S. Sudan faction stages walkout from parliament in protest of election act

A faction within South Sudan’s ruling party staged a walkout from parliament on Monday, alleging that President Salva Kiir had violated a delicate peace agreement after the passage of a bill by lawmakers that set the stage for elections that had long been postponed.

The world’s youngest nation has faced significant challenges since gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, including enduring a five-year civil war that claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 people before a peace agreement was finally signed in 2018.

The unity government, formed between President Kiir and his rival and deputy, Machar, has struggled to fulfil crucial aspects of the peace agreement as drafting a constitution and electoral legislation, which were meant to be completed ahead of the upcoming elections, now scheduled for next year.

On Monday, legislators affiliated with Machar’s faction of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party protested against the approval of the National Election Act and raised concerns that the act could lead to an election that is perceived as “undemocratic, unfair, and lacking credibility.”

“The proposal that the President be given extra powers to appoint additional number of (lawmakers)… takes away the mandate and the sovereignty” of South Sudan’s people, they said in a press statement.

The legislators accused Parliament Speaker Jemma Nunu Kumba of rushing the vote without affording them a “fair chance to express their views on this critical matter.”

President Kiir has pledged to conduct South Sudan’s inaugural presidential elections by December 2024. However, UN envoy Nicholas Haysom cautioned last month that the authorities must establish a favorable environment to guarantee “peaceful, inclusive and credible elections.”

The United Nations has frequently rebuked the leadership of South Sudan for its involvement in escalating violence, curbing political freedoms, and misappropriating public funds.

The government was originally supposed to conclude a transition period with elections scheduled for February 2023. However, it has thus far fallen short of meeting crucial provisions outlined in the peace agreement.

Despite possessing significant oil reserves, South Sudan remains one of the world’s poorest nations. It has endured nearly half of its existence as a nation embroiled in conflict and continues to grapple with episodes of politically driven ethnic violence.

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