Michael A. Koehler, Deputy Director-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) (Right), and Timo Olkkonen, the EU Ambassador to South Sudan (Left) address a press conference on Wednesday in Juba. [Photo: Radio Tamazuj]

EU envoy urges South Sudan to fast-track constitution-making ahead of polls

A visiting European Union envoy to South Sudan on Wednesday urged the country’s political leaders to rapidly expedite work on drafting a new constitution ahead of elections scheduled for next year.

A visiting European Union envoy to South Sudan on Wednesday urged the country’s political leaders to rapidly expedite work on drafting a new constitution ahead of elections scheduled for next year.

Addressing reporters during a press conference held in Juba on Wednesday, Timo Olkkonen, EU Ambassador to South Sudan urged the parties to renew efforts to complete different chapters of the peace agreement including the constitution-making process to prepare the country for elections in December 2024.

“We also underlined our concern about the delays in the implementation of the peace agreement that even in terms of the roadmap we are already missing some important deadlines, and we encourage that the prevailing disagreements at the political level wouldn’t delay further the extremely important processes on constitution-making and also preparing for elections,” Timo said.

In August 2022, President Kiir announced the extension of his transitional government’s time in office for another two years, meaning elections would be held in December 2024.

Michael A. Koehler, Deputy Director-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), said the country could only change if it starts to register positive progress in terms of implementing the 2018 revitalized peace agreement.

“In international meetings, people speak about the crisis in Ukraine, the crisis in Afghanistan, Syria, and the crisis in Venezuela and Somalia and forth, we have to make sure that they keep the needs of the people of South Sudan on the radar screen, so visibility is important,” Koehler said.

He said the country needs to restore peace and security to win crucial financial assistance from the international community.

“The second thing is more important, you need to have good news from South Sudan, every single step that you can take yourself and it starts with peace and it starts with ensuring that security is good and it encourages international donors to come in,” he disclosed.

“If we have the feeling that the situation is getting worse and that the nation is falling back into war and conflict, of course, it’s very difficult to motivate new donors to come and put money to the benefit of the people,” Koehler added.

The top envoy was speaking after concluding a two-day visit between 27-29 March to the country where he met with internally displaced persons in Bentiu town of Unity state and senior government officials to understand the humanitarian situation.

Last year, UN agencies launched the 2023 humanitarian response for South Sudan totaling 1.7 billion U.S. dollars, but only 488.6 million dollars have been secured so far.

An estimated 9.4 million people, a staggering 76 percent of South Sudan’s population, will have humanitarian or protection needs in 2023 which presents an increase of half a million people compared to 2022.