South Sudan says voter registration to start in JuneTue, 09 Apr 2024 17:03:13 GMT

South Sudan plans to start voter registration in June for long-delayed elections due to take place at the end of the year, the head of the National Elections Commission said Tuesday.Abenego Akok said a “draft timetable” had been drawn up for the first ever poll in the history of the world’s youngest nation.However, he did not announce a definitive date for the vote that has been scheduled for December under a new “roadmap” established last year.”We are going to conduct elections,” Akok told a press conference in Juba. “Hopefully… the election will take place.”The first step would be voter registration that would begin in June, he said without giving a precise date.South Sudan has not held an election since it gained independence from Sudan in July 2011 and the nation is plagued by chronic violence, poverty and natural disasters.- ‘Journey to democracy’ -Plans for elections have been hobbled by relentless feuding between President Salva Kiir and his arch-nemesis, Vice President Riek Machar.Forces loyal to the two rivals fought a bloody civil war between 2013 and 2018 that left around 400,000 people dead and millions displaced.A peace deal was agreed in 2018 that laid out a “transition” period to pave the way for general elections.But to the exasperation of the international community, persistent disputes have left key provisions of the deal unfulfilled and transition timelines repeatedly delayed.Nicholas Haysom, the UN mission chief in South Sudan, had warned in December that the country “is not yet in a position to organise credible elections”.He told the UN Security Council a “critical mass” of prerequisites had to be in place by April to enable free and fair elections.These include the unification of Kiir and Machar’s rival forces in a single army and police force and the drafting of a constitution — key tenets of the 2018 deal that remain incomplete.In a statement, the election commission said the cabinet had in February approved a budget of around 253 billion South Sudanese pounds (about $215 million at the time) and that it was awaiting parliamentary approval.On April 2, the government released about 22 billion pounds (about $14 million) to election institutions pending the approval, it said.”The journey to democracy has started today and it is the responsibility for all South Sudanese to participate in this election because the power belongs to them,” the NEC said.South Sudan is one of the poorest countries on the planet despite plentiful oil resources, and also among the most corrupt.Petroleum exports account for about 90 percent of national income but the government has been deprived of this vital revenue since a pipeline shipping oil from South Sudan to Sudan was damaged in its war-torn neighbour in February.