiir told members of his SPLM party, referring to a “historic event”. “We are committed to implementing the chapters of the refreshed peace agreement and the election will be held in 2024”.
No other candidate has yet declared his candidacy, but his historic enemy Riek Machar surely will, according to observers.
In August, the two leaders extended their transitional government for two years beyond the scheduled date, citing difficulties in implementing their peace agreement.
Mr. Kiir assured observers on Tuesday that these difficulties would be resolved “before the elections”, scheduled for December 2024.
South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries despite significant oil reserves, has spent almost half its existence at war.
Nearly 400,000 people perished during a five-year civil war, until Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar signed a peace agreement in 2018.
Since then, the country has suffered floods, hunger, renewed violence and political strife, as the promises of the peace agreement have been slow to materialize.
The United Nations has consistently accused South Sudanese leaders of being behind the violence, as well as of violating human rights and draining public finances.
The UN’s special envoy to South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, warned in March that 2023 was a “do-or-die” year for South Sudan, calling for “inclusive and credible” elections in 2024.