South Sudan rivals to keep to deadline for unity government

Wednesday September 11 2019

South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir.

South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir before their meeting in Juba, South Sudan, on September 11, 2019. PHOTO | REUTERS 

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Juba,

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar have agreed to form a transitional government by the middle of November, the country’s information minister said on Wednesday.

The two men signed a pact a year ago to end a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced a third of the population and wrecked the economy. Machar made a rare visit to Juba this week to meet Kiir.

“The parties discussed minor issues and the principals agreed to establish transitional government by 12th November,” Michael Makuei Lueth, the information minister, told reporters.

Last year’s accord, which called for a unity government, has been delayed because the government says it does not have enough money to fund disarmament and the integration of all the armed factions.

This week’s meetings between the two leaders were aimed at ironing out outstanding issues, officials said.

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They discussed constitutional amendments, security laws and the number of regional states that the country should have, the government officials added.

South Sudan aims to hold elections after a transition period of three years.

Both Kiir and Machar said their talks went well, without providing details. Machar said he will visit Juba more often.

“There will be frequent meetings,” he said, standing next to Kiir.

“Juba is home and I have come back to Juba, even if I go away (again) for some time...we have made an important progress” in our discussions, Machar said.

South Sudan split away from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war but plunged into its own conflict at the end of 2013 after Kiir sacked Machar as vice president.

A ceasefire is generally considered to have held—outside of the Central Equatoria region where these holdouts have been fighting—however the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Wednesday violence remained pervasive.

The organisation said in a statement that they "continue to treat a large number of patients with gunshot wounds", with the number of patients even increasing since the peace deal.

The fighting in South Sudan has left about 380,000 people dead and forced more than four million South Sudanese—almost a third of the population—to flee their homes.

The World Food Programme said Wednesday there was a slight improvement in food security as a result of the peace deal, however "more than half the population of South Sudan—some 6.35 million people—do not know where their next meal will come from."

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