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  • “Deliberate starvation is clearly occurring along ethnic and political lines,” it said.  South Sudanese government officials were not immediately available for comment.

    “Deliberate starvation is clearly occurring along ethnic and political lines,” it said. South Sudanese government officials were not immediately available for comment. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 February 2020

A November 12 deadline to form a unity government got pushed back because critical criteria of a 2018 peace agreement had not been met.

South Sudan’s former rebel leader and its president will form a unity government by Saturday’s deadline; it was announced on Thursday, quashing fears the deadline would be pushed back again.

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South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into a civil war in 2013 when President Salva Kiir sacked his then-deputy Riek Machar, who went on to lead the main rebel faction.

The conflict claimed an estimated 400,000 lives, triggered a famine and created Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Many issues remain outstanding, but last Saturday, the president agreed to reduce the number of states, a key rebel demand.

“We have agreed to form the government on Feb. 22,” former rebel leader Machar told journalists after a meeting at the State House.

President Kiir said he would appoint Machar as the first vice president on Friday and provide all the members of the former opposition with protection.

“We are going to discuss the security arrangements for the protection of all opposition forces and members,” Kiir added. “If there are things we have not agreed upon, we have agreed to resolve them. We shall finalize them in the coming days.”

South Sudan became the world’s youngest nation when it won independence from neighboring Sudan following decades of scorched-earth conflict.

Civil war broke out two years later when forces loyal to Kiir and Machar clashed in the capital. Kiir is a Dinka, the country’s largest ethnic group, and Machar comes from the Nuer community.

The war was marked by extreme sexual violence and ethnic cleansing. Fighting forced a third of the population from their homes.

The current peace is exceptionally fragile, warned a United Nations report released on Thursday.

High-level corruption is rampant; militias are armed and civilians deliberately starved, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said in its report. More than half the 12-million strong population face food shortages, it said.

“The revitalized peace process has led to a fragile peace at the national level in South Sudan, the conflict having shifted to an intensification of ethnic violence at a localized level,” the report said. It accused government forces of arming local militias to attack neighboring communities.

“Deliberate starvation is clearly occurring along ethnic and political lines,” it said.

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