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South Sudan Rival Leaders Delay New Government by 100 Days


South Sudan's President Salva Kiir left, and opposition leader Riek Machar, right, shake hands after meetings Oct. 20, 2019.
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir left, and opposition leader Riek Machar, right, shake hands after meetings Oct. 20, 2019.

South Sudan's president and chief rebel leader have agreed to postpone formation of a transitional unity government for 100 days beyond a November 12 deadline.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced the delay Thursday on Twitter after hosting talks between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar in Entebbe.

Museveni said the meeting resulted in several resolutions,"among which is extending the pre-transitional period for 100 days, with progress reviewed after 50 days."

Participants in the meeting included Abdalftah Alburhan, president of Sudan's Transitional Sovereign Council, and Kenya's special envoy on South Sudan, Kalonzo Musyoka.

Museveni said the parties resolved to ask the East Africa bloc IGAD to "address" the status of Machar, who is currently living in exile in Khartoum, under the care of the Sudanese government.

Senior members of Machar’s Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) have been calling on IGAD to release their leader from what they call ‘’house arrest."

Pessimism on unity government

Earlier this week, the president of the U.N. Security Council also called for IGAD to resolve the status of Machar.

Envoy Jonathan Allen of Britain, which holds the rotating Security Council presidency, said the Council was briefed by the heads of the U.N. peacekeeping operation in South Sudan on the situation in the country. He said very little has changed in South Sudan despite a 2018 peace deal that calls for formation of the transitional unity government.

‘’The members of the Security Council express concern that during their recent visit to South Sudan, they did not observe substantive progress on implementation of key element of the peace agreement," he said.’

South Sudan is trying to emerge from a nearly five-year civil war that killed tens of thousands and displaced more than 4 million people.

The accord signed last year ended the fighting, but government and opposition groups have made little progress toward forming the government.

Plans to create a unified national army have stalled, and Kiir's opponents have refused to accept his 2015 decree dividing South Sudan into 28 states, up from the previous 10.

The signatories of the 2018 peace deal accused President Kiir's government of not providing funds for the completion of the pre-transitional activities, including security arrangements.

The leader of the National Democratic Movement party, Lam Akol, told VOA this week that the government is to blame for the delays in the implementation.

‘’The government has made pledges that it will pay the money and it did not pay the money. So that is the question. Why is it that the government doesn’t want to get these things done once and for all?’’

Allen says the parties have a huge task ahead of them.

"The members of the Security Council call on the parties to make immediate progress on pre-transitional tasks including security arrangements and a process for the resolution of the number and boundaries of states in order to allow for the peaceful formation of an inclusive transitional government," he said.

Allen also called on the parties to refrain from rhetoric or acts that could incite violence.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.