South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said on Saturday he was cutting the number of states from 32 to 10, unlocking a stalled peace deal and paving the way for the formation of a long- awaited unity government.
“The compromise we have made today is a painful decision but a necessary one if that is what brings peace”, Kiir said in a statement. “I expect the opposition to be prepared to do the same.”
Disagreement between Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar over the number of states as well as a failure to integrate different fighting forces have been major obstacles to completing the peace process.
A failed 2015 peace deal increased the number of states from 10 to 32. Until now, the government had insisted on keeping that number, while Machar’s opposition had wanted alternatively 23 or 10.
There was no immediate comment Saturday from Machar’s camp on the president’s announcement.
“This paves a path forward. The peace deal was stuck. Now the parties will need to complete the negotiations to form the long-awaited unity government,” said Alan Boswell, a senior analyst with the Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group, according to Reuters.
South Sudan’s five-year civil war erupted soon after the country’s formation in 2011 and created the worst refugee crisis in Africa since the Rwandan genocide.
Under the deal, the two agreed to form a unity government by November 2019. They then pushed then the deadline back by 100 days, prompting Washington to recall its ambassador and impose sanctions on senior officials for their role in perpetuating the conflict.