July 15, 2024

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Chair Cardin Statement on South Sudan’s Independence Day

A man waves South Sudan's national flag as he attends the Independence Day celebrations in the capital Juba, July 9, 2011. Tens of thousands of South Sudanese danced and cheered as their new country formally declared its independence on Saturday, a hard-won separation from the north that also plunged the fractured region into a new period of uncertainty. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya (SOUTH SUDAN - Tags: SOCIETY)

WASHINGTON â€“ Today, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement on the thirteenth anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, and expressed his support for the country’s democratic aspirations. In light of credible reports that authorities in South Sudan are improperly applying taxes and fees on international assistance coming in to the country, the Chair also called on the South Sudanese government to fully enforce duty and tax exemptions so that aid is able to reach the most vulnerable populations without barriers. President Kiir recently announced that elections will be held in December 2024.

“Thirteen years ago, the international community celebrated the promise and potential of South Sudan, welcoming the world’s newest country. However, not once since independence have South Sudan’s people had the opportunity to go to the polls to elect their leaders. Instead, violence and conflict have characterized the years since independence. Millions have been displaced, and around three quarters of the population need international assistance to survive. Despite these challenges, I still believe peace and democracy can take root and deliver for the South Sudanese people. Genuine, peaceful, and inclusive elections where citizens are able to hold their government accountable are the best path to peace and stability.

“Unfortunately, the government of South Sudan has refused to create conditions that will lead to credible elections. It has closed political space, failed to fund independent electoral institutions, and has not followed through on the creation of a politically neutral security force. And it has not taken a people-first approach in its policies. Instead, it has undertaken repeated efforts to impose taxes, duties, and other inappropriate fees on the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and others working to deliver food, health care and education for the South Sudanese people, including humanitarian agencies, diplomatic missions, and implementing partners. I urge the government to put its people first, by fully enforcing tax and duty exemptions, and eliminating unnecessary fees, so that assistance reaches those in need without delay.

“This Independence Day, I call upon South Sudan’s leaders to open political and civic space, respect press freedoms, and empower election institutions to operate independently in order to create and environment conducive to peaceful, credible, democratic elections by the December deadline. I stand with the South Sudanese people and their democratic aspirations.”

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