Parliamentarians in South Sudan voted Thursday to extend the mandate of President Salva Kiir’s government for an extra three years, in a move likely to complicate peace efforts.
“The transitional constitution amendment bill number five for the year 2018 is hereby passed by the national legislature,” said Speaker Anthony Lino Makana after lawmakers unanimously voted to pass the bill which must now be signed into law by Kiir.
The law will allow Kiir to remain in power until 2021 even as he is engaged in the latest round of regional peace negotiations with his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar on ending the four-year-old civil war.
Elections were due to be held this year, but conflict has made the timetable impossible.
Justice minister Paulino Wanawilla, who tabled the bill, said it would prevent the government from being rendered “illegitimate” when its mandate expires.
Kiir and Machar went to war in December 2013.
Since then tens of thousands have been killed and millions forced from their homes, triggering a regional refugee crisis and large-scale hunger.
Successive rounds of talks, mediated by a regional trade bloc called the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), have so far failed to bring peace or even a lasting ceasefire.
The latest talks have seen another truce agreed while proposals, including power-sharing with Machar returned to his former post as vice president, are still under discussion.
Machar’s spokesman, Pouk Both, rejected Thursday’s decision as “illegal and unconstitutional” saying it “will complicate the ongoing peace efforts” in Khartoum.
Seven million South Sudanese, more than half of the population, will need food aid in 2018, according to the United Nations.