Home inContext South Sudan Elections Delayed

South Sudan Elections Delayed

Alex Finkelstein

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir announced Monday that presidential elections scheduled for 2015 will be delayed due to the ongoing conflict between government forces and rebel groups. Fighting between the two sides began in 2013 after Kiir, a Dinka tribesman, fired Riek Machar, his former deputy and rival from the Nuer tribe.

Kiir’s presidential term is scheduled to expire in 2015, but he argues that reconciliation will take several years and that it should be extended. Machar, on the other hand, wants the term to expire and hopes that the nation’s constitution can be rewritten to become a more federalist document that accommodates the diversity of the country. Both parties signed a ceasefire agreement in Ethiopia on Friday, but soon thereafter accused the other of violating the deal.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir. (Photo: Getty)

A recent UN report accuses both sides of human rights violations including rapes, assaults, and ethnic killings. The fighting has displaced over one million people and prevented farmers from planting crops, causing new food shortages. People are so terrified that they are fleeing to Darfur.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 as part of the 2005 peace agreement ending the Sudanese civil war. However, now that the government has entered conflict, Western governments and the international community face a dilemma over disbursing aid through the government. Additionally, the UN Security Council is considering whether or not it should take a more neutral role and focus on protecting civilians.

Secretary of State John Kerry has raised the issue of genocide as the conflict has taken on a largely ethnic dimension. He also implored the UN and Africa to employ more peacekeepers. His visit to the capital city of Juba last week convinced Kiir to attend the meeting in Ethiopia where the breached ceasefire agreement was signed.