As pressure intensifies on South Sudan’s leaders to implement a peace deal, president Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar on Tuesday agreed to form a transitional unity government even if they fail to resolve all their differences before a new deadline.
Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal last year under pressure from the United Nations, United States and countries in the region to end a five-year civil war and agreed to form a unity government by Nov. 12.
But the two leaders pushed the deadline back by 100 days, raising fears the civil war that created the worst refugee crisis in Africa since the Rwandan genocide might resume.
The ceasefire will continue to hold and no one from us is willing to go back to war.
“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 after three days of talks with Machar in the capital Juba.
“The ceasefire will continue to hold and no one from us is willing to go back to war,” Kiir said at a joint news conference with the former rebel leader.
Both sides blame each other for not meeting milestones stipulated by the peace deal, especially the integration of different fighting forces. 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.
Pressure from global allies
The 100 days extension to a deadline for forming a unity government had prompted Washington to recall its ambassador last month.
The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on two senior South Sudanese officials; Cabinet Affairs minister Martin Elia Lomuro and Defense minister Kuol Manyang Juuk, for their role in perpetuating the conflict by obstructing the peace process.
The sanctions freeze any U.S. assets held by the officials and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.
Treasury accused Lomuro of recruiting and organizing local militias to attack the opposition forces in South Sudan, and Juuk of failing to remove forces from the battlefield as agreed, stirring up violence with rival tribes and preparing militias for the possibility of renewed violence.
“Everyone knows what needs to be done. A comprehensive package includes arrangements for a solution of the states issue. No loose ends for people to hide behind. And we will measure our reactions accordingly,” the EU’s special representative for the Horn of Africa Alexander Rondos said.