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Both rivals are under international pressure to meet a Feb. 22 deadline to settle their differences and form a transitional unity government.
Former South Sudanese rebel chief Riek Machar said Sunday in a statement that he is not satisfied with a peace offering presented by President Salva Kiir, and aimed at preparing the formation of a transitional government of national unity.
Hopes of an end to the South Sudanese deadlock were raised Saturday after Kiir agreed to a key demand from the opposition and reduced the number of states from the current 32 to the 10 originals but he also created three administrative areas: Pibor, Ruweng, and Abyei.
Kiir said that returning to a system of 10 states was a "painful decision but a necessary one if that is what brings peace," and dismissed all 32 state governors. The number of states is a contentious issue because the borders will determine the divisions of power in the country.
Machar said he appreciated the president's decision to "revert to 10 states," however, he expressed his discontent with the creation of the three administrative areas.
It "cannot be referred to as reverting to 10 states [and] as such cannot be accepted," Machar wrote in the statement, cited by AFP. "We, therefore, call upon President Kiir to reconsider this idea of creating administrative areas," he added.
The three proposed areas have all endured ethnic violence during the civil war but the most disputed one is the oil-rich, northern area of Ruweng. It is claimed by both the Dinka people of Kiir and the Nuer of Machar.
Oil provides almost all of the country's revenue, making South Sudan one of the most oil-dependent nations in the world.
The African country descended into a devastating civil war in late 2013. The conflict has left an estimated 400,000 people dead and displaced millions more internally and externally.
The reasons for the war are multiple, ranging from ethnic tensions, management of oil resources and the power struggle between Kiir and Machar.
The two leaders signed a peace deal in December 2018 under the United Nations (U.N.), the United States (U.S.) and countries in the region’s pressure. Yet, two previous deadlines to respect the deal and form a government were missed in May and November 2019.
Both rivals are now under increasing international pressure to meet the Feb. 22 deadline to settle their differences, implement the conditions imposed by the deal and form a transitional unity government.
The U.S. warned last year that it would sanction anyone seeking to hinder the peace process, while South Sudan accused President Donald Trump’s administration of trying to weaken Kiir’s government.