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The Human Rights Watch has called on South Sudanese leaders to use the extension of interim period to address the enduring insecurity, rights abuses, and the worsening humanitarian situation in the country.
In a report released on August 18th, the rights group said regional and international partners should enhance pressure on the government to ensure that institutional reforms are completed, and the rule of law restored.
Early this month, the coalition government resolved to extend the transitional period for 24 months, until December 2024.
Parties to the 2018 peace accord said the extension is to allow for unification of the armed forces, creation of a new constitution, and time to prepare for elections.
In response, Nyagoah Tut Pur, a South Sudan researcher at the Human Rights Watch said the government must take a dramatic shift in attitude and concrete steps to improve the country human rights situation.
“The last four-and-a-half years in South Sudan have been characterized by repression, violence against civilians, and attacks that have undermined efforts to complete the transition,” said Pur.
“The extension needs to be accompanied by a dramatic shift in the attitude of South Sudan’s leadership and concrete steps toward improving the country’s human rights situation,” she added.
The international advocacy group said the extension takes place against a backdrop of widespread insecurity and a heavy climate of repression.
After the peace parties upheld their rule by two years, troika countries, some civil society organizations and members of the public criticized the move as a ploy to buy time for illegitimate power.
But President Salva Kiir and his First Deputy Dr. Riek Machar justified the resolution as a move to avoid chaotic election that risks returning the country back to conflict.
“We are not extending the transition because I want to stay in the government longer. We don’t want to rush you into an election that will take us back to war,” said Kiir.
Dr. Riek Machar also argued, “we are all cognizant that in the next four months, you cannot implement what is in this agreement. You have 72.7 percent of the agreement unimplemented. You have no choice.”
Meanwhile, human rights advocate, Nyagoah Pur urged the unity government to use the time frame to initiate reforms, and not to prolong the suffering of citizens.
“The extension of the peace agreement should not be used to extend suffering and betray the hopes of South Sudanese people,” she said.
The Rights Group said authorities should ensure justice for serious crimes, cultivate civic space and end repression, reform the national security service and stop summary execution.
It added that authorities have continued to encroach on freedom of expression and association, arresting and detaining critics, human rights defenders, and journalists.
Recent media reports have shown that, security forces have arrested and arbitrarily detained at least 40 civilians, in connection with peaceful protests across the country.
These include more than 20 teachers arrested in Rumbek town of Lakes State, six civilians and a journalist arrested during a protest in Juba, and the three civil servants arrested in Bor, Jonglei State.
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