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UN official says elections are not viable alternative for S. Sudan peace

United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bintou Keita talks to reporters in Juba on 19 April 2018 (UNMISS Photo)

April 2, 2018 (NEW YORK) – UN’s deputy peacekeeping chief Wednesday said holding elections in South Sudan before to reach a peaceful settlement is not a solution to the current crisis.

Bintou Keita, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the Security Council about her recent visit to South Sudan to discuss UNMISS mandate and efforts for peace. In Juba, she met with First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, and a delegation of Cabinet Ministers led by the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Martin Elia Lomoro.

Regarding the peace process, Keita told the Security Council she discussed with the government officials their plan B if the upcoming talks fail. She added that they think that resorting to general elections can be used as a means to end the conflict.

“We said, well, even in places where it is extremely well organized there is no way that you can go through all the steps of preparing elections in the conditions that we are seeing now” in South Sudan, she said.

The Guinean diplomat further said that South Sudan is not “a country where it is conducive, right now, to go through any meaningful elections as a Plan B.”

“So for us, there is no Plan B”. “The only plan is the High-Level Revitalization Forum,” she emphasized.

South Sudanese officials say the opposition groups want to undermine the IGAD-led process before to claim that Salva Kiir’s government has no legitimacy.

They add that election can allow choosing a leader and the opposition groups including SPLM-IO Riek Machar have to renounce violence if they intend to take part in the polls.

But the opposition leaders reject this option pointing to the need for a political solution and the return of displaced civilians to their home areas before any election.