The main opposition group, SPLM-IO, says it will not be part of the revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity if the dispute over the number and boundaries of the states is not resolved.
The number of states is a contentious issue yet to be agreed upon by parties to the September 2018 peace deal. Another unimplemented provision is the training and unification of forces.
They are part of the critical pre-transitional prerequisites for formation of the coalition government on 22 February.
President Salva Kiir’s government wants the current 32 states he created through a decree during the civil war be maintained while Dr. Riek Machar’s opposition group demands for a smaller number.
The parties have so far postponed, twice, the formation of the unity government; first in May 2019 and then in November the same year, over the same issues.
In January, the Deputy President of South Africa, David Mabuza, who has been mediating on the number of states – proposed a regional arbitration to decide on the number and boundaries of the states.
However, during a grace period given for the parties to consult, the government rejected the proposal, saying it was out of the provisions of the revitalized peace agreement.
The two principals – Kiir and Machar – have met several times in Juba but failed to reach a compromise.
Henry Odwar, deputy chairperson of SPLM-IO, says if the concerns of the security arrangements and the states are not determined, they will not be part of the long-awaited unity government.
“We want to make sure the issue of the number of states is in place…it is agreed upon, and that will give the people of South Sudan a lasting peace,” Odwar said during a consultation meeting of the peace parties in Juba on Wednesday.
Odwar stated that the SPLM-IO fears dragging the country back to war with forming the transitional government without executing some of the key tasks of the agreement – number of states and security arrangements.
“Without these two issues being resolved, we in the IO will not come into government,” Odwar added.
Meanwhile, the government insists on establishing the coalition government.
The government spokesperson, Michael Makuei, argues that if the transitional government is formed, they will still continue to consult on the remaining tasks.
He told the meeting that the government would not accept a further extension of the pre-transitional period again.
“We are saying no more extension because the people of South Sudan are fed up of extension so we need to continue to establish the transitional government of national unity and then continue with the consultation process as proposed,” Makuei said.
For his part, Mabuza said the unity government will be established as planned.
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