South Sudan’s Council of Ministers has endorsed the return to 10 states plus three special administrative areas, paving the way for a legal framework that will allow a transitional government of national unity (TGoNU) to be formed.
Addressing journalists on Wednesday, after an extra-ordinary Council of Ministers meeting chaired by First Vice President Taban Deng, government spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth revealed that the Cabinet adopted and passed a new resolution that replaced the current 32 states with 10, plus the three administrative areas -- Abyei, Reweng and Greater Pibor.
The decision by the South Sudanese Cabinet now means the country can amend its Constitution to allow for the inclusion of 10 states. The country originally had 10 states when it gained independence from Sudan, but the number gradually increased to 32, often through Presidential decrees.
“Article 22.214.171.124 (aa) of the amended 2011 constitutional was deleted and replaced with a new provision establishing the 10 states plus the three administrative areas. The minister Justice and Constitutional affairs was asked to prepare it and present again to Cabinet for endorsement, because there is no room for delays and further extensions but there is room for formation of R-TGoNU,” he added.
After consistently insisting on retaining 32 states, last week, in an overnight about-turn, President Salva Kiir with his deputies agreed to return to 10 states, and added the three administrative areas. Opposition groups led by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) welcomed the formation of the 10 states, but argue that the three administrative areas should be part of the states and not be under a separate management.
When South Sudan gained Independence from Sudan in 2011, it had 10 states. In 2015, during peace talks in Ethiopia, the SPLM-IO proposed 21 federal states, based on the old districts created by the British colonial administration. The government strongly opposed this move.
And in August 2015, the parties signed the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (A-ARCSS) which acknowledged the initial 10 states.
However, in a surprise move in October 2015, President Salva Kiir issued a decree creating 28 states, saying it was a popular demand by the people.
He said it was meant to devolve power rather than centralise governance in Juba, a move that was condemned as unconstitutional by political parties, civil society organisations and members of the international community.
Gradually, the states increased to the current 32.