S Sudan President, ex-rebel leader agree to delay unity government

Reading Time: 2 minutes

South Sudan’s president and a former rebel leader agreed on Thursday to delay forming a unity government for 100 days beyond the Nov. 12 deadline, Uganda’s presidency said, buying time after concerns that war could resume if the two sides were pushed.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar met in Uganda in a last-ditch effort to resolve outstanding disputes that were preventing the formation of a coalition government in time for the deadline.

Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal in September 2018, under pressure from the United Nations, United States and regional governments to end a five-year civil war that devastated the world’s youngest country.

Both sides blame each other for not meeting milestones stipulated by the peace deal, especially the integration of different fighting forces.

Thursday’s meeting “was held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere”, the Ugandan statement said.

Both sides agreed that there were “critical tasks” related to the deal that were not yet complete, particularly related to “security arrangements and governance”, it added.

A spokesperson for Machar praised the new agreement.

“This is good and will enable the security arrangements to be completed if resources are availed as required”, spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel told Reuters by phone after the meeting ended.

There was no immediate comment from Kiir.

“This avoids the worst, even if it falls short of providing a clear path to resolving the outstanding issues,” said Alan Boswell, a senior analyst with Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group.