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“We said that after 100 days we must form the government of national unity [...]," President Kiir told reporters.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar announced Tuesday that they have agreed to form a transitional unity government by mid-February 2020, even in the case they fail to work out all their differences by that date.
Kiir and his former vice president turned rival Machar held three days of negotiations in the capital Juba this week, but little progress was reported. Nonetheless, the two finally emerged from an hour-long meeting Tuesday at the State House to say they agreed to maintain the ongoing cease-fire.
“We said that after 100 days we must form the government of national unity. If the arrangements are not complete, we shall form a transitional government of national unity to implement the outstanding issues,” Kiir told reporters.
“The ceasefire will continue to hold and no one from us is willing to go back to war,” he added at a joint news conference with Machar.
The two leaders signed a peace deal in December 2018 under the United Nations, the United States and countries in the region’s pressure. The deal was meant to put an end to a five-year civil war, yet, two previous deadlines to form a government in May and in November were missed.
Last month, the deadline was pushed back to February, prompting the U.S. to call its ambassador back, and raising fears the civil war, that created the worst refugee crisis in Africa since the Rwandan genocide, might resume.
A power struggle between the two men led to these delays in the formation of a government. Both sides blame each other for not meeting milestones stipulated by last year’s peace deal, especially the integration of rebel forces into the national army. They also disagree on the number of states the country created in 2011 should have.
“We have talked about the number of states and boundaries but we didn’t reach a deal on the states,” Machar said in a news conference.
Washington imposed Monday sanctions on two top South Sudanese officials for their role in “perpetuating the conflict” and said it was ready to impose other measures on anyone seeking to hinder the peace process.
“Everyone knows what needs to be done. A comprehensive package includes arrangements for a solution of the state’s issue. No loose ends for people to hide behind. And we will measure our reactions accordingly,” the European Union’s special representative for the Horn of Africa Alexander Rondos said.
For its part, South Sudan’s government is accusing the U.S. of seeking to weaken the Kiir administration.
South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013 and the conflict has left hundreds of thousands of people dead and displaced four million South Sudanese internally and externally.
The reasons for the conflict are multiple, ranging from ethnic tensions, management of oil resources and the power struggle between Kiir and Machar.