South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has agreed to return the country to ten states, including three administrative areas such as Abyei, Boma and Ruweng respectively following a meeting of the presidency at the State House on Friday.
In the statement issued by the presidency on Saturday, Kiir said he would accept a key demand of the opposition, the return to a federal system of ten states, paving the way for the formation of a unity government and the end of the civil war.
“We have just made a compromise in the interests of peace (…) I expect the opposition to do the same,” President Kiir said after a meeting in Juba of senior government and army officials.
President Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar are under pressure to resolve their differences by the 22 February deadline for forming a unity government under a peace agreement.
The number of regional states and the delineation of their borders was the main stumbling block in the negotiations to form that government.
When it gained independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan had ten states, in accordance with its Constitution. President Kiir had increased the number of states to 28 by 2015 and 32 thereafter.
The presidency said Saturday in a statement that President Kiir had “decided to return to the ten states of the country and their counties”.
Kiir had repeatedly refused to reduce the number of federal states.
The signing of a peace agreement in September 2018 has reduced fighting in southern Sudan, but a UN human rights commission recently regretted an increase in armed violence and human rights abuses in the run-up to 22 February.
Southern Sudan descended into civil war in 2013 when Mr Kiir, a Dinka, accused Mr Machar, his former Nuer vice-president, of fomenting a coup d‘état.
The conflict, marked by ethnically motivated atrocities including murder and rape, has left more than 380,000 people dead and created a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.