Civil society groups in war-torn South Sudan warned Tuesday the country needs peace to hold elections, and said the government should extend its mandate rather than vote with conflict raging.
The government announced earlier this month presidential and parliamentary polls would be held in the bitterly divided nation between May and July, the first time elections would be held in South Sudan as an independent country.
But the main coalition of 75 civil society groups in the young nation, the South Sudanese Network for Democracy and Elections (SSuNDE), said that people needed "normalcy" to vote.
People should "express their views in a free, fair and secured elections atmosphere within the framework of a political agreement," the group said in a statement.
Fighting broke out in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup.
The fighting in the capital Juba set off a cycle of retaliatory massacres across the country, pushing it to the brink of famine. Both government forces loyal to Kiir and rebels loyal to Machar continue to fight, despite numerous ceasefire deals.
"SSuNDE urges the National Legislative Assembly... to amend the transitional constitution to extend the mandate of the sitting government to continue to negotiate and bring peace to the people of South Sudan," the group's director Ijjo Elias Odego said Tuesday.
"At this difficult situation for our country, SSuNDE calls on all South Sudanese citizens, institutions and partners to support the peace process and return the country to normalcy."
Kiir and members of parliament were elected in 2010, one year before the country split from former civil war enemies in north Sudan.
Delegations from the government and rebels met in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Monday, the latest peace push ahead of a summit organised by the east African bloc IGAD due in Ethiopia on Sunday.