The South Sudanese conflict will get worse if regional leaders allow the country to hold an election before President Salva Kiir accepts peacekeepers, a ceasefire and political opposition, United Nations investigators have warned.
Kiir’s mandate is scheduled to end in April 2018, and he has made it clear that he wants a new election to be conducted.
The U.N. investigators however believe that doing so would plunge the world’s youngest nation into deeper crisis, if changes are not made.
“It’s just a story of absolutely unimaginable cruelty,” head of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan Yasmin Sooka, told a news conference in Geneva.
The South Sudan conflict erupted in December 2013, and has killed tens of thousands, displacing more than two million others.
The country now ranks as Africa’s biggest refugee crisis, coming in third worldwide after Syria and Afghanistan.
Peace remains an elusive aspect, with the warring factions accused of violating a U.N.-backed deal signed in 2015.
Yasmin also urged the African Union (AU) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to ensure consequences should the South Sudanese government fail to take necessary steps to pacify the country.
“The West Africans camped outside of Gambia and told the president if you don’t go, our armies will come in,” she said. “But will the East African community or IGAD do that?”
Rebel leader Riek Machar remains holed up in South Africa where he sought treatment following clashes between his troops and government forces in July 2016.
Regional leaders have been pushing for his return to ensure all-inclusive peace talks to end the years of fighting.
Kiir’s government is however adamant that he should denounce conflict first if he is to be allowed back into the country.